There Are Multiple Devices That Can Provide Data Storage

banner of Data Storage Devices

Digital data storage, in a nutshell, involves recording information on a digital storage device or medium by electronic means. Digital storage devices are pieces of hardware used to store, carry and transfer data. Electronic data storage is indeed a marvel of the technological progress we have achieved as users can now store vast amounts of data in pocket-sized data storage devices for future use.

Digital storage media typically belong to one of five categories: flash memory, paper, online/cloud, optical and magnetic storage. External hard drives and flash drives are among the most prevalent forms of magnetic storage and flash memory, respectively. These two storage devices' massive popularity is perhaps attributable to their plug and play/go convenience, affordability, and relatively small sizes.

External Hard Drives

Portable or external hard drives are magnetic storage devices that connect to computers externally via a USB connection. While some external hard drives require power from an AC wall connection, the vast majority can draw power directly from computers over a data cable.

External hard drives are surprisingly similar to their internal counterparts, with the primary difference being their location. Thanks to hard drive enclosures, computer technicians can convert regular internal hard drives to external hard drives by removing them from computers and covering them in protective casings.

Although external hard drives come in a broad range of storage capacities, they all connect to computers through one of four means: wirelessly, USB, eSATA or FireWire. That said, why is it important to own an external hard drive?

  • Large Storage Capacity - External hard drives offer some of the largest storage capacities among portable storage devices. Most external hard drives can provide several terabytes' worth of storage capacity, which is more than enough for the average user's needs.
  • High Transfer Speeds - Although regular external hard drives have high transfer speeds, those connected via FireWire, thunderbolt or USB-C typically have incredibly faster RPMs (Revolutions per Minute). High RPM speeds make data transfer and heavy tasks such as video editing a lot smoother and faster.
  • Offline Backups -  External hard drive backups are much safer, not to mention more convenient than cloud storage. Unlike cloud-stored information, data on an external hard drive is nearly impossible to hack, and retrieval is not limited by a cloud service provider's reliability.

Flash Drives

Also known as thumb drives or USB sticks, flash drives epitomize the phrase "good things come in small packages." Flash drives are typically smaller than an average adult's ring finger yet capable of storing huge volumes of data (up to 2 TB) in a small physical space. Due to their small size, flash drives are very portable and convenient for day-to-day computing tasks. They have several advantages. 

  • Portability - Flash drives are small, easy to carry and capable of storing millions of files that would have otherwise occupied too much physical space. Users can carry flash drives hands-free (in their pockets or bags) and access their files by plugging the flash drive into a computer.
  • Low Power Consumption - Unlike magnetic storage devices that use mechanical parts for reading and writing purposes, flash drives do not have any moving parts. Instead, flash drives perform all their functions electronically, making them less power-hungry.
  • Storage Capacity - To a great extent, the physical size of a digital storage device has little correlation to its storage capacity. Modern flash drives can store up to 1 TB of data while being no larger than an average adult's ring finger.
  • Plug and Play Capabilities - One of the most intimidating things about software for less tech-savvy people is the installation process. However, with portable apps, it is possible to get things up and running without performing any complicated installations. Anyone can drag and drop portable apps into their USB stick and run them later on a compatible device, e.g., at the library or a cyber café.