There are a variety of ways that you can store data created either on your computer or other hardware such as cameras and MP3 players and this is something which has become easier and easier over the years. Whilst once we only really had the option of floppy discs and the internal hard drive, now we have a variety of different mediums which we can use to store and back up data.
What’s a hard drive?
A hard drive is sometimes referred to as a Hard Disc Drive (HDD) and is often confused with memory (RAM). However, it is different insomuch as it stores data permanently, as opposed to RAM, which doesn’t. HDDs come in a variety of different sizes in terms of how much data can be stored on them – at the moment around 1 terabyte is standard for new machines, although it could be less than this, especially in netbooks which tend to have around 20GB.
If your hard drive fails, then you lose all of the data stored on your machine such as documents and pictures, unless you have backed up, as well as the operating system. Hard drives are not expensive to replace and it’s often possible to recover your data if you take it to a computer repair shop, depending on the reason for failure.
If it’s completely dead then you can still have data recovered but this tends to cost a significant amount of cash as it’s done in a sealed room and without going into too much detail, is a very specialist operation.
More expensive, but also faster and more resistant to shock, is a Solid State Drive (SSD), which uses the same interface as a traditional HDD so that it can be swapped. However, a SSD doesn’t have platters which HDDs do, but instead use a variety of circuitry in order to work. Most end-users won’t have to worry about replacing traditional drives with SSD, internally, unless you require the significantly faster speeds that can be gained from a SSD.
Further data storage options
Of course, whilst your internal HDD may have plenty of space for everything you need, there are other forms of storage that many of you will be familiar with, such as flash memory cards used in cameras, pen drives (also referred to as USB sticks, flash sticks) and cloud storage, which is relatively new to the average user.
Most modern computers come with several USB ports as well as slots for flash memory cards (also known as SDD or MMC cards), many photo quality printers also come with memory card slots, as do smartphones. This allows you to transfer the pictures from you camera onto your PC or print them straight off. They are not as large in terms of storage as HDDs, but are useful for ‘hot-swapping’ data between machines and devices.
Cloud technology is only just really appearing in the public consciousness and services such as Dropbox are a perfect example of how it works. Most free cloud back-up solutions only allow a certain amount of data to be stored on servers in a data centre, so that your important docs and photos can be restored in moments or accessed from any computer.
Cloud computing technology is gathering pace rapidly at the moment and if you’re in business, it’s invaluable for ensuring your work is only a couple of clicks away. Paid options get you more storage and there are a few providers out there such as Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s Skydrive and others such as Dropbox and SpiderOak.
YouTube is a type of cloud storage, although you can only share what you upload, rather than using it as a storage facility which you can have private access to.
Cloud based storage means less backing up at your end as with services such as Dropbox, you simply save to the Dropbox folder on your HDD and it’s automatically synced with the data which is stored in ‘the cloud’. This is really just a fancy term for saying that your data is stored elsewhere, it’s not just floating around in cyberspace but is stored within servers within a dedicated data centre.
Cloud storage is very handy but you should ensure that your data is also backed up elsewhere in case of a disaster at the data centre end (although most have secondary systems, generators and 24/7 physical guards).
Other types of storage
We can’t forget of course good old CD and DVD discs as a means for storing data, although these are no longer the best solution as they do degrade over time. With modern operating systems though, it’s often just a case of dragging and dropping what you want to save to the disc drive with a clean, ready to record disc already in the drive. Alternatively you can use software such as Nero to help you make music compilations, movies, organise and save photos and more.
NAS storage is done over a network and is really more relevant to the business user than home user, unless you want to network your home. All data is sent to a server and distributed to client computers on request and saved back to the server once any changes have been made.
Backing up your data
Many home users and businesses alike have a tendency not to perform backups frequently and safely enough. Small amounts of data (up to around 32GB) can be saved to a pen drive but this isn’t a truly effective way of backing up. CD/DVD backups are becoming less common as cloud storage has become more common and secure.
If you don’t store anything useful on your PC, such as photos, documents, work-related items and you use web-based email services then you don’t have to worry too much. However, if you keep important documents or pictures with sentimental value then it’s imperative that you should backup often.
External HDDs are good for backing up as you can drag and drop data quickly from the internal to external drives with ease. However, it’s still a good idea to use cloud-based storage in the unlikely event that both drives fail at the same time – this might by unlikely but a power outage when your computer is plugged in and the external drive attached could be enough to cause a power surge and damage your machine, rendering it useless and your data lost.
As you can see, there are so many storage options out there these days that there is no real excuse to lose any of your data, whether it be precious memories or important work, there’s a backup storage solution for everyone.