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Store It Away: Digital Media Storage Options

September 5, 2012 | Comments

The amount of digital media the average person takes in - pictures, music, movies, TV shows, video games, e-books and more - is staggering. Fortunately, with capacity growing and prices dropping, you can keep your media library well-stocked without running short on data space.

Media storage is primarily divided into local and cloud storage.

Local Storage

Hard disc drives (HDD) are still the most popular local storage option in the market and offer plenty of space for most needs.

If you're looking for portable units that can easily pack away in your traveling bag, consider pocket hard drives. Many types offer 1-3 terabytes (1 TB is 1,000 gigabytes) of space and cost a couple hundreds dollars or less. Flash drives are also popular portable options and are useful in moving files around. However, most current flash drives can't provide the memory capacity of pocket hard drives.

Both flash and pocket drives connect and power through the USB, so no external power supply is needed. This is convenient when outdoors or traveling.

For the person who wants the maximum amount of space, the highest level of performance and the greatest data protection, a NAS server drive with RAID array is the way to go.

RAID (redundant array of inexpensive drives) systems provide safety and reliability by sharing data across all the drives. Even if one of the drives fails, you can swap in a new one with no data lost. These types of servers typically begin at 2 TB and go up from there, with business-class devices at 20 TB or more. NAS (Network Attached Storage) has Ethernet connection and can provide data and media to any computer or compatible device on a network, wired or wireless.

Solid-state drives (SSD) are an alternative internal drive to HDDs. Unlike its HDD counterparts, SSDs have no moving parts and thus are more quiet, fast and energy-efficient. However, these features come at a price - literally - as SDDs cost much more than HDDs with the same amount of storage space. SDDs also offer less maximum storage space.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage refers to storing your information remotely with a third party and accessing it through an Internet connection. Examples include iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox, which typically provide up to 2-5 GB at no cost and storage up to 50-100 GB for a fee.

Pros to cloud storage:

  • Cost/Upkeep - In addition to free offerings of data up to 2-5 GB, cloud storage doesn't require maintenance like local storage hardware often does.
  • Portability - Great for seamless roaming between devices and only requires an Internet connection to access anywhere.


  • Bandwidth - It can lead to higher compression of media and can diminish A/V performance. As a result, cloud streaming might not be up to the standards of serious home theater buffs.
  • Internet dependency - If you lose your connection or don't have access to one, you're out of luck.
  • Privacy/security - Since a third party controls your files, be sure to read any provider's terms and privacy policies. Cloud storage is also more susceptible to hackers.
  • Space - Cloud storage providers usually offer a maximum of 100 GB or less, much less than most local storage options.