Smart storage

Follow WINDOWS definitive guide to buying an external or portable hard drive. We unpack what we think you should consider before buying your next portable or external hard drive

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Smart storage To go portable or external: That is the question…
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  March 16, 2010

Software

Saifuddin says that there are numerous things to consider about the software installed on a portable or external drive.

"Is it very cumbersome to install, is it just plug and play, does it have a backup software, does it come with a password protection and encryption especially on the portable drives, because the chances of misplacing it or losing it is very high, so are you going to lose your entire data with it," he says.

"Does the drive tell you how much space is left, does it have an automatic backup, does it have a password protection," are other questions he thinks consumers should consider.

Going for the bigger brands

There are many brands out there these days when it comes to portable drives. Many companies produce a portable and external drives. But in general, it's widely suggested that you buy a drive that is made by one of the big companies as issues such as warranty are more easily accessible. It also boils down to quality. Those which are associated with bigger brand names naturally have better parts and will usually last longer. The last thing you want is to put all your music, photos and files on something which will go bust.

Read reviews

The next tip is to read reviews in publications such as this one, and online. There's a wealth of information out there when it comes to product ratings, and comments from those who have used and tried out various drives.

Backing up

Portable or External Drives are ideal for backing up data on your PC. Their advantage over CDs and DVDs is that they offer more permanent storage (and of course backing up data on CDs and DVDs is cumbersome and time-consuming). So, you might want to consider getting a two-drive external storage system where you can dedicate half the capacity for mirroring to automatically and instantaneously backing up your backup every time. The other advantage obviously is that two drives allow you to make backups of your information in one place. When it comes to backing up your information, try to organise what you have into folders, as it makes it that much easier to backup your files. Also, you'll then know where all your files are. Also be sure to backup regularly whilst utilising the backup software that comes on your drive. It's also a good idea to get into the habit of storing your data in multiple locations; so make some copies on your hard drive and others perhaps on a cloud storage solution such as DropBox mentioned below.

What about cloud storage

Portable storage is great, but what about doing away with a portable or external storage device altogether and jumping into the cloud? There are a number of online storage services out there such as DropBox. Many people are advocating this route, whilst others, such as Saifuddin are not.

"What we take a backup of or what we save is something which is very sensitive and close to us and very important to us. And still we're not that much open that we can just keep it on somebody else's server and somebody else's drive and hope it's going to remain the way it is. So, still the longevity and the lifescale of a drive is going to always remain," he says.

If you're willing to go the cloud computing route though, DropBox can offer you 2Gbytes of online storage for free and up to 100 Gbytes available to paying customers. You can then also share those files with others and it has an online backup facility as well.

Here's how the pricing works out for it. With the 50 Gbyte option, you pay $9.99 dollars for a monthly subscription. With the 100 Gbyte option, you pay $19.99 per month.

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