Where is Your Data?

There used to be one option for storing your data. Your local hard drive. External hard drives hadn't been developed yet, and the cloud hadn't even been considered. Now, people have to decide multiple times a day, where to store certain data.

A lot of factors go into where you store your data. We'll take a look at a number of questions you should ask yourself before you store data, but first, let's look at some of the benefits and risks of each store type.

Local Hard Drive


  • It's incredibly easy to access

  • There’s no extra cost. You choose the type (mechanical or solid state drive) and size when you buy your computer.

  • Your files are instantly accessible. You don’t have to download them from anywhere.

  • You are not dependant upon having the internet to access your data.

  • You can encrypt your hard drive to make data more difficult to access by others.


  • Size is limited. You can’t increase the size of your hard drive without buying a new one.

  • Hard drives crash. A google study shows that 8.6% of three-year-old hard drives fail.

  • Viruses on your computer can cause issues with your data

  • You’re more susceptible to ransomware and other malware.

  • Computers, especially laptops are easily stolen, and when they are, your data is gone.


External Hard Drive (and thumbdrives)


  • Relatively inexpensive

  • You can choose the size and type to meet your needs

  • They’re easily connected and disconnected from your computer

  • They’re easily replaced

  • You can easily remove and store them in a secure location

  • Portability

  • You can encrypt your hard drive to make data more difficult to access by others.


  • Hard drives crash. A google study shows that 8.6% of three-year-old hard drives fail.

  • External hard drives are easily stolen or lost

  • They’re more prone to spread malware. Techadvisory.org reports that 25% of malicious programs are spread through USB thumbdrives.


Cloud Storage


  • Dozens of vendors to choose from. Illinois offers a number of cloud-storage solutions.

  • Low or no cost. Many vendors offer free, limited cloud storage.

  • Expandable. If you run out of room, it’s simple to purchase more storage space.

  • Accessible from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection

  • Vendor sites are largely secluded from most people and are heavily guarded, increasing security.

  • Cloud storage is redundant, meaning your data is stored in more than one data warehouse. If there are issues with the server that houses your data, it’s also stored in another location so you’re less likely to lose it.

  • You can’t lose it or have it stolen (no one is going to walk off with a spaceship-size warehouse of servers)


  • You don’t have complete control of your data. Thousands of data requests per year are sent to cloud service providers from government agencies, and it’s up to the vendor to to deny access.

  • If you don’t use good passwords, your data could be hacked.

  • Being disconnected. You must have an internet connection to access your data.

  • Limited support. If you have an issue, tech support can be hard to reach, and you certainly can’t take your cloud store in and talk to the Help Desk like you can with your computer or external hard drive.

  • Your data isn’t as prone to fires or floods. Redundancy (multiple copies of your data are kept at different physical locations).


Now that you’ve weighed some pros and cons of each storage type, here are some good questions to ask yourself before you store your data.


  1. Do you want to access your data from multiple devices or do you want to be able to share it easily?

  2. Is it private information such as academic records, financial information or medical records?

  3. What are your data security and privacy requirements?

  4. What is the impact if you cannot access your data?

  5. What is the impact if your data is lost or stolen?

  6. How large is your dataset? Will it fit on local hard drives?

  7. Do you expect your dataset to grow? Will you need to expand storage, and if so, by how much?