Cloud Storage vs External Hard Drive -10 Main Pros and Cons

Cloud storage vs external hard drive performance has been a debate going on for quite some time now. Recently, we have seen an increase in the popularity of cloud storage as it continues to grow, and that is new ways to store and access data all around the world. Cloud storage and external hard drives provide a place to store your data like pictures, music, videos, and documents.

But there are many different features to look at when choosing what is best for your needs: online storage or an external hard drive. This includes security, privacy policies/regulations, costs, interface, storage capacity, speed, and accessibility. The following in-depth review will help you to find which option is perfect for your needs.

What is local storage?

local storage

Local storage holds and stores data locally on an external hard drive, USB, CD, DVD, or other internal storage media. This data cannot be accessed from any device other than the one it resides on, and no network connection is needed to retrieve the information – hence, it is “local.”

What is cloud storage?

cloud storage

Online data storing is a form of data storage on the Internet through cloud computing. It is referred to as cloud storage, an Internet-based technology that enables any business or organization to store its files in one place.

And hosted data is then accessible from anywhere there’s a network connection. Data stored in this way is maintained on online servers, accessed through remote access, either a web browser interface or applications running within a cloud computing environment.

Some famous and prominent cloud storage services include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. These three services are leading players in the market. At the same time, there are some medium-level secure cloud storage solutions, including Dropbox, Pcloud, and Mega, that offer good remote storing data with advanced features.  

Let’s understand which one is the perfect cloud-based storage service the right choice for your needs.

Cloud Storage vs External Hard Drive – Pros and Cons of Both

1 Cloud storage provides tight security

 Cloud storage provides tight security

In terms of data security, online storage can provide good security against hackers and computer crashes because your data is saved on multiple remote servers, unlike local storage; where in most cases, a single physical one is used.

Cloud computing provides some security measures that are more difficult to bypass than those on regular hard drives. This includes the encryption of data, which cannot be seen by anyone other than the person authorized to access it. The user is also asked to choose a strong password or passcode to access their account.

Furthermore, data transfer with end-to-end robust encryption protocols and also remained secure on a cloud server with zero-knowledge encryption. For example, data is encrypted with standard encryption techniques like 128bit and 256bit algorithms. And even some services give complete control to use your private encryption key to encrypt and decrypt data.  

The encryption ensures that your sensitive files are not accessible to anyone other than the authorized users. Although cloud storage might seem more secure, hackers have developed ways to bypass these systems with the help of malicious software.

And there are high chances of unauthorized access to data stored on a remote server.  Furthermore, there are many best online storage providers including Tessorit, Pcloud, Mega.

External hard drives also have high chances of security issues. For example, viruses attack or theft, especially a portable device that most people use for data backups. Although, data stored on local drives are also encrypted. But if they get stolen, then their data might be accessed. In short, online storage is more secure because it provides high standards of security protocols for cloud data.

2 Local Hard drive provides a user-defined privacy policy

Local Hard drive provides a user-defined privacy policy

The biggest issue with most cloud services is their privacy policy. Privacy policy means what types of data they’re collecting, accessing, using without your permission. Some cloud storage provides the worst in terms of privacy. It means they can scan, read, and access your hosted files.

And they can even sell it to 3rd party companies. So, it is most important to read their terms and conditions page before storing files. For example, do they’re selling or providing access to your hosted files to 3rd parties companies. So, only go with it if that service meets with your defined security measurements.

Also, Some excellent services offer good privacy to store important files like Tresorit,, mega. While the external drive is the most private focus way to store files without any issue. Because only you can access, read your valuable data.

3 Hard disk is cost-effective

Hard disk is cost-effective

The cost for using cloud backup storage ranges from $5-20 a month or 60 $ per year, whereas local hard disk prices vary from $50 to $500 for 500GB to 4TB. Like any other service, the cost of online storage will depend on what type of plan and services you want, like storage, security, file size limit, and other features. And there are two different options for pricing:

-Monthly subscription: This plan will charge you every month; however, you will not get some discount price with this plan which some companies offer. But, a monthly subscription is more affordable for people who don’t want to make a big hole in their pocket at once.

