Cloud vs physical storage

cloud services

Should you use cloud or physical data storage for your needs? You might have realised that your photo collection, music collection, or movie collection is getting quite large. So depending on what type of data you want to store you need to make a decision.

I will outline all the pros and cons of using different storage methods taking into account how unique or important your data is.

So If you have precious family moments or unique valuable data that you can’t afford to lose, no matter what service you use it’s always best to have two copies at any one time. Think for a second how bad it would be if you lost that data? Then think of how easy and cheap it is to create another copy, maybe on an external hard drive that you can store in a bookshelf.

Cloud storage is the service where you upload your data, attached to an account, to a cloud storage service. This service can either be encrypted and secure or unencrypted which is more mainstream. In theory a unencrypted cloud service can access your data. Judging by the recent intrusions and backdoors left open for governments from major IT providers, I can see why that would be a concern.

Cloud storage, is slow. Slow to upload and slow to download large amounts of data. It’s only as fast as your internet bandwidth. Even a cheap External hard drive can do 80mb per second nowadays. When you take into account the price per megabyte, it’s also expensive. So if you’re planning to store large amounts of growing data on a cloud based service, you can calculate that in two years time you could have bought your own NAS (Network attached service) with redundancy drives.

A Cloud service is ideal, for small but important amounts of data that you don’t need to access on a regular basis. Maybe your old photo archive from times when photos were not that large. Then it can stay there waiting until your kids want to know what you’ve been up to in your younger years. You can also store small, important company documents that you can access on the go.

There are a few alternatives out there in the making which puts the power back into the peoples hands with blockchain cloud services like: Sia running on Siacoin, Storj a similar service and Filecoin. The idea behind these services is that it will bring costs down by using other peoples spare storage instead of data centers. However this will still not make it faster that your own internet bandwidth if you need to download and upload files on a regular basis.

Physical storage, if managed properly is still king! Most businesses are already aware of the limitations of cloud services and are using dedicated servers or NAS devices. In house computers or devices, with multiple hard drives and fail safety through drive redundancy. Now if company data worth million of dollars is safe for them then it will surely work for your own collection. Even in the most basic storage idea, having two cheap external hard drives with two copies of your data still works fine.

Cloud service:


  • Safe from being lost… unless you’re using a encrypted service and you forgot your password.
  • Can be accessed anywhere if your internet connection speed permits it.
  • Can be shared with other via a link, but not too much data.


  • Expensive, although that might change with competition between services.
  • Slow and only as fast as your internet connection.
  • Will incur extra data costs from your ISP if you need to upload and download regularly.
  • Possibly monitored by some companies and service providers. Nowadays marketing keywords are valuable.
  • Encrypted service? Lose your password, lose your data!

Physical drive storage:


  • Cheap
  • Offline and in your possession whenever you need it.
  • Can be encrypted so only you can access it.
  • Amazing price per Gigabyte.
  • Fastest way to give someone large amounts of data is to hand them a external drive.


  • Vulnerable to physical damage and natural failures if not used in a fail safe system.
  • Even with two copies .. if your whole house burns down … then … there.
  • Can be stolen or accessed if not encrypted.

physical storage

So in consequence you can make your decision on what to you for your data but it’s probably the best idea to use both for different applications. If you have any unanswered questions please let me know.

Source from this material is my own experience and expertise. I have been a data recovery engineer for approx 16 years.

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