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Data storage

When you have too many files on your computer or want to backup your files for peace of mind, what can you do? External storage is the answer.

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Cloud storage

Welcome to the Cloud. So, what is it? Basically, the Cloud is online storage. As long as you have internet access you can access your files from anywhere at any time.

Instead of storing your information on a physical drive, like your computer’s hard drive, you can store it on a server that may be located somewhere else in the world and access it through the internet. Cloud storage is great if you want to share files with people or for backing up files.

How cloud storage works

Many cloud services can be accessed through a website or an app that you log in to. Some, Dropbox for example, can also be installed on your computer and work from within your operating system’s file system to keep a synchronised back-up on the Cloud.

Cloud-based services are also commonly used for backing up data from mobile devices, no matter where you are. This data includes contacts, music, photos, calendars and even daily reminders, so if your device is lost or broken your data is still available online.

Beware though, a company owning a server (with your data on it) is subject to the laws of the country it is in, so your data can potentially be accessed by local authorities, as shown in the case of Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload where files from people all around the world were seized. If you store critical data in the Cloud, try keeping a backup copy on physical media, such as an external hard drive.

Physical data storage

Physical storage devices plug directly into your computer to transfer files. There are many physical storage device options, such as thumb or flash drives, external hard drives and Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems.

It can be hard to know what the right storage device is for you. Here are your main options and a guide to their storage capacities.

Thumb or Flash drives (1GB-128GB)

Roughly the size of a thumb, these portable storage devices are often sold on a key chain. These drives are easy to use as almost every computer or TV has a USB port they can plug into. Their small size does present some issues; they don't have large storage capacities, usually under 100GB, and can be easily lost. However, they can be a cheap storage solution with some costing less than $20.

External hard drives (500GB-5TB)

External hard drives are a computer hard drive that is stored in a plastic or metal case outside the computer. They have large capacities and quick transfer speeds, especially when connected via high-speed connections, such as USB 3.0 or Lightning. External hard drives are great for storing large files on that could otherwise take a long time to upload to Cloud storage.

Portable hard drives (500GB-5TB)

As their name suggests these hard drives are portable. Portable hard drives are smaller than an external hard drive, which makes them an ideal size for putting in your bag and heading out the door. While they have similar storage capacities to their less portable siblings, they don't need a separate power cable. This means they may not run when plugged into devices that don't supply power through the USB cable, like some older model TVs.

Wireless portable hard drives (1TB-2TB)

Going on a trip but don’t have enough space for all your of movies and music on your smartphone or tablet? Then you could consider a wireless portable hard drive. There are a number of these hard drives emerging in our market. They are similar in size, shape and storage capacity to standard external hard drives, but they have built-in WiFi. They do this by creating their own wireless network with a range of about 45 metres. This means you can connect any WiFi-enabled device, such as a TV, tablet or computer, and stream your media straight from the hard drive. They are powered by a built-in rechargeable battery.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems (10TB+)

NAS systems can house a number of hard drives, meaning the system’s capacity is only limited by the hard drives it holds. They’re designed to run constantly, so they do use a bit of power. This type of system is great if you have large files to store and they can be connected to your home network.

Encryption

Security is an issue with file storage. Regardless of where you store them, you should consider encrypting them.

Encryption means the files can only be read if they have the "key" to decrypt them. Most backup methods (either cloud or external devices) store the original key on your computer’s hard drive. Encrypting your files means if your data is compromised, unless the key stored on your computer’s hard drive has been accessed, your files will be safe.

There are some more secure encryption methods that use the unique signature of your computer as part of the key, meaning the files can only be accessed by your computer.

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