Topic overview

Storage devices and media

Storage devices and media{{}}Computer storage devices and storage media are an essential part of a business computer system. They provide you with a place to save all your key files, documents and data

Storage devices come in many forms. Choosing the right ones for your business requires careful consideration of how you work and what you want to store.

Hard drives: the most common storage devices

Hard drives (also called hard disk drives or HDDs) are very common computer storage devices. They store data on a spinning magnetic disk and are fitted to virtually all computers as standard.

Hard drives are reliable storage devices, can hold large amounts of data and allow files to be accessed quickly. They're essential for the day-to-day storage of frequently-accessed files.

The smallest hard drives hold around 500GB (gigabytes) of data and cost less than £50. That's enough for most business needs - you'd be going some to fill the space with documents. A larger hard drive - say 1TB (terabyte, which is about the same as 1,000GB) - will cost from £75, and should be adequate unless you work with huge video files.

If your business has a network server, this will be fitted with a large, fast hard drive so you can store files centrally. It should be specifically designed to cope with the load from several users.

Internal and external hard drives

There are two main types of hard drives:

  • Internal hard drives sit inside your computer. Every computer you buy will come with one already installed. It's relatively easy to add an extra hard drive to most desktop computers. Laptops don't usually have room for additional storage devices, but you can normally replace the installed hard drive with a new one.
  • External hard drives come in a separate unit which you plug in to your computer. They work just like internal hard drives, except they are portable. Because external hard drives can be moved easily, it is wise to take additional security precautions (you should do this with all portable storage devices). Try to keep them locked away when not in use and use encryption to scramble your data.

Another type of external hard disk storage is network attached storage (NAS). It allows you to connect a hard drive directly to your computer network, so you can store files centrally without investing in a server.

A NAS device can help you deal with data growth while costing significantly less than a server to purchase and maintain.

Solid state storage hard drives

Solid state storage devices work like the memory card in a camera. With no moving parts, a sold state device can store and access data much quicker than magnetic hard drives.

Solid state storage devices are relatively expensive compared to standard hard drives and as a consequence aren't used as widely. However, the technology is rapidly evolving and with their improved performance they may offer a more viable alternative to traditional hard drives.

Computer storage devices for backup

It's important to keep data backups in case you suffer hard disk failure or another problem. You can store backups on a number of computer storage devices:

  • A RAID system. RAID (redundant array of independent disks) replicates data across several storage devices so you can keep working if one fails. A RAID system costs more than an ordinary hard drive, but ensures minimal disruption if a problem occurs.
  • Recordable DVDs hold about five gigabytes of information each, or you can opt for recordable Blu-ray discs which hold about 25GB. You may have to swap disks daily and keep them somewhere safe, but this is a cost-effective way to copy important data.
  • Cloud storage backs up your files to a secure server across the internet. It has become practical as internet speeds have increased and is convenient as it can often be fully automated.
  • Tape drives use magnetic tape to store large amounts of data. They are effective but can be expensive (£1,000+) and are usually used in bigger networks (20+ computers). Many companies use them to archive material and store it in a secure location.

Portable storage media

Memory cards and memory sticks are very convenient types of storage media. They fit easily into your pocket and make it simple to transport data from one location to another.

A typical memory stick costs less than £15 and can hold at least 4GB of data. Accessing the data is as easy as plugging it into a computer. However, memory sticks are easily lost, so consider using encryption to protect the data.

CDs and DVDs are other common types of portable storage media. They offer few advantages over memory sticks when transferring data, but are a good way to archive files you need to keep.

Finally, cloud storage can also be classed as a kind of portable storage. With cloud storage you upload your files to an online server, so you can log in and access them anywhere. Cloud storage can also be a good way to free up space on your own hard drive.