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Types of Backup Devices and Backup Solutions

When choosing media for your backup solution, there are four major options to choose from: external hard disk drives, USB flash drives, network drives and online storage services. Each one of these options has its own pros and cons in terms of price, features and ease of use.

External Hard Disk Drives
External hard disk drives are similar to the hard drives built in to your desktop or laptop, except they connect via USB, FireWire or other connectors, such as Thunderbolt. External drives are relatively affordable and are very easy to use. Most come with bundled software for performing scheduled backups, full system backups and other common backup operations. In terms of speed, an external hard disk drive is constrained only by the interface and the speed of the hard disk drive. Newer interfaces, such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, will be faster than USB 2.0 or older iterations of FireWire.
Pros: External hard disk drives are easy to use and data transfers are very quick compared to other options. They are also very cost-effective.
Cons: External hard disk drives are usually limited to a single computer, unless it is shared over a network (but this requires additional equipment).
USB Flash Drives
Flash drives are similar to external hard disk drives, except they used solid-state drives rather than hard disk drives. Solid-state drives have a number advantages over hard disk drives in terms of speed, reliability and power consumption. Solid-state drives can also be much smaller—as the technology becomes more affordable, you can find larger capacity USB thumbdrives with ever smaller form factors, make them very portable.
Pros: USB flash drives are small, portable and fast compared to hard disk drives.
Cons: USB flash drives are still far more expensive than hard disk drives, which means you’ll end up paying more money for smaller capacities.
Network Drives
A network drive is usually an external hard disk drive but with network connectivity. These can connect to a local area network via WiFi or through an Ethernet connection to your router. This makes the drive available to all of the devices on the network. You can even configure a network drive to be accessible from the Internet, given the right security settings. However, therein lies the challenge of network drives: setup is far more difficult than simply plugging it in.
Pros: Large capacity at a competitive price compared to flash drives. All computers on the network can access and share the files.
Cons: Network drives may be difficult to setup and can be compounded with other problems related to your local area network. Other issues with your router setup and interference in your building may hinder the transfer speeds on your network, making data access persistently slow in some cases.
Online Storage Services
Cloud backup solutions offer the best in automated, no-hassle backups. Services like SkyDrive, Dropbox, Carbonite,, Google Drive and SugarSync make it easy to have all of your important files available on all of your devices. There is also the benefit of having your data backed up to another site, which safeguards you against damage to your entire building or theft of your computer and backup device.
Online storage services can also be very scalable as well. You can often buy additional space as needed or reduce your allotment to save money.
Pros: Online storage services are very convenient, allowing you to access your files from any device over the Internet. Setup is easy and each service has a wide feature set for manipulating, versioning, collaborating and sharing your files.
Cons: Online storage services include a monthly fee, which can easily outstrip the per gigabyte costs of a hardware solution. Online storage transfer speeds also rely on your Internet connection. Furthermore, there are the various implications of entrusting a third party with your sensitive files and personal photos.


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