Hard drive vs. cloud backup

Hard Drive vs. Cloud Backup

When you’re thinking about where to keep your backups, it’s understandable that you might assume a physical hard drive you can see is a more secure option than a remote computer in an unknown location. In reality, cloud-based backups can be just as, or even more secure than a hard drive. They can also offer several practical benefits.  Let us help to break down the ultimate matchup of hard drive vs. cloud backups.


The best online backup services make security a key feature, using powerful encryption both in transferring the data from your machine and in storing it on their own machines. Look for services that offer 256-bit AES protection. For the ultimate security, check out “zero-knowledge encryption” services which require an encryption key that’s only known and available to you. That means even the staff at the cloud company can’t access your data in a usable form.


Good cloud-based storage will normally make multiple backups of your data, stored in different locations. That protects against the risk of any copy suffering data corruption or physical damage: a risk that’s already low thanks to data storage centers being ideally designed and maintained to protect their contents. Using hard drives for your backups means having to choose between increased vulnerability to damage or significantly increased costs in using multiple drives. It can also be costly or impractical to keep the drives in different locations to mitigate the risks of fire, flood, or theft compromising all the copies at once.


A cloud-based backup offers much more flexibility than a hard drive when you need to access data outside of your main office. For remote access to hard drives, you need either your office computers or the back-up drives to be permanently switched on, connected to the internet, and adequately secured. A cloud back-up offers all of these automatically, making remote and flexible working easier. You will need to use suitable software to track changes to files so that everyone is always working on the latest version.


When backing up to the cloud, you are limited by the upload speed of your internet connection, which can often be much slower than the write speed of a hard drive. Whether this is a significant problem depends on the size of the files concerned: for example, it may be more of an issue with security camera video than with spreadsheets. One way around this is to use sync software that will only copy across files that have changed since your last backup.

It’s worth remembering that cloud vs hard drive doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. You could find an affordable and practical blend of the two, for example by automatically backing up to the cloud in real-time and then making a manual back-up to a hard drive once a week. Alternatively, you could back up everything to the cloud and use a hard drive to make an extra copy of your most important files.

If you’d like help exploring your options with hard drives vs. cloud backup, contact us today and we can discuss what’s best for you.

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