Backups – Local Storage vs Cloud Storage – Pros and Cons

How are you backing up your important files, if at all? Backing up is crucial as disaster can strike anytime. Hard drives can fail at any given time and a malware infection might delete essential files.

There are two primary methods of storing data: locally or in the cloud. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages so let’s take a close look at each option.

Local Storage

Hard DriveBacking up locally means to use your own media, such as an external hard drive or CD, to store extra copies of your data. This is often the most affordable way to backup large amounts of data.


  • You have 100 percent control over the data.
  • Very affordable, especially for large amounts of data. External hard drives come quite cheap these days.
  • No internet connection required.


  • It’s not always very easy or convenient to find room to store your external media.
  • Just like your primary hard drive, external media can fail as well.
  • Possible theft
  • No data access on-the-go unless you bring the media with you which might be too bulky. However, flash drives may work well.

Cloud Storage

Cloud StorageLocal storage not for you? Try cloud storage, which means to store data online. There are many services, both free and paid, that provide cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Windows Live SkyDrive. Some services are free but if you’re trying to store large amounts of data, expect to make a payment.


  • Some services offer a basic free version, such as Dropbox (2 GB) and SkyDrive (25 GB)
  • Available anywhere there’s an internet connection without having to carry anything extra
  • Third parties handle taking care of the hardware so no worries about storing external media in a safe place


  • Internet connection required. In addition, a relatively fast connection is recommended for the uploads and downloads to work well.
  • Depending on a third party that you have no control over. They can technically do whatever they want with your files. Be sure to read their terms and privacy policies.
  • The third party might randomly shut down due to financial hardships or other unforeseen circumstances.
  • Just like your primary hard drive, the hardware third parties are using can fail at any time.
  • Often can be more expensive if you need to store large amounts of data. Free services usually only offer a maximum of a few gigabytes.

Cloud storage is quickly gaining popularity with events such as the introduction of Chrome OS, an operating system that is completely online.

So what do you prefer? Local storage or cloud storage? Or do you prefer to use both so if one fails, you have the other to fall back to? Are you even backing up your data at all? Vote in the poll below and share your backup methods with us in the comments.

Brian is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of TechAirlines. He is also a developer and manages most of the site’s operations. He enjoys web development in his free time and is currently trying to learn Android development. He is currently a freshman at Stony Brook University, majoring in Computer Science.

  • Bob Zenith

    Personally, I prefer local storage; I like being 100% in control of my data. Backing up data in the cloud is pretty risky – (possible hackers and other third parties having access to it)
    I backup my data monthly, to a flash drive as well as an external hard drive.

    • Brian Yang

      I haven’t been backing up my data in the past and just started to recently. I’m using my flash drive to do this and I’m going to try to keep a monthly or bi-monthly schedule.

      I have some files stored on Windows Live SkyDrive too.

  • PlanetPhillip

    Seems to me that a combination of both is sensible. I use the free version of Syncplicity, which automatically uploads files in my pre-defined folder, a flash drive which I carry around with me and two HDD, one on the laptop, the other external.

    I figure one set of files in another location covers trouble in my home, the flashdrive is always with me, and password protected, so that helps too.

    Remember, there are two types of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will lose data. The key is to do your best and cover as many options as possible.

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  • iwebsnacks

    Dropbox is a very good app and use full..I mostly believe in local storage as it is much faster than cloud..but cloud storage is also essential….

    • Brian Yang

      I use a combination of local and cloud storage. For cloud, I mostly use Dropbox and Windows Live SkyDrive.

      Local storage is faster but I like cloud storage for its convenience and the ability to access files anywhere without needing to carry anything.

  • Tips for Technology

    Hi… i use skydrive..and gmail using an app to use gmail 7 GB space as backup

    • Pratap

      Oh… Its interesting to hear that you are using 7 GB of gmail space. Can you please elaborate a little.
      Of course I use only Pen Drive and External HDs for my data backup, but now thinking to try Dropbox.

  • Toni

    The best choice for backup data is use both local and cloud storage. For very confidental data I always use local storage.

  • kuruma

    what do you think about personal cloud storage? i was initially looking for an external hard drive (to use Time Machine for mac) and came across a personal cloud storage from Western Digital. It works through your router and you’d have complete control over your files (no third party). My concern is if it really is secure for personal data since works through an internet connection? Wondering how the pros and cons stack up against an external hard drive…

  • Casey Casal

    A judge has power to covertly force a software company to sit down and develop code, “push” the update (on a Linux system?) and target one specific user to steal their password and forward it to the judge? Um… no. This is as safe as Spideroak. Spideroak will have to comply with any orders requiring them to turn over data as well… the point is that the data is encrypted and the password never touched their servers, so there’s no way to turn over what they don’t have. As a boss of mine used to say about paper trails, “One cannot audit what there is not.”

  • Christy Disabato

    I just wanted to chime in on one point. You say, “Files are saved in a folder” with DropBox, this is true. Files must be saved in a specific location. But with SugarSync, any file can be flagged to be sync’d amongst your multiple devices.

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