 -Annual subscription: You can sign up for a yearly subscription that gives you peace of mind for a year. It means to pay for one time and enjoy the whole year. Also, yearly subscription services offer discount prices. So, you have to pay continuously to use the service on cloud storage, which is quite expensive for some users.  

The cost of local hard disks mainly depends on how large external hard drives you need and the storage type that your drives have. For example, the cost of SSD and HDD storage is different. And there are several price ranges for external hard drives.

It’sIt’s essential to get reliable that meets your needs, but also one that can affordably meet a budget. For example, if you only need the drive for backup files, storage space matters as long as it can handle your data.

On the other hand, if you plan to use it frequently; and you’re storing many documents on it, then reliability also matters along with storage and cost. In short, external hard is only a one-time payment that seems a more affordable backup solution than purchasing monthly or annual service. Where you pay regularly, but external hard drives can be more expensive, if you’re storing massive size data frequently, because you have to purchase a new hard disk.

4 The external hard drive provides excellent data transfer speed

Online storage is limited by the speed at which the data can upload and download from your computer to the server and vice versa; which is a much time-consuming process. Some cloud services provide good uploading speed but worst in downloading speed.

Even some company advertises that their cloud backup servers are located near a fast fiber optic cable. But there are more chances that you live outside of this area, and it would still take some time for the information to transfer. While net connection speed also hugely impacts speed.  

On the other hand, external hard drives provide excellent data uploading and downloading speed. So better to use an external hard disk with a large capacity and save your data locally on your system rather than relying on cloud storage as a backup platform for all of your files.

5 Cloud storage provides excellent sharing and collaboration feature

Cloud storage provides excellent sharing and collaboration feature

A collaboration and sharing features allow you to easily share and store files with other users without needing an extensive, on-premise infrastructure. Collaboration features offer business and enterprise- to easily work and collaborate on one project simultaneously from different locations.

They also include scalable apps delivered through flexible platforms such as OpenStack Swift Object Storage to smooth deployment. Further, the benefit of a cloud service is that it makes it universal access from anywhere, at any time.

This can be taken to an extreme – for example, employees using cloud services as their sole data backup will have everything they need at all times as long as they have an internet connection. You can moderate this by setting up specific files on your private network and keeping the rest in the cloud. So only those specific files are vulnerable to disaster.

But if you choose to use a poorly cloud-based system, privacy could become a concern depending on what you’re storing there that we have discussed above. While external hard disk drive does not provide sharing and collaboration features by default. You have to implement this infrastructure in local devices.

6 Cloud storage provides the syncing feature

Cloud storage provides the syncing feature

This is the most exciting and excellent feature of cloud storage. Syncing is a method of data transfer that enables you to be both locally and globally up to date at the same time. This means that every change or update made from any device, tablet, or laptop will instantly replicate your files from where it’s stored on your online server automatically in real-time. Typically file sync happens quickly or almost instantaneously (within minutes).

7 Cloud storage requires an internet connection but an external hard disk drive not

Cloud storage requires an internet connection but an external hard disk drive not

Internet connection is necessary to access datastore on online storage because it requires a web-based connection for browsing and opening stored files. It means no net connection-no access. However, no net is required to access data store an external drive. The data on the hard drive can be retained just by connecting to a computer or with any device that recognizes and connects with an external hard drive.

8 Cloud storage is more scalable

Cloud storage provides more scalability than an external hard drive since it allows you to upgrade your current plans easily. For example, current storage is not enough to store your entire data; you can easily upgrade your subscription for more storage.  While on external drives, it is not an easy case; you have to buy more external hard drives to handle more data.

