Cloud storage is convenient, but not guaranteed to be available forever. Eventually, we're going to move from cloud storage to something we can't even imagine yet. Until then, moving copies of your files to an external drive is just a good practice.
Why create a backup? To Make sure that all important information is safe no matter what is happening to your computer or internet connection. Send everything to an external drive and use the cloud as a secondary source.
But where do you start with tons of options available? Read on to find out how to choose an external drive for more security.
Probably the most important specification to consider when buying an external drive is storage space. Buying a high-speed, encryption and remote access device is not good if it isn't big enough to hold your information. You also don't want to pay through the nose for a ride you will never even come close to filling.
Then which size is best? It depends on you.
If you're looking for a device that allows you to transfer documents, photos, or other media from one device to another, or just want to add more space to your low-end laptop or tablet, a medium-range flash drive might be ideal .
While the largest of these can take up to 2 TB of storage space, they become expensive and unnecessarily large for simple transfers. Instead, save your money and buy a 64GB drive that can cost less than $ 20. You can get double size drives for not much more.
When you want to store a lot more, or keep files and folders long-term, you want something more important. A 1TB drive should serve most needs for the foreseeable future. If you envision storing hundreds of movies – maybe you've ripped your DVD collection – or just never want to run out of space, drives that offer several terabytes of space are available today.
For example, the Seagate Backup Plus is available with a capacity of 1 TB to 5 TB. The 1TB model doesn't cost much more than $ 90 while the 5TB model costs $ 160.
SSD vs. HDD
External drives are offered in two variants: hard disks and SSDs. We'll talk about the differences between the two, where they affect the specs, in a separate article and in more detail below. However, they are essentially two different ways to store and access data.
Hard drives (hard drives) use rotating magnetic disks to store data. Read / write heads modify this data as needed so you can hear its iconic rotating sounds. SSDs (solid state drives) use tiny gate transistors in cells that can be turned on or off based on electrical impulses. They have no moving parts, hence the name.
SSDs are in many cases significantly faster than HDDs, but they can be very expensive. Hard drives are cheaper, but they are also bigger, slower, and easier to damage. For external drives, it is usually best to choose an SSD, except in certain circumstances.
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Size isn't everything, even when it comes to external drives. Transmission speed is incredibly important. If you regularly transfer files to a huge drive, you won't want to wait forever for the transfer to complete.
Two main factors play a role in the speed of your drive: the underlying storage technology and the port used.
Although some drives are faster than others, SSDs can generally process data faster than hard drives. External SSDs are usually more expensive than their HDD counterparts and often have less storage capacity. You don't need one or the other as there are larger SSDs out there that you can buy at a premium price.
There are several standard options to consider when it comes to the connection between your external drive and your PC or mobile device. Most drives these days use a USB interface, but some generations have some noticeable differences – especially when it comes to transfer speed.
USB 2.0 is an old standard. If you do infrequent transfers of small files, avoid this. The maximum transmission speed is only 480 Mbit / s. The port is usually not color-coded on PCs.
USB connections beyond 2.0 can get a bit confusing. Specifications may be listed as USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, or USB 3.2 Gen1. All three are essentially the same, offering speeds up to 5 Gbps and usually color-coded blue. USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen2 are now identical, color-coded in red and offer 10 Gbit / s transmissions.
The fastest USB 3.2 or 3.2 2 × 2 offers up to 20 Gbit / s.
USB-A is the most common (read old school) connector type and has a rectangular box and a side-only connection. USB-C is newer, smaller and rounder and offers a switchable port. Piggybacking on this port is the DisplayPort protocol for video output. Some ports use the USB-C port, but operate the Thunderbolt 3 protocol at a transfer rate of up to 40 Gbps.
Some older devices use alternative connections such as eSATA and Firewire. However, because of their lower relevance, they should be avoided.
That said, you want a Thunderbolt 3 connection first. If it's too expensive or your device doesn't have a USB-C port (or Thunderbolt 3), next look for USB 3.1 / 3.2 Gen 2 support or go further.
Portability and Durability
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If all you need is an external drive for backing up your home, Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices may be a better choice. They are usually found as a standalone wired device on your local network and contain multiple drives and storage modes. Promise Technology, QNAP, and Synology are just three manufacturers that specialize in NAS devices.
However, if you want to keep your drive on the go, portability is essential. It has to be light and small so you can put it in a pocket for instant and quick access. Ideally, you want one that also doesn't require an external power cord.
Most external drives are far from heavy, and some are tiny, like the Samsung T5. They offer enormous digital storage capacity while being physically small. On the other hand, SSDs tend to be a bit smaller than their hard drive counterparts because they don't contain stacked magnetic disks.
Another reason to drag an SSD over a hard drive is for durability. While modern external drives are often outfitted with robust cases to protect them from damage, the two technologies have very different physical compositions. With no moving parts, an SSD lasts longer than a conventional hard drive to prevent damage.
If the data stored on your external drive is in any way sensitive, encryption is a good idea. Many drives are compatible with software encryption solutions, and these are fine for most people.
For those who are serious about their data security, you'll want to find a drive that has hardware encryption. If you are extremely security conscious, you can even opt for a physical security system like PIN code entry on the Apricorn Aegis Padlock drive.
Some drives come with strong cases to prevent physical tampering. Kingston's Ironkey flash drives may not offer the same storage capacity as full-scale drives, but they do have a secondary security layer embedded in the printed circuit board (PCB) and dipped in resin. This design makes it difficult for anyone to access the memory chips mounted in it.
By default, external hard drives are regularly formatted for a specific operating system. For example, an external drive formatted for Windows 10 can have problems with macOS and vice versa. Some hard drives are specially formatted for Linux.
However, this setup is not irreversible. You can reformat or partition a hard drive to serve various functions. However, if you want to avoid any hassle, make sure the external drive is compatible with the target operating system.
Would you like an external drive for gaming on the go or to expand the storage space of a console? Your needs may differ slightly from the average user.
This is where SSD speed is even more critical as a slower drive can affect latency and responsiveness of the game. USB 3.1 / 3.2 is also very important, although new game consoles and computers will likely be upgraded to faster speeds via USB-C. So be prepared.
Gamers should look for automatic backup features and universal compatibility. Some models, like the Silicon Power Armor A60 drive, also have built-in storage for cables and military protection to suit your needs.
Finally, some drives, like the Seagate Game Drive family, are specifically designed for PS4 colors, while other models offer optimizations for Xbox.
All of the above features and specifications should be considered first of all. However, there are other considerations to consider if you are still unsure of which drive to choose.
If you are concerned about your hard drive crashing after a year or two, you should probably go for a hard drive that comes with an extended warranty.
Don't forget what type of cable came with your drive. If your laptop or phone has USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports and your drive only has a USB-A cable, consider buying a different cable or adapter.
Some drives go even further and have Wi-Fi connectivity, making your files easier to access. More advanced models like this are usually rechargeable and come with a USB-based charging cable.