Should you ever keep any computer file locally ever again? While this may seem like a strange question, there are solid reasons for suggesting that the cloud is overall a better home for your data than your hard disk. Yet it’s a little scary sometimes to think of cutting that umbilical cord to local storage media. The result is that we are often undecided as to whether to choose online or offline options. A review of pros and cons of 100% online file storage may help you to identify the solution that fits your own requirements.
Store Once, Read Many, Crash Never (Hopefully)
The primary criterion for choosing any solution is the safety of your data. Even price comes in second – it’s no good having the cheapest solution there is if you can’t use the data you stored. Many cloud storage providers appear now to be providing reliable storage services. Yes, their storage devices can crash like anybody else’s. But they have lots of them and can duplicate data between them. Apart from a few high profile outages a couple of years back, things look pretty stable now. Compare this with that USB memory stick you can’t find or your local disk drive that stopped after you spilled your coffee on it. Advantage online, one point.
Going Once, Going Twice… Sold for Zero Cost!
There are many offers available with a few gigabytes of storage (or more) on offer for free. While you should always read the small print and see if all the terms and conditions suit you, it’s clear that all other things being equal, free is the way to go rather than paying. The only problem is that your online provider has to bring in revenue somehow in order to survive. Free offers sometimes turn into paying surprises. So, advantage online, but just for half a point.
But Who Owns the Data Now?
This is a sticking point for some online file storage providers. It may no longer be clear or even true that you are the sole owner of your data. Some social media networks (a form of online file storage) make it a condition of use that they can use any of your photos that you load onto their site. At least when you keep your data locally, you know it’s yours. Advantage local storage, one point.
Data Access Anywhere, Anytime
So you’ve gone to see family for the weekend or you’ve just arrived at a client’s office for an important meeting – and you’ve forgotten to bring your digital photos, report, spreadsheet or whatever with you. If your files are stuck on some isolated medium miles away, then that’s tough luck. If on the other hand your files are in the cloud and you have an Internet connection, you won’t have to put up with family disappointment or customer displeasure. Advantage online, one point.
A Window on the Cloud Works Better
Tablets and smartphones don’t always have the most powerful processors. Leaving applications and data in the cloud and just using your mobile device as a screen or window onto the online world has a lot to be said for it. Likewise, computers like the Chromebook mean that users don’t have to store programs or information locally. However, if your connection to the net goes down, you’re out of luck. Tie between online and local storage, no points for either.
Cloud providers are taking steps to improve data privacy, especially after the recent government-sponsored data snooping in the US. Encryption solutions are offered, although if the cloud provider does the encryption it can do the decryption too (before handing over your data to the authorities). On the other hand, locally you can have your own guard dogs and armored vault to protect your tape backups, right? Just kidding – but advantage local storage, for just half a point.
And the Winner is?
Counting up the points above means that online file storage gets 2.5 points, while local storage gets 1.5 points. Does online win? Not so fast – you can expect the online-offline debate to carry on for a while. And finally, you can also store everything online and still keep local backup copies. This data storage redundancy lets you get the best of both worlds, while still going 100% (non-exclusively) online for your file storage.