Securing your data from millions of malicious online threats is getting increasingly challenging. While you have the option to purchase the convenience of a cloud storage account, these accounts come with their set of challenges.
Cloud storages are expensive, and even if affordable, it involves recurring cost, making it cumbersome to track and renew each time. Moreover, they aren’t entirely immune to online threats. Sure, they seem convenient as you outsource the responsibility of the data’s security, but the data remains online, making it prone to malicious attacks.
Most of your financial data, like bank account statements, investment holdings, and insurance details, can be retrieved/replicated/duplicated from the concerned source. But losing photos and home videos of precious memories you have captured and saved over the years is hard to retrieve if lost.
Therefore, it would be best to use a storage solution that negates online threats and offers you considerable peace of mind for the safety of your data. Once you transfer all your data to such a storage media, you must secure the media, which may be far more manageable. There are numerous offline storage solutions, each with pros and cons, and we’ll explore the most popular ones and explain their ideal use cases.
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USB Flash Drives: Super-Portable But Unreliable
A USB flash drive is a thumb-size storage media you can use with various devices and Operating System platforms. All modern laptops and desktops include USB drives, irrespective of whether it’s a PC or Mac, making flash drives universally compatible.
It has the smallest form factor across all storage media types and comes in high-capacity variants, allowing you to carry vast amounts of data on a device the size of a keychain. It’s a solid-state media, meaning there are no moving parts, which is excellent as moving parts are susceptible to failure leading to reliability issues.
Despite several advantages, a USB flash drive has a limited life commonly measured in read-write cycles. Thus, the more you use a USB drive, the shorter its lifespan will be. Compared to SSDs, flash drives are slower, and their small size is more of a disadvantage because they are easier to misplace and more likely to be stolen without you missing them instantaneously.
A USB flash drive is perfect if you need portable storage that you can conveniently access across various devices. Its size allows you to carry it on your person, and it’s ideal if you don’t let it out of your sight.
However, you must consider another storage media if you need to store irreplaceable or sensitive data for longer durations.
- The compact size makes it portable.
- Fast read-write speed allows quick transfer of data
- Compatible with all computers and OS platforms.
- Limited read-write cycles affect the lifespan of the drive
- Susceptible to easy damage and theft
- Limited capacity
Solid-state Drives (SSDs): Fast But Limited Capacity
Solid-state Drives are a compact and reliable storage solution that provides the fastest transfer speeds enabling quick access to your data. If you use a computer purchased within the last decade, you are likely already using an internal SSD for storage. The SSD module is connected to the motherboard, the nerve center of your computer, which is also connected to the internet.
Thus, it’s advisable to consider external SSD storage because it’s not always connected to your computer. Such drives provide you with read and write speeds of 5000MB/s, the fastest among all storage devices.
With no moving parts, SSDs are less prone to component failures, making them more reliable than HDDs. Compared to HDDs, they are compact, lightweight, and robust, making them tougher to damage in an accident.
Unfortunately, like flash drives, the compact size and form factor are also disadvantages, as they can be easily stolen or misplaced. Moreover, commercially, you won’t find many SSDs that offer more than 4TB of storage, and they are the costliest storage solution for storing data.
Another significant drawback of using an SSD is that even though they natively support read and write speeds, these speeds are mainly governed by the communication bus of the device. For instance, an external SSD with a Thunderbolt 4 connection will support 40Gbps (5GB/s), but an SSD with USB 3.2 Gen 2 will support only 10Gbps (1.25GB/s). So, not all SSDs are created equal, and it’s advisable to consider this before purchasing one.
Hence, SSDs are ideal if cost is not a consideration and you want a storage solution that’s fast and portable.
- Fastest read-write speeds enable quick access to data.
- Compact and portable.
- They are highly reliable as they have no moving parts.
- Considerably lesser storage than HDDs
- External SSDs require technologies like Thunderbolt 3/4 or USB 3.2 Gen 2
Hard-disk Drives (HDDs): High-capacity but Slow
These conventional hard drive storages provide the most bang for your buck. They are relatively inexpensive and come in high-capacity variants, making them suitable for RAID implementations of your choice. Consequently, you can find HDDs with up to 20TB capacity commercially available on popular eCommerce sites. But using an external HDD to negate any online threats would be best.
External HDDs are an excellent solution if you want secure storage with high capacity. They are cost-effective, and while bulkier than SSDs and flash drives, they can easily fit in your laptop bag, making them just as portable as the storage solutions we mentioned earlier.
However, reliability is an altogether different matter. HDDs have several moving parts that make them susceptible to failure, often to the point where data recovery becomes impossible. But how do moving parts affect the integrity of the device?
HDDs have moving arms with read and write heads at one end. These heads access the data on rotating disks that store your data. While manufacturers take great care to ensure the safety of the hardware, wear and tear over prolonged use or vibrations cause the HDD to malfunction.
You must be careful while handling HDDs because accidental drops can damage the unit. It is perfect if you want to store your video and audio collection, as such files are large and require plenty of storage space, and most content can be replaced if lost. But HDDs are unsuitable if you want to store your photo albums or home video, as HDDs have a reliability issue.
- High-capacity drives up to 20TB
- Ideal for RAID implementations.
- Compatible with older computers.
- Cost-effective storage solution
- Moving parts create reliability issues.
- HDDs are prone to easy damage and require care while handling.
- Due to their fragile nature, HDDs are not portable.
Compact Disc: Cheap But Low-capacity
Compact Discs are suitable if you need a cost-effective solution to store large amounts of data. There are several types of compact discs, each with different storage capacities. While conventional CDs allow you to store 700MBs of data, Blu-Ray Discs can store up to 128GBs worth.
The low capacity of CDs means you’ll need more discs to store data, so you’ll require physical space to store these CDs. And because each disc stores so little data, you’ll have to put in considerable effort to index these discs.
CDs have very slow read and write speeds compared to other storage mediums. Where a typical flash drive (USB 3.1) has a read-write speed of up to 500MB/s, the read-write speed of a CD is measured in KB/s, making them the slowest of all storage mediums. Further, you require specialized drives to access the data on CD, and these drives also govern the read-write speeds.
- Cheapest storage solution
- Long lifespan that can last over a decade.
- Slow read-write speeds
- It requires specialized drives, which add to your workstation setup.
- A CD’s surface is prone to scratches and permanent disc damage.
Long-Term Offline Storage: A Comparison
|Factors||USB Flash Drives||Solid-state Drives||Hard-disk Drives||Compact Discs|
|Capacity||Up to 2TB||Up to 16TB||Up to 20TB||700MB-128GB|
|Read-Write Speed||400-500 MB/s||5000 – 7000 MB/s||Up to 500 MB/s||Dependent on media and drive
150KB/s – 4.5MB/s
*Depending on read-write cycles
*2 years without a power supply
|Up to 10 years||10+ years|
|Portability||Highly Portable||Highly Portable||Not Portable||Highly Portable|
Solid-state drives such as the USB flash drive and SSDs offer tremendous convenience, superior compatibility, and excellent read-write speeds. And with plenty of capacity variants ranging from 8GB USD flash drives to 16TB SSDs, they are the natural choice for anyone looking to store 100GB of data for a prolonged time.
CDs are obsolete, and it’s only a matter of time before it’ll be hard to find media or drives to store (and retrieve) your precious data. And with HDDs’ unreliable (and fragile) nature, storages with solid-state memory are the way of the future.