# Cloud storage vs physical memory

Gold Member
Hi, I need more memory (not to much though... 50GB should be fine for now), but I don't know whether to buy an external hard drive or try cloud storage. I'm pretty dumb when it comes to computers and related stuff so I'd like to hear some suggestions.

Thanks
Ric

Mentor
2021 Award
Buy a 1 or 2 Tb HD and you don't have to bother third parties and have enough space if the 50Gb should exceed. But if you want to have your data available everywhere, the cloud solution is probably better. You don't want to carry your HD around.

sysprog
Conventionally, "memory" is distinguished from "storage", such that, "memory" refers to what may be immediately accessed by a processor, whereas "storage" must first be read into memory to be processed. I am regarding local and non-local storage mainly in agreement with what fresh_42 said: you can get a few tens of times the 50GB storage that you may require, reasonably inexpensively -- maybe an ebay search on the terms "TB external USB 3.0 drive" will yield a list of suitable devices in the $100 or so range -- a terabyte is 1000 or 1024 GB -- that's about 20 times your stated requirement; and if you want some non-local backup, either for critically indispensable, or for accessible-anywhere, data, you can upload 15GB to a free google drive account, and there are many other inexpensive and reliable options for more extensive non-self-managed storage. Last edited: Mentor Hi, I need more memory (not to much though... 50GB should be fine for now), but I don't know whether to buy an external hard drive or try cloud storage. I'm pretty dumb when it comes to computers and related stuff so I'd like to hear some suggestions. Thanks Ric Well, 50GB is not hard drive size, so have you considered just buying a usb flash drive? I'm not a fan of cloud storage, but is there a particular reason you think it is a good idea for your need? symbolipoint Mentor Cost wise saving to cloud is a problem as you will have to pay a monthly fee that must be paid until you no longer need the files. Once you stop paying then the files will disappear for good. Buying a 64gb usb stick or two would be your best choice although access is slower than an external hard disk. You will also want to backup your copy hence getting two sticks or two external drives. A third option is to save the files to DVD or Blu-ray if you have the hardware. DVD will take 4.7GB per disk whereas Blu-ray will take 25GB per disk I think? So that means multiple disks. symbolipoint Gold Member Thank you everyone for the replies! I was considering cloud storage because I got an offer or something and I have a lot of GB for free (i think around 40, but I'm not sure since I didn't check for some time). USBs don't sound appealing to me because: 1) I fear to loose them (I'm a pretty messy guy) 2) I was considering to save on an external hard drive some heavy files that I'd like to access quickly with some programs @sysprog sorry about the language mistake Gold Member Also, if possible, I would like to save some money right now... 50/60€ is the price I'd like :-D sysprog Also, if possible, I would like to save some money right now... 50/60€ is the price I'd like :-D You can get a good (e.g. Seagate) 1 TB USB 3.0 external hard drive for less than that here -- not so small as to be too easy to lose, and fast enough for most purposes, but if you carry it around, you have to be sure to not drop it -- for stuff you want kept around next to forever, I recommend staging it to DVD+RW (you can re-write that about 1000 times), and then, after multiple re-verifications, when you're sure it's right, archive it permanently to M-Disc (which supposedly lasts about 1000 years, although obviously it's too early to be absolutely sure of it lasting that long), and then verify and re-verify the M-Disc copy, and then put it in a safe place. Last edited: dRic2 sysprog dRic2 said: @sysprog sorry about the language mistake Your English is definitely better than any non-first language of mine, and you didn't mis-use the term "memory", either -- the distinctions between memory and storage are important, but the terminological usages by which they are conventionally distinguished are somewhat arbitrary. dRic2 sysprog dRic2 said: 2) I was considering to save on an external hard drive some heavy files that I'd like to access quickly with some programs This (moderately higher-priced) Western Digital external USB 3.1 (compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0) SSD device is more resilient than mechanical HDDs are against physical momentum shock, and has faster seek times, but doesn't allow as many rewrites, and doesn't store as much data (256GB). Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Education Advisor 2021 Award A 64 GB flash drive is between$10 and \$15. I don't see how you could possibly lose it if you leave it plugged in to your computer.

If your argument for a hard disk is "Maybe I need 40 GB, and maybe I need 25x that", I'd suggest you clarify your needs before you go shopping.

