Storage for Beginners

datastorageforbeginnersSome of us are old enough to remember when floppy disks were the most popular way to store and transport data. It was a risky business: extreme heat, scratching, exposure to magnets or rough treatment could damage or erase the disk. College students, IT consultants and businesspeople everywhere would hold their breaths, push a floppy into the drive and hope that their disk wasn’t corrupted. Data storage in the old days was stressful, unreliable and depending on how many disks you needed for all your data, expensive.

Technology has advanced exponentially since the days of floppy disks and zip drives, and storing your data has never been easier. Flash drives and writable CD’s make it fast and easy to store large amounts of data and take them anywhere. And cloud drives let people access their data from literally anywhere, without the worry of storage or damage.

Flash drives

Small and portable, these drives use flash memory to store gigs of data on a tiny device. Flash drives plug right into a computer’s USB port and can be removed, rewritten and erased with ease. They’re perfect for school work and papers, since you can take them to your school’s library and print out what you need.

Flash drives are also great for online university students who tend to be more mobile and need the ability to take their data anywhere. But they’re not damage-proof: bending the USB plug and a limited number of read/erase cycles make flash drives less than a perfect storage choice.

CD’s and DVD’s and external hard drives

CD’s and DVD’s bridge the gap between floppy disks and flash drives, because they’re portable and easy to use. Both CD’s and DVD’s are easily readable by any computer with a CD-ROM drive, and DVD-R’s can hold more than four gigs of data. They’re perfect for program and software backups. But dust, heat, scratches and fingerprints can affect their performance or damage them. Also be sure to choose rewriteable CD’s and DVD’s if you want to use them more than once.

External hard drives work just like the hard drive in your computer except you connect your external HD and your computer through a USB port. Advantages to an external hard drive include the ability to store a great amount of data and security from viruses since it’s not constantly connected to your computer. But hard drives are sensitive creatures, so handle your drive carefully and be sure not to drop it or jostle it.

Cloud storage/e-mail

Cloud storage has become the latest trend for both businesses and individuals, in part because of its easy access and security. Services like Dropbox and Amazon’s Cloud Drive offer a decent amount of space for free, and you can buy more space for an affordable price. There are caveats to storing all of your data on a cloud. Read terms of services carefully before uploading, since some companies reserve the right to access—or even use–your files.

Cloud storage isn’t foolproof either: recent power outages for Microsoft and Amazon made data inaccessible for an uncomfortable amount of time. And if you’re a student who’s working on a term paper or a business that relies on a cloud drive to keep records secure, any outage is uncomfortable.

Choosing a main storage method for your data depends on your needs, so choose what works best for you. Also be sure to choose—and maintain—regularly scheduled backups. If you use a cloud for your everyday storage needs, make sure you’re aware of any changes in terms of use agreements or storage limits since cloud services can change their terms at will. There’s no storage method that’s completely safe, but making sure your data is safe should be your first priority.