By Jon Thordarson, European Technical Support Manager at KeepItSafe
August 14, 2015

KeepItSafe Cloud Backup Expert Tips: Online Backup Versus External Hard Drive

If the question of using online backup versus external hard drive is bothering you, it is time to understand the pros and cons of both backup options and to take an informed decision. The fundamental worry about sending your mission critical data across a network to an unknown server destination can be nightmarish to the insecure. However, ensuring business continuity backing up thousands of Terabytes of data on to external hard drives can be equally nightmarish! Add to that the thought of losing both your computers and your hard drive to fire, theft or floods or other kinds of disasters.

So, what needs to be done? You need to understand the pros and cons of each type of data backup and take an informed decision on which one will suit your business the best.

Obviously, economics is an important and perhaps the first factor that influences your decision. External hard drives are not cheap. It is, therefore, clear that if you back up thousands of Terabytes of information every day, you will need large numbers of hard drives to meet your requirements. Online backup, on the other hand, is cheaper and scalable.

The second issue that must exercise your mind while making your decision are technicalities associated with the type of backup selected. Many small and medium businesses may not have the wherewithal to create a separate IT department staffed with highly qualified technical staff. Even large enterprises may find it extremely difficult to spare their technical staff for a non-productive (but important) activity of backing up data. In the circumstances, technical issues associated with external hard drives may not be welcome.

External hard drives require specific and proprietary software for their use. The drive must be compatible with the operating system in use in the Enterprise. The hard drive that works with Windows may not work with the Linux or Mac systems in operation in the Enterprise. Separate hard drives and associated software may have to be purchased to accommodate the differing software needs of different operating systems. This can make the whole process too technically cumbersome and expensive.

Online backup, on the other hand, is designed to be compatible with multiple operating systems and data can be backed up into the online server from the individual machines if the operating system in use has been declared compatible with the online backup software. While each online backup vendor insists on the download of a client interface, the software comes free with the service and does not have to be purchased separately for use as in the case of external hard drives.

External hard drives heat up excessively during a backup. Some drives heat up so much that if you leave it on for backup for the night, it can burn your hand when you try to pick it up the next morning. It is therefore, no wonder that external hard drives vendors are desperately searching for means to keep their drives cool during operation. They have tried some solutions such as providing a fan with the drive case, but with only a modicum of success. You will be told by your hard drive vendor that it is best to keep the drive in a room that is cooled to a certain temperature using air conditioning and keeping the drive away from machinery that produce heat. All this implies heavy investment in cooling equipment at your data centre. Hard drives are also physical objects that can be easily stolen and hence must be secured against theft at an expense.

Online backup transfers all the worry about the physical equipment to the online backup vendor. The online backup service vendor is the person in the business of providing backup. Investment in world class data center equipment is a business investment and therefore welcome. All that the small and medium size enterprise needs to do, is transfer the data to the online backup service vendor and pay for it. It becomes the responsibility of the online backup service provider to ensure that your data is kept safe and secure under conditions that are prescribed for the equipment used to store your data! The security of the server that stores your data is also the responsibility of the online backup vendor and you can focus your attention on your business and use your technical expertise for enhancing the delivery to your customers, instead of worrying about factors such as heating up of equipment or physical loss of equipment that store your data.

Of course, on the flip side of online backup, are issues of speed and safe transmission of data across the network and security of data trusted to third parties. While external hard disks speed up backup, you need good high speed Internet connectivity for encrypting and transferring your data to a remote online backup server. So, each backup decision needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis and the best of the breed backup solution must be selected in accordance with your situation, keeping in view the economics and the technicalities.

About the Author:
Jon Thordarson, KeepItSafe’s European Technical Support Manager, has over 15 years as an industry executive. He is an expert in the world of online backup and data protection. Prior to leading the development of technical infrastructure at KeepItSafe®, Jon co-founded and served as CTO for SecurStore – a leading provider of cloud backup services for enterprise networks. Thousands of businesses trust Jon’s guidance with fluctuating data-compliance requirements through the online publication, “EU Data Protection Regulation”. As a principal contributor, Jon identifies the challenges and opportunities of the EU Data Protection Regulation, while providing expert advice for readers to meet new compliance standards. Visit KeepItSafe’s website here:



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