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Mentor
You will also want to backup your copy hence getting two sticks or two external drives.
I strongly second this idea. Anything that you would really hate to lose should be stored on at least two separate devices. I have two sets of external hard disks for archiving photos, videos, etc.

dRic2 and jedishrfu
Mentor
And they should be stored in separate locations like at home and in a bank vault or maybe Gringotts.

dagmar
archive it permanently to M-Disc (which supposedly lasts about 1000 years, although obviously it's too early to be absolutely sure of it lasting that long), and then verify and re-verify the M-Disc copy, and then put it in a safe place.
Hmmm, the M_Discs will last 1,000 years ( I do not believe it! ) but how long do you think DVDRW drives will last? Floppy disk drives are now obsolete and so are tape recorders.

sysprog
Hmmm, the M_Discs will last 1,000 years ( I do not believe it! ) but how long do you think DVDRW drives will last? Floppy disk drives are now obsolete and so are tape recorders.
Analog tape recorders are still in use for evidentiary purposes, due in large part to the resultant products being inherently more tamper-evident than digital data. M-Disc is less subject to degradation than magnetic media, or other optical media. This article shows some results of DoD projective longevity testing for M-Disc technology.

Mentor
For archiving two things are important the media used and the recording playback device.

When camcorders first came out the heads tended to wobble. It wasn’t a big problem at first because you would transfer the recording to a vhs tape. But if you instead thought I’ll do it later and the device breaks then you discover that later devices can’t read your tape correctly anymore. This happened to us and we lost about 10% of what we recorded that just couldn’t be read back another 10% had sporadic dropout.

The newer digital tech creates mpeg files that can be transferred easily from medium to medium.

The moral is to get your data to digital as soon as you can and have a policy of making backups of your current stuff and backups of your backups to cover shelf life issues every few years.

dRic2
Gold Member
Last year I fully transitioned to using external storage towers with automatic cloud backup. I have one for family photos and another for passions, it's so messy.

It also depends on how personal the data is to you and if you are willing to take risks of it leaking. There are some things I would not put on a cloud. I am losing trust in the ability to retain privacy in this age.

I have recently learned from my lawyer that it would have been best for me to have retained a second copy of a large amount of private data on external storage that I no longer have access to.

Had I had a copy of this data, I would at least be able to use software to routinely scan the web for leaked copies of my personal data and then take immediate action when there was a hit. So, there is more than one good reason to always have at least two copies of your data.

symbolipoint and dRic2
sysprog
Last year I fully transitioned to using external storage towers with automatic cloud backup. I have one for family photos and another for passions, it's so messy.

It also depends on how personal the data is to you and if you are willing to take risks of it leaking. There are some things I would not put on a cloud. I am losing trust in the ability to retain privacy in this age.

I have recently learned from my lawyer that it would have been best for me to have retained a second copy of a large amount of private data on external storage that I no longer have access to.

Had I had a copy of this data, I would at least be able to use software to routinely scan the web for leaked copies of my personal data and then take immediate action when there was a hit. So, there is more than one good reason to always have at least two copies of your data.
Please understand that in order to "scan the web" for something that may have been leaked, you have to present a copy of at least some part of the something to the search agent, and that in itself carries a risk, if not a certainty, of leakage.

You can't download everything on the web, and then locally compare each thing with the something sought, so you can both keep the something secret, and also search everywhere for it, without any third party being able to find out who's searching for what.

That means you have to isolate a non-sensitive part of the something sought, that is adequate to identify candidate objects, without being sufficient, e.g., to prove that you have the whole object, or worse, to render the whole object constructible.

For example, if you own the secret part of the formula for Coca-Cola, and you want to learn whether it's been leaked, you can't pass it to a search engine and still keep the secret safe. You could seek out the non-secret parts of it in certain contexts and then check whether objects that contain those parts also contain other parts that appear to have a formulaic nature, without necessarily giving it all away, but each datum you present is another piece of the puzzle, and machines these days are very good at piecing such puzzles together.

The best way to preserve sensitive information, and its secrecy, is to keep redundant copies on independent media in an environment you control.

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Fervent Freyja
Gold Member
@sysprog, that makes a lot of sense. Could I not develop a search engine for my purpose where the data wasn't captured by any other entities? I have no idea of how that would work out.

sysprog
@sysprog, that makes a lot of sense. Could I not develop a search engine for my purpose where the data wasn't captured by any other entities? I have no idea of how that would work out.
The short answer is no. In general, you can't, with any assurance of compliance, tell a repositor of data to not log or capture content of an incoming query. On a per- server basis, you could first try to check what OS is running, what protocols are available, what ports are open, etc. to get an idea of how open or closed the server is, and you could also try to find out how high the traffic is. Depending on what entity operates the server, such poking around may or may not be frowned upon.