9 File Versioning feature in cloud storage

File Versioning means that each time you save or create the file; it creates an additional copy that hangs around until you decide to delete it (rather than just overwriting previous versions). And it is

the best way to ensure file recovery from the accidental operation isn’t too horribly destructive. While files stored on external drives do not retain versions automatically in an easily accessible form, unlike in the online store where users can make a newer version overwrite the older one without making it duplicate.

10 Cloud backups provide excellent Backup tools

Cloud backups provide excellent Backup tools

The priority of the users is to ensure that their data is efficiently backed up. Whether you have a computer in your office or on a mobile device. Therefore, cloud storage provides an excellent dedicated backup system than a regular hard drive.

With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can take an online backup of your entire data without disturbing your workflow or get it back in disaster recovery. And it takes only a few minutes to do everything.

But it does not mean external hard drives are not a suitable backup strategy. There are many best drives like WD, my passport, Seagate that are great for backup files. And also comes with dedicated backup software.

FAQs on External Drive vs Cloud Storage

Is cloud storage better than physical storage?

Yes, in some way, it is the right backup solution than an external drive. Because the benefit of a cloud backup is that it makes data accessible from anywhere, at any time, and comes with a good backup strategy.

Should I buy cloud storage?

 It depends on your needs whether you should purchase a premium service or not. However, spending money on cloud services is worth able. Even some cloud storage provider offers a free tier of services like 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, 15GB, and some also provide 200GB(Blimp), which will be enough for some people who are not bothered by privacy implications.

Also, cloud storage is most convenient but can be risky in terms of privacy and security because anyone who has access to the server where your files are stored theoretically has complete access to them at any given time.

Suppose you have sensitive information on your computer that you don’t want others accessing inadvertently or intentionally. In that case, you should consider making even just an encrypted backup copy of it on an external hard drive.

Is the cloud safer than the hard drive?

In terms of privacy, cloud storage is not safer than hard drives but is good for security and reliability.  

Is it safe to use cloud storage?

 Yes, it is safe to use cloud storage services but not suitable to store very sensitive and private information on an online server.

Is 200 GB a lot of storage?

It depends on your need. For example, if you only want to store data like pictures, documents, and files, 200GB is a lot of storage. But not if you’re a big content creator.

What is the best alternative to iCloud?

There are many suitable alternatives to iCloud like Google drive, Dropbox, Mega, OneDrive, PCloud. 

What are the disadvantages of cloud storage?

Some negative points are associated what cloud storage having a poor privacy policy, low speed; you have to pay every month; for some users, it can be challenging to pay.

What is terrible about cloud storage?

The primary issue with cloud storage is its privacy policy. It means you don’t have a 100% guarantee of how they’re they’re treating user files.  

When should you not use cloud storage?

You should not use cloud storage services if you want to store very important files. And when the data size is small.

What are the disadvantages of an external hard drive?

 External the hard drive has more chances of failure. And does not provide the necessary cloud solutions that cloud storage provides, such as sharing, syncing, collaboration, accessibility, and collaboration. Also, it does not offer a good backup method.

What are the pros and cons of cloud systems?

Pros of Cloud system:
Easy to accessible
Cheap to store large size data
Best for backup
Provides syncing, collaboration, sharing, and file versioning features.
Offer excellent online backup solutions.

Cons of Cloud system:
Poor privacy policy and security.
Low speed.
Required internet connection
Not suitable to store small-size data.
It does not offer an effective backup strategy

 Which cloud service is best?

There are many best service providers for online backup, but it depends on your needs, like what types of online service you need. For example, if security and privacy policy is the primary concern, then Mega, Tesorit,, SpiderOK, Pcloud, and IceDrive are best for security reasons.

But if you want to use it for a cloud backup solution, then IDrive, Backblaze, Crashplan are perfect. And Pcloud is a great service provider for a lifetime subscription.

Rob Boirun
Rob Boirun

Staring in the storage industry in 1999, I worked for a DVD Burning API company that provided the burning engine for iTunes and other burning software. Today my love for all types of storage is being displayed here.

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