Cloud Storage Vs. External Hard Drive (What Is Better For Backups?)

In the digital age, especially with the emergence of more online-based technology, we need to keep our prized data of personal photos and important documents safe. The two prominent options are using Cloud Storage or an External Hard Drive to keep our precious data secured. So, is Cloud Storage better than an External Hard Drive or not?

Cloud Storage is better than an External Hard Drive. Cloud Storage allows universal accessibility if you have internet, whereas External Hard Drives are limited to their wired connection. Cloud Storage securely encrypts your data, whereas the latter does not. Cloud Storage is also a cheaper option.

All the benefits of Cloud Storage outweigh what can be accomplished with an External Hard Drive. With the help of the internet requirement of Cloud Storage, you could use and transfer data to as many electronic devices as you would like to without the need for a bulky External Hard Drive connected to your PC. There is so much more to the advantages above, which I will elaborate on below. 

cloud storage vs external hard drive

Cloud Storage Or External Hard Drive  

External Hard Drives have been the standard device to store and backup your precious data for years. Many, myself included, use it to backup some of their data. But, there is no denying that the improvement in security, accessibility, backup technology, and the cost of Cloud Storage is much more of an improvement over External Hard Drives. 

What Is Cloud Storage?

In the simplest terms, Cloud Storage is a model data storage where your data is not usually stored on a physical hard drive. Instead, your storage exists online over many servers worldwide belonging to a Cloud Storage Service such as Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. These services are responsible for your data, privacy, and safety. 

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The amount of data that you can store is immense, ranging from as low as 2GB to 5TB or more, depending on the Cloud Storage Service and subscription plan that you use. I have 1TB of Cloud Storage with Microsoft OneDrive, which I can access on all my devices.

If you have access to the web, your data stored on Cloud Storage is accessible on almost any electronic device such as smartphones and PC.

What Is An External Hard Drive?

An External Hard Drive is a standard data storage model. In this data storage model, your data is stored on a separate physical Hard Drive separated from your other devices. 

Your data access is limited to the device connected to, such as your PC. 

The data size that you can store on an External Hard Drive depends on the device’s size. I use a 2TB External Hard Drive, which means I can hold up to 2TB of data that I can access when connecting the Hard Drive to a device such as my PC.

External Hard Drives Vs. Could Storage Accessibility

Data stored on Cloud Storage is accessible to any electronic device as long as there is an active internet connection. 

To put your data onto Cloud Storage is as simple as dragging it into its respective folder and waiting for it to upload onto the server. Your Cloud Storage can be accessed on its respective website or even on your computer using an extension that transfers your data to the Cloud Servers. The data upload speed varies from the size of the file and the internet plan you have.

I like how this function is implemented with Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, as both have downloadable extensions to create folders on your computer to store your Cloud data.

On the other hand, with External Hard Drives, the storage device acts as a regular physically Hard Drive on your PC. File transfers can be very slow depending on the type of connection used on the External Hard Drive and the size of the file.

You can only access your data on the External Hard Drive if physically connected to the device in use.

Cloud Storage is far more accessible than an External Hard Drive.

External Hard Drive Vs. Cloud Storage Backup Technology

Cloud Storage is great for data backups as it is all online and, more importantly, uses Sync technology.

Backups are done by uploading the files to Cloud Storage Services from any electronic device, including your smartphone. This function is made more accessible with the extension that allows you to have a dedicated folder on your PC linked to your Cloud Storage. This feature is also where Sync technology is prominent.

Sync technology allows you to modify files, whether stored in a dedicated folder, connected to the Cloud, on your PC, or the Cloud Storage Service’s website, and have them uploaded immediately. This Sync technology runs in the background of your devices and ensures that your data is always the latest version.

On External Hard Drives to backup your data, you constantly have to manually update it with the latest versions of the data that you have modified. Some External Hard Drives allow for backup software to be used to automate this process, but it is only usable if your device is physically connected. 

This function above is inferior to Cloud Storage’s Sync technology.

Cloud Storage Services is far superior for backups than External Hard Drives.

External Hard Drive Vs. Cloud Storage Security Capabilities

Cloud Storage used to be vulnerable to hackers, but this is no longer the case with today’s modern security implementations in Cloud Storage.

Most Cloud Storage Services make use of an encrypted security technology known as 256-bit AES encryption technology. This encryption technology is nearly impossible to crack by malicious hackers. 

External Hard Drives are relatively secure but can be vulnerable if connected to a PC. If not connected, they cannot be hacked unless someone physically gets a hold of the External Hard Drive. Remember that External Hard Drives can easily break, unlike Cloud Storage which is online.

Both an External Hard Drive and Cloud Storage are incredibly secure.

External Hard Drive Vs. Cloud Storage Cost Options

You can buy External Hard Drives for a once-off price that is commonly under 100 dollars, while Cloud Storage services can either be free or have a subscription model.

Some services like Google Drive offer you some storage for free. In the case of Google Drive, they offer you 15GB of data for free. You can get more storage on the Cloud service with its superscription model, which is relatively inexpensive.

Although paying for a monthly subscription may seem like a con, this monthly fee ensures that your data is secure, stored online, and accessible from almost anywhere with an internet connection.

External Hard Drives can fail over time. Although an External Hard Drive is repairable, your stored data will be lost in the process.  If the External Hard Drive is due for a replacement, you will pay the same price, which can be expensive, to replace your External Hard Drive with none of your original data retained.

Knowing your data will always be secure and kept on a Cloud Storage Service more than justifies the inexpensive subscription model.

Cloud Storage works out cheaper in the long run than an External Hard Drive. 


Cloud Storage is much better than External Hard Drives. External Hard Drives require much more maintenance and are prone to failure. Data on Cloud Storage is stored online and securely encrypted, making it accessible from any device while protecting it from malicious users.

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