Even in the age of cloud computing, storage devices and portable media are an essential part of business. They provide you with a place to backup and transport all your key files, documents and data.
Storage devices come in many forms. Choosing the right ones for your business requires careful consideration about 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 or ‘solid state’ chip.
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.
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.
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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 sometimes replace the installed hard drive with a new one.
- External hard drives come in a separate unit which you plug into 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 solid state device can store and access data much quicker than magnetic hard drives.
Solid state storage devices will cost a bit more than those containing standard hard drives, but are becoming more commonplace.
Adding an SSD to an old laptop or desktop computer is often one of the most cost-effective ways to gain a significant performance boost.
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 the following platforms:
- Cloud storage backs up your files to a secure server on the internet. Services such as Dropbox make this simple and cost-effective, and enable users to access their files on a variety of devices no matter where they happen to be.
- 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.
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 £10 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.
Finally, cloud storage can also be classed as 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.