Data Backup Part 3:  Storage Media Options

In our continuing series about Building and Effective Data Backup Strategy, today’s article will explore your options when it comes to storing copies of your data on external media.

Part of the 3-2-1 Rule requires that you store copies of your data on two different forms of media.  One copy of your data is the original, which is located on your computer.   When it comes to storing your data on another form of media you have multiple options including:

  • External Hard Drives
  • CD’s/DVD’s
  • Flash Drives
  • Network Attached Storage Drives

Let’s take a closer look at each of the options, along with some pros and cons of each type.

External Hard Drives and Network Attached Storage Drives
External Hard Drives and Network Attached Storage Drives are probably the best and most widely used options for storing backup copies of your data.  Pricing on these types of devices have really come down in recent years, and they are very affordable.  Best Buy has many devices under $100!

Most come with some form of backup software that will allow you to automate the process of backing up and restoring your computer.  Even if they don’t come with backup software, both Microsoft and Apple have backup utilities built right in to their Operating Systems that can be set up to automatically back up your computers.

An External Hard Drive typically plugs in to a USB port on your computer, while a Network Attached Storage Drive either plugs directly in to your router via an Ethernet cable, or connects wirelessly with your network (like a laptop does).

External Hard Drives are best left plugged in to one computer, but since they are portable, and if you purchase one with enough storage space, you can backup multiple computers with one drive!

Network Attached Storage Drives stay connected to your network and have the ability and storage space to back up all of the computers in your home.

Some drawbacks to these type of storage include:

  • At their core, these are still hard drives.  Hard drives, like humans, have a 100% mortality rate.  These drives will eventually fail and when they do the data they contain will be inaccessible
  • Because External Hard Drives are portable they are easily dropped.  Dropping a drive can render it useless making the data on that drive inaccessible
  • These drives are not protected from fire, flood, natural disaster, or theft.  If a tornado hits your house, and the backup drive was next to your computer, it will most likely be destroyed along with  your other possessions

CD’s/DVD’s and Flash Drives
CD’s/DVD’s and Flash Drives make a great backup solution if you have a small amount of data that needs to be backed up.

Some drawbacks to this type of storage include:

  • Because storage is limited on these devices, you would need multiple discs or flash drives to back up larger amounts of data
  • Large capacity Flash Drives are available, but they are more expensive than an External Hard Drive with the same capacity
  • Burned media has a relatively short life span, typically between 2 to 5 years (source)
  • Most laptops (and some desktops) today do not come with CD/DVD drives.  You would need to purchase an external USB drive in the event you needed to access the data on a newer computer without a drive
  • CD’s/DVD’s are very fragile.  They scratch and break easily, and when that happens your data becomes corrupt and unreadable
  • Flash Drives are very small and easy to misplace and/or lose

One major concern about all types of external storage devices is their life expectancy.  The data on all forms of external media will eventually become corrupt due to the failure and/or aging of the media chosen.

Here are the average lifespans of each of the above data storage methods:

External Hard Drives: 3-5 years
CDs and DVDs: 2-5 years
Flash Drives: Depends on write cycles, 5-10 years or more
Network Attached Storage Drives: 3-5 years (source)

Because external media will eventually fail, rendering the backed up data inaccessible, you do need to store a copy of your data offsite.  That will be the subject of our article next week!

Posted in: Data Backup.
Last Modified: January 27, 2017