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Top 7 Data Storage Considerations

Storing the terabytes of photos, home videos, and documents you’ve collected over the years on your own gear can be a great way to ensure you maintain control of it. Perhaps you are considering a shift to the cloud. Before you decide we’ve collected the top 7 data storage considerations we think will help you decide if that’s right for you.

Our minimum top 7 data storage considerations for any solution are:

  1. Affordability
  2. Accessibility
  3. Ability
  4. Automatic
  5. Redundancy
  6. Resiliency
  7. Secure

Lets go in depth with the following cases and see if they address the 7 factors:

  1. Offline Media IE: USB Drives
  2. Network Attached Storage
  3. Cloud Storage

Solution 1: Offline Media – USB Drives

portable hard drive

This is arguably the simplest and most affordable storage solution. Pop on over to Amazon and pick up 2 USB thumb drives and copy your data to them.

  • Affordability – USB thumb drives can be had for as little as $5.
  • Ability – You don’t need to be a technician to set this up. As long as you are organized and can copy a file from one folder to another, this is a solution that is very simple.
  • Redundancy – Making two copies of your data is as easy as making one.
  • Secure – Provided you are encrypting your USB drives, this soution can be very secure.

The major downsides to this solution are:

  1. Not Automatic – This is a manual and time consuming process. Unless you can find someone to swap out USB drives for you, it’s going to consume your time each and every backup.
  2. Not Resilient – this solution suffers from a major flaw. That is – it relies on a single location. If something were to happen to your home (fire, flood etc.) your data would be lost.
  3. Not Accessible – The data stored on these USB sticks is not accessible. That’s fine if you are using them for a backup, but if you are traveling and need that document stored on USB in your drawer at home, you’re out of luck.

USB “cold” or “offline” storage is a valid way to archive your data and keep weekly or monthly backups of your data. Its the most affordable solution for long time archival of data that doesn’t need to be accessed. A good example might be your tax forms from 5 years ago. But it’s not an automatic process, the data is not accessible, it takes your time and it’s not a resilient solution.

Solution 2: Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A QNAP or Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) device allows you to copy all your data to it, and use it as if it was a mini-fileserver. This improves on the previous solution and has several major advantages.

  1. Accessibility – Accessing your data throughout all your devices at home and while you are on the road is possible with this solution. You will need some technical know-how to set this up.
  2. Automatic – Network attached storage devices run 24×7. Because of this, they are always available to be backed up to. Many NAS devices allow you to connect a portable USB device to them and set it up to backup on a schedule as well.
  3. Redundancy – This solution can be redundant if you add a second device however, that would substantially raise the costs.
  4. Resiliency – You could set up one of these at your friend’s home or neighbors and that would allow you to keep an offsite copy in the event something happens to your home.
  5. Secure – A NAS device can be quite secure if they utilize volume level encryption and strong password authentication.

The major disadvantages are:

  • Cost – A small NAS device with 2 bays and 4TB of storage will be pushing $700. Combine that with a USB backup drive with enough storage to back all that up, and you could be in the neighborhood of close to $1000 combined with monthly electrical costs. Electricity to run 20-60 Watts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This can add up to costs of $60 or more per year.
  • Ability – To fully automate this solution and provide the accessibility and resiliency benefits you really do need to have an above average knowledge level of networking, router configuration, application installation, RAID/Volume configuration and how to set up your NAS storage device for things like data backups and synchronization.

Solution 3: Cloud Storage

Shared Storage Icon

A fully cloud storage solution solves all the previous shortcomings, can be simple to use and very affordable.

  1. Affordability – Compare cloud storage to owning your own equipment and the time/costs that goes into managing and maintaining it, $30/month doesn’t sound that bad. Best of all you don’t have a capital cost and you aren’t paying electricity for the device.
  2. Accessibility – Cloud storage – it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, or with what device you are connecting with. Your data is always available.
  3. Ability – No above average technical ability required.
  4. Automatic – It’s always available, you can backup as often and as many devices as you like.
  5. Redundancy – Your cloud provider will have built in redundancy in their solution offering. We do highly recommend (and insist!) you keep a copy of your data offline. In rare unusual circumstances we’ve heard that some folks have lost access to their cloud account.
  6. Resiliency – Cloud providers have the volume and scale to ensure that your data resides in many locations to ensure that it’s protected from any single event.
  7. Secure – Providers have many ways to secure access to your accounts. They will use a combination of methods.

Wrapping up…

Consider these the big three common data storage options and let us know what you think. As with everything technology, one size does not fit all and there can be several combinations/hybrid solutions that can ultimately combine to fit your needs.

Check out more of our How-To’s for additional great tips like this one.

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