When it comes to storing your business data, it's critical to make every effort to help keep it safe and out of harm's way. There are a few popular options to choose from, so how do you know which you should be using? Here are some pros and cons of each data storage method.

Cloud Storage

In cloud storage, data is stored on remote servers accessed from the internet, or "cloud." Storage service is maintained, operated and managed by a service provider that has its own storage servers.

Access is one of the biggest pros for cloud storage. You can access your files no matter where you are. If you need to find some piece of information or update a document, you can do so easily, whether you're at the office or in the back of an Uber. At the same time, access could be considered a disadvantage because you do need to have a connection to the Internet for it to work. With the proliferation of smart phones, tablets, and wifi hotspots, chances are this will only be an issue in rare circumstances.

Speed can also serve either as a positive or negative aspect of the cloud, depending on your set-up. Generally, the most well-known storage providers offer great speed, but that’s something that’s out of your control. You may find that it’s slower to access documents from the cloud than from other options, so if speed is really important, it may be worthwhile to do some research before making a long-term commitment.

If you approach your storage limits, it's easy to upgrade and acquire a greater storage capacity in the cloud, whereas on-site storage requires purchasing more equipment, setting it up, making space for it, etc. This makes the cloud a much more scalable option.

Drew Robb at Enterprise Storage Forum lists "storage immortality" as a benefit of the cloud. "The public cloud offers a way to bypass the risk of purchasing soon-to-be-over-the-hill hardware," he says. "You pay for the capacity and performance you want, and the providers upgrade their environments to keep pace with state of the art – egged on by competitive pressures from other providers."1

Cloud offerings are usually cheaper at the start, but costs can add up over time.

One major benefit is that data will remain more protected in the event of a disaster. If your equipment is damaged, lost, or stolen, your files will remain in the cloud.

Privacy may be a concern for some companies. While no credible provider is going to knowingly violate your privacy, your data is ultimately out of your hands and might be at risk for hacking. That said, their security is almost sure to be more robust than whatever your small business can provide.

USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive (often referred to as a thumb drive) has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, it's very portable and easy to carry with you no matter where you go, and it will fit in most computers, as well as any other device with a USB port. That portability, however, also means there is an increased risk of leaving it somewhere or losing it outright. It's also easy to steal if it’s not secured.

Flash drives are durable and convenient, and you can even order them branded with your company logo. If you don't need a ton of storage for your day-to-day operations, they're certainly a viable, inexpensive option. They have come a long way over the years in terms of the amount of data they can hold. These days, you can get flash drives with 2 terabytes of storage, which for many small businesses will be more than enough. Just be sure to make backups regularly.

Flash drives can provide an element of privacy and security because they're not always accessible via networks. However, if you do leave the drive inserted and accessible, you run the risk of malware finding its way onto the drive.

These devices also have limited lifespans, so you will want to copy data onto new flash drives regularly, but this shouldn't be too much of a financial burden, as they are relatively inexpensive. Another drawback is that a flash drive requires computer access, so you won't be able to access the data from your smart phone. It also takes up one of your USB ports, so if you have multiple devices plugged in, that can become an issue.

Hard Drive

You could store your data the old-fashioned way: on your hard disk drive. This could be the one within your computer, or you can buy an external hard drive, which may be the better of the two options, as it can be easily separated from your machine if it experiences technical difficulties.

External hard drives have many of the same pros and cons that flash drives do. While larger, most are still fairly easy to transport from one place to another. They're actually harder to lose track of or steal because of their larger size. They won't fit into a pocket as easily, for instance.

Hard drives have more storage capacity, but they also cost more. The price will depend on how many terabytes you opt for. The accessibility is essentially the same as that of a thumb drive, and you'll still need to plug it into your machine (often via USB). If energy efficiency is a concern, a hard drive is not as good an option as the others. They require more energy to work properly, and as a result can put a strain on your laptop battery.

As noted, each of these storage options has its own pluses and minuses. Figure out what your main concerns and uses are, and opt for the solution that makes most sense for you. If you go with a flash drive or hard drive, make sure you back up key data on a regular basis.

1. https://www.enterprisestorageforum.com/cloud-storage/cloud-storage-pros-and-cons.html

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC