We live in a world where data, especially our private and sensitive data, is a very valuable commodity so we need a place to store it that is both easy to access and secure.
You have two options. Cloud storage vs local storage.
In this article, we’ll explore which of the two, cloud or local, will better protect your data.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between cloud storage and local storage.
In cloud storage, your data is stored on a remote server that you can access via the Internet. Think Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, iCloud, etc.
Local storage, on the other hand, is one where your data is stored on a local device (on-premises) such as the hard disk drive on your computer or a USB flash drive in your pocket.
So, now that we know the differences between the two, let’s take a look at their pros and cons.
- Did you know there’s a third storage option? It’s called decentralized storage and here are the top 8 decentralized storage networks.
- Easy to access. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access whatever data you have stored on the cloud at any time and any place.
- Promotes collaboration. With more and more people working remotely, this can be a challenge when you need to share data with a colleague. Luckily, this has been made easier with cloud storage and all you need to do is usually give them access to a specific file you want to share with them.
- No danger from physical damage. Your local storage device can be damaged physically, corrupted, or lost. Cloud storage will always be there and so will your data (until you delete it).
- Free storage. For an average user, who only needs limited storage for personal use, cloud services offer free storage. For instance, Google Drive offers 15 GB, OneDrive 5 GB, iCloud 5 GB and so on.
- Automatic backups. One of the most difficult things to do with local storage is to backup your files. But it’s also one of the most important things to do if you want to prevent losing your data. With cloud storage, however, you can automatically backup your data to the cloud and thus preserve it.
- No maintenance costs. This is especially important for businesses that run on-premises servers. One such server can cost $150 - $300 just to monitor and maintain. This is a fee you won’t have to pay with cloud storage.
- You don’t own the servers or the system. You only rent the servers. Now, nobody is going to kick you out to make room for another user (there’s plenty to go around), but ultimately the cloud service provider controls access to your data.
- The cloud storage provider controls the security. Another thing that the cloud storage provider controls is the security. And it's often lackluster. This also means that cloud storage is more vulnerable to data breaches and every year you can hear about a few.
- Cost increase. Let’s face it. 5 or even 15 Gigabytes isn’t all that much. Store a few movies, some music albums and you’ve reached the limit. Cloud storage is okay if you have GBs of data, but when you start dealing with terabytes (TBs) or higher, that’s where costs can significantly increase.
- No Internet, no data access. The very same thing that makes cloud storage easy to access can also make it difficult. What happens when you don’t have the Internet? Simply, you can’t access your data.
- Full control. With local storage, you have full control and there is no danger of losing access to your data like with cloud storage.
- Not reliant on Internet access. As long as you have your device with you, you can access your local storage and the data on it anytime, anywhere. You are not reliant on the Internet service and your access to it.
- Better for customization. With cloud storage, you don’t have many options if you want to customize the equipment. Whatever the provider serves you, that’s what you have to use. With local storage, on the other hand, you can buy another hard disk as an individual user or physical server if you’re a business.
- Sometimes it makes data transfer faster. Again, this depends on the Internet, but if you have a large file to share and low bandwidth, sharing the file locally can be faster and easier via a flash drive.
- Better security. We already mentioned that cloud storage security can be lacking. Using local storage gives you the freedom to set your own security, install whatever solutions and software you deem appropriate and thus protect your data. For instance, with cloud storage, you can’t use end-to-end encryption (E2EE) but only TLS, whereas with local storage you can (and should).
- External damage. Like we said earlier, your physical device can suffer from external damage which can cause you to lose access to the data on it. Fire damage, water damage, theft, loss, etc are all very real threats that you have to deal with if you are using local storage.
- Higher costs. If you’re a business and need a local storage server, you’ll need to be prepared for a few costs, including purchasing the server, installing it, maintenance and so on. According to Intelligent Technical Solutions a server can cost from $5000 and above and the cost will depend on a lot of different factors including its form factor (tower, rack, or blade), CPU, RAM, storage and power supply.
- Not that good for collaboration. File sharing is less efficient with local storage than with the cloud. This can be a problem both if you need to share data with someone else or if you are moving it to another device. Your options, in this case, are: 1) a flash drive; 2) a SATA cable; 3) a USB 3.0 cable transfer.
So which one is better? Cloud storage vs local storage?
The thing is, both have their place and purpose and this is what you should primarily look for when you’re deciding between the two.
Cloud storage can be more convenient to use, but you don’t have a lot of control over it. On the other side, local storage can incur higher costs, especially for a business, but offers better customization and security.
At the end of the day, the sensitivity of your data should determine whether you should use cloud or local storage. For less sensitive data and non-personal data, cloud storage will be just fine. However, for sensitive and personal data, local storage is a much safer option.