Modern computers come with drives of 500 GB. Some of them offer up to several terabytes of space. Only a few people manage to occupy this space. Cloud storage has become very popular these days.

The latter allow you to sync files across multiple devices and share folders with friends family or colleagues. A few quick examples are Dropbox, SkyDrive and Google Drive.

Now, you probably wonder whether to use an external hard drive or a cloud storage service to store your documents? In this article we are going to discuss the pros and cons of cloud storage services versus external hard drives.


It is the most important thing for most users. Considering this category, traditional hard drives are unbeatable. At the moment, I am looking at the website of one of the most popular online stores with computer accessories. The largest desktop models have 4 TB of storage.

While an external hard drive limits you to backing up computers, cloud storage depends on the service provider. Some cloud storage services offer a limited amount of free storage – usually from one hundred to several hundred gigabytes (although some sites offer terabytes for companies or individuals). If you are determined enough you can find the service that fits your needs and store a number of files that you can access anywhere.

It is, however, essential to cover price issues. One Google terabyte (for your Google and other services) costs about $ 50. per month. In practice, investing in the virtual disk becomes uneconomical after two months.


Regarding performance, SSD disks prove to be the best ones. They are about 6-10 times faster than traditional hardcores. This is mainly due to their construction and the way they work. There are no moving parts, platters and heads. The data is directly read from the memory blocks and can be transferred in a matter of hours.

This way they are less prone to crashes. On the other hand, they offer a limited, pre-determined number of read and write cycles. To prolong a live of SSD drive, you must take care of it. We can even shorten startup times of the system and programs.

Virtual Hard Disk performance depends primarily on the service provider's server performance and the speed of your internet connection. Depending on your Internet connection it might take a while until all of your files are transferred to the cloud storage provider. So if you have tons of data to transfer in the cloud you need to be very patient.

The speed of uploading and downloading files from the cloud is usually quite slow, with a maximum speed of 100-200 kb / s. Sending 100 GB of data will then take up to 12-24 days. Uploading the same amount of data on the traditional hard drive is more than a matter of hours (USB 2.0).

File accessibility

HDD and SSD drives are physical media carriers that are either permanently installed in the computer, or take the form of portable memory. In spite of this, data mobility is limited, so in order to access files we need to bring a smaller or larger device.

By no means, virtual hard disks win in this category. We can access stored files from any web browser or any computer that is connected to the internet, so cloud storage offers unmatched accessibility and flexibility. Nowadays, almost all drives come with a drive web application that opens in a browser window. It allows you to open, modify, and retrieve data.

Nowadays, access to the internet is no longer a problem. Virtual disks often allow you to view files offline and offer data synchronization for people who use multiple computers or other devices.

Virtual hard disks also come in handy if we want to have some data to share. We do not need to take our computer or a drive to a friend and copy his collection of movies and songs. All we need to do is use Share desktop application function and send links to files via e-mail.

When it comes to external hard drives, we need to connect them at all times to the computer to make use of it . That makes it extremely impractical especially when you want to download a file quickly and don’t have time to connect your external hard drive.


Cloud storage enthusiasts believe that their data is strongly protected because service providers use professional solutions. The beauty of cloud storage services is that there are always backups from which files can be recovered.

Although, most cloud storage services have encryption technology, media regularly reports about hacking attacks on cloud administrators. They stole logins and passwords, and hence also confidential files of Internet users. Privacy issue is also very important - just consider the recent PRISM scandal to see that these private files are not as private as they claim.

If you are very security concerned, external hard drive may be better solution for you. It offers you the flexibility you need to protect your files and make them as secure as you want them to be. Unless someone has physical access to your desktop or portable hard drive, your files aren't prone to hacking or theft.

The whole situation can be compared to the age-old dilemma of whether to keep money in the bank, or in a sock or under the mattress. Each of these solutions has its die-hard supporters and will still continue regardless of technological advances and the introduction of new security features.

By no means, the most important disadvantage of physical drive is less safer backup. It is as easy to lose your external hard drives, drop them and damage. That’s why you should always be careful when carrying all of your important data on one device. Also, external hard drives can fail pretty easily or get infected.

Additional Features

Hard drive manufacturers often come bundled with different types of encryption tools for data synchronization, management, defrag, etc. However, they are hardly ever used, since users prefer to use a popular, free third-party applications.

Virtual disks administrators offer significantly more (a great example is the above-mentioned data synchronization between devices). Both web-based clients and desktop clients are regularly updated. In this way every now and then there are new facilities.

On the other hand, we have no influence on the range of functions. For example, if one of the helpful options disappear, we cannot do anything about it. We have to grit our teeth and look for alternatives (and again upload hundreds of gigabytes of data on the server).


There are two sides of every story. At first blush, it seems that external hard drives have a clear advantages, since they are far more cheaper and we can control everything on that device. Yet relying only on external hard drives for data storage can be dangerous: hard drives often fail or might get stolen. Why no to use both methods?

That way we can benefit from the advantages of file sharing and synchronization of a cloud storage service together with a backup on an external hard drive. Also keep in mind that the storage method that will work best for you largely depends on your needs. However, no matter which method you decide to use, both cloud storage and external hard drives perform great when it comes to effectively backing up and storing your data.