Local Storage

Local AND Cloud

This time we’ll talk about local add-on storage. Why, with all the cloud alternatives? Read on and we’ll discuss why or why not and some options.

I’m a firm believer in maintaining several copies of the data that I enjoy (music, pictures) or rely on (statements, receipts, etc). If one copy becomes unavailable, I can always fall back to another copy. Yes, I let my photos get copied to a cloud service or two and I make sure that my statements and such are securely copied to a secure cloud service - encrypted when sent or retrieved and encrypted on the cloud. That should be enough, right? Well, no, not in my mind. Why? My internet might go out or the cloud provider could be inaccessible for one reason or another or, horror of horrors, the cloud provider could go out of business. If I have a LOT of data or big files (music, for instance), it can take an inordinate amount of time to upload or download it.

It’s for those reasons that I advocate spending a little money and buying some local external storage. Thumb drives, also known as USB drives, can be one inexpensive way to go but it’s too easy to get some inferior chips in them which can go bad after a while. SD cards, or micro-SD cards, are another alternative and, if you buy from a reputable vendor you’re probably safe but, if you’re like me, you have about 30 or more of those little guys sitting around. How do you know which is which? They’re too small to label. You could buy a case for each one and label the case but that comes with its own issues - if you’re working with several at the same time you’d better make sure you don’t mix them up! Not to mention that to get a LOT of storage, say 1 or 2 terabytes (a terabyte is roughly 1,000 gigabytes and is what you’ll need for saving all your photos, music, statements, etc), you just can do that economically with SD/micro-SD cards.

How about some external hard disk drives (also known as HDDs)? They’ve been around for a long while and are known to be reliable and are very inexpensive. Well, sure, if you think you’ll be able to guarantee that the disk won’t get too knocked around, dropped, etc. Disks and their enclosures have gotten much more rugged and resistant to damage. But they can still be damaged.

No, nowadays I opt for SSDs for my external storage. 1 and 2TB (terabyte) SSDs can be had from reputable vendors for $150 or less. They are very resistant to drops and such and, for a little more, you can find SSDs that are virtually waterproof. So when they’re sitting around you don’t have to worry about someone spilling water or coffee or whatever on them or if you’re out and about and carrying them from one place to the next a rain shower or a splash from a passing car won’t affect them.

What if you lose an SSD? Many have onboard encryption so your data is encrypted and can only be read if the proper password is provided. And if you have several, they’re large enough that you can affix a label to them to remind you of their contents. And they’re fast, transferring data at gigabits per second, fast enough that a 4GB file can be transferred in 10 seconds or less.

You’ve often asked me for my recommendations when I talk about products like this. Well, I can’t say it’s a recommendation but I can tell you what I’ve bought. Just recently, I bought a 2TB Samsung T7 SSD for about $140 from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VLHP827). Why that one? I wanted something with enough storage that I could get by with it for a while, was fast, and was on sale. I know Samsung makes a good SSD so I didn’t hesitate when I saw it was about $20 than usual. Some of the other brands I considered were SanDisk (https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-2TB-Extreme-Portable-SDSSDE61-2T00-G25/dp/B08HN37XC1), Sabrent (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BN4MQPF9), and Crucial (https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-2TB-Portable-SSD-CT2000X9SSD902/dp/B0CGW18S6Y). While you may not be familiar with those last 2 vendors, I can tell you that I trust them for all sorts of storage solutions.

Do I benchmark my purchases? No. I read reviews and take the reliable ones from places like PCMag and Tom’s Hardware at their word. I make sure I use the cables that come with the drives and plug them into high speed ports on my relatively new computers to get the best performance. But, honestly, the best performance is not what I’m after. I just want good performance that will still be considered good performance in a year or two or three with a device that will last that long.

That's all for this week's column. I hope this helps you understand why I encourage the use of local SSD storage for your most stuff in addition to good, encrypted cloud storage. Don't hesitate to write to me if you have questions!

As always, my intent is to help you understand the basics and equip you to search for more detailed information.

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