Developing your own search engine is at the very least a tall order, and depending on what you mean by that, could be impossible for any one individual human being. If you mean cobbling something together from a set of existing tools, to get an glimpse of the kind of thing that could be involved in that, you might look at this W3 rep overview. The use of regular expressions as described therein could reduce how much information you'd have to provide to define the pattern of the sought-for documents.

If you mean coding your own search programs, it could be more involved, and you could perhaps look at some of Prof. Donald Knuth's work, in particular The Art of Computer Programming Volume 3 Sorting and Searching to see how deep that rabbit hole could be. If you read the Preface to that and think it might be too advanced, you're not alone; it's dense and deep -- I mention it because it's authoritative and well respected -- Bill Gates has a standing job offer open for anyone who can get through (i.e. correctly work through a representative sample of the exercises in) the first 3 volumes of that magnum opus.

Fervent Freyja
Gold Member
Gold Member
And they should be stored in separate locations like at home and in a bank vault or maybe Gringotts.
But how do you then make sure the two are up to date? A very non technical advice that was helpful to me is you may want to put the sticks on your key ring to make it less likely you forget it somewhere, tho of course you the run the risk of losing your keys, but if you have a key ring with many keys I would think this would be less likely than losing or forgetting a small USB stick.

rootone
Hmmm, the M_Discs will last 1,000 years.
I am skeptical, something similar was said about LEDs.
Stuff you really don't want to lose should be archived twice and kept in different physical locations.
Memory sticks will do,
It is important though to remember or record where these locations are

Homework Helper
... Floppy disk drives are now obsolete ...
Due to the lack of capacity. However, I just pulled some 25 year old double density 5.25 inch and 3 inch floppy disks from storage and most of them are still readable. This is partially due to the thicker media and perhaps wider tracks (at least in the case of 5.25 inch floppies). However, for actual backup, I have a set of ZIP files for the old stuff on a couple of PCs and external disks. I've read that the high density media (1.2 MB for 5.25 inch floppy disk, 1.44 MB for 3 inch floppy disk) doesn't have anywhere near the lifespan of the older double density media. I don't know if single density media is any better than the double density media in terms of lifespan.

I have multiple internal hard drives in my PCs, with some of the partitions being used for backups, as well as external hard drives. I mostly use USB sticks to transfer data as opposed to using them for storage. I replace the hard drives every few years (using a stand alone clone utility) and do periodic backups.

Homework Helper
Gold Member
Hi, I need more memory (not to much though... 50GB should be fine for now), but I don't know whether to buy an external hard drive or try cloud storage. I'm pretty dumb when it comes to computers and related stuff so I'd like to hear some suggestions.

Thanks
Ric
BOTH. Learn to use both and decide what you want with them. External harddrive storeage is not too expensive. The beginning suggestion for online 'cloud' storage is Google Drive, and maybe something more/else like M.S. OneDrive.

Mentor
There are things to consider when doing backups

1) do full backups periodically and religiously record the date and possibly make a list of files saved with date stamps, sizes and CRC hash.

2) make partial backups of files when changed.

3) keep your old backups don’t destroy them unless it’s necessary.

4) know the media retention limits, know the environment conditions like no magnetic fields or no heat or no scratching

Sometimes you may need to make a backup of a backup because the original is reaching the retension limit. A good example is vhs tape which you need to backup again before ten years the limit of storage for the tape. The magnetism fades over time.

5) make sure your recording and playback devices work correctly. You can test this by reading what you just wrote ie spot check. You can read an old backup to see that it still works.

I had an old Sony recorder and over time the recording head began to wobble where it was making bad recordings. Later it caused trouble during backups because the timing signal was erratic. I should have copied these 8mm tapes to VHS earlier before the head fail.

Old floppies should be moved to a newer medium as the magnetism will fade. CD and DVD tech also have a shelf life before the plastic degrades the information stored.

6) store your backups in multiple secure physically separate locations. The cloud can lose your files, you can forget to pay some monthly fee, your credit card expired, you changed out your credit card. Someone can hack your account and delete your files. The cloud is not good for personal sensitive data as the hacker may steal it or the hosting site might peek at it.

Your house can have a fire or flood or burglary or some other natural disaster. Nearby homes can suffer a similar fate. A bank is better but a tornado or nuclear war can affect both. Work is not a good place for storing sensitive personal data backups as they may take it from you.

Bottom line is use multiple media types, multiple copies and multiple locations to avoid loss and use encryption where appropriate.

You must be somewhat paranoid always to protect what you don’t want to lose.

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symbolipoint