If we had to define the most common question we get asked, it would be: Which storage solution is best for my business? Businesses have been asking us this since cloud storage became feasible and affordable for small businesses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an easy answer. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t have an easy answer at the level of your whole business.
In reality, virtually every business out there makes use of both types of storage, at least to some degree. The formal name for this approach is hybrid storage, though most companies using it wouldn’t use the term for the now-mundane mix of public cloud storage, on-device temporary storage, and long-term hard drive backups.
Nevertheless, for those new to the subject or those who need a quick refresher course, it’s possible to quickly summarize the differences between these types of storage.
Generally speaking, local storage is defined as data that you store on-premises. This includes every flash, hard, or backup drive you have, no matter how small; the hard drive in your personal laptop (or even on your phone) is technically local storage if you are taking it into work.
Local storage is great in some ways, and not so good in others.
Local Storage Advantages
- Availability. If all of your data is stored locally, and managed by your team, you can make sure it is always available. In other words, you don’t have to deal with third-party outages and problems. But again, ensuring that data is available is an issue that the largest companies struggle with, and it can present challenges to small businesses.
- Speed. Local storage, if set up and configured correctly, can be much faster than cloud storage. This is simply because, with the majority of cloud services, you are limited by the speed of your internet connection. That said, achieving very high speeds in local storage can cost quite a lot.
Local Storage Disadvantages
- Cost. This might be the most important thing for most businesses, and the bad news is that for most small businesses cloud storage is now much cheaper, at least for large databases. Local storage comes with a significant up-front cost (buying servers, cables, and networking devices), and you need to be a huge company before this is offset by the ongoing savings of local storage.
- Flexibility. In most local storage systems, you (and your staff) will have to be present in the office to access data, or connect via a dedicated connection. This means that if you are working from home and left your drive behind at your office in town, you won’t have access to the data you need.
- Risk. This, again, is one of the biggest reasons why small businesses have turned to the cloud in recent years. Managing your own data locally — including the security, validity, and frequency of backups — can be complex and risky. This, in turn, can make it expensive, either in terms of employing experts in data security or the cost of a successful hack.
Also read: Top NAS Storage Devices for 2021
Cloud storage is a type of storage where your data is not stored in your own servers, but instead you access files and programs over an internet connection. In slightly more technical terms, it’s when you access any information stored in a datacenter via the internet.
You can check out our guides to how cloud storage works if you want to know more, but for most small business owners there is a more important question: Is cloud storage worth the cost?
Cloud Storage Advantages
- Accessibility. If your data are stored in the cloud, you can attain access to them from anywhere there is an internet connection, and on any device you choose. At a time when remote working is becoming much more commonplace, this gives you (and your staff) much greater flexibility and agility.
- Less risk. This is something of a contentious issue, but for most small companies cloud storage will be far less risky than local storage, as long as you go with the best cloud storage for business and enterprises. This is because all of these companies employ large teams of security experts dedicated to protecting your data, at a far greater cost than most small businesses can afford.
- Price. Or rather, the overall price of storage. Though you will need to pay cloud providers to store data, this cost is offset by cost savings in other areas. Specifically, with cloud storage you don’t need to purchase hardware, or pay for the electricity needed to run your own servers. For small businesses, this will make cloud storage nearly always cheaper.
Cloud Storage Disadvantages
- Security. This might seem to contradict the point above, but it depends what we mean by security. Data stored in the cloud is less likely to be stolen, but you need to make sure that your staff are not giving criminals access to your cloud servers. This has been a big problem over the past year, but can be dealt with via staff training.
- Speed. As we mentioned above, cloud storage can be slower than local storage,
because you are limited by the speed of your internet connection. While you are only likely to notice this if you are transferring large amounts of data, it can be an issue in growing businesses.
As you can see from the lists above, both types of storage have pros and cons. Most businesses make use of both simultaneously, mixing local storage of critical, high security files with cloud servers that allow staff remote access to the data they use everyday.
In short, if you are not already using cloud storage for at least a portion of your storage needs, you should know that it will more than likely save your business significant costs.