When it comes to local backups vs. cloud backups, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that’s perfect for every user. While one person may swear by cloud services, another may have much better luck with local backups. The one true thing for everyone is that you need to back up your data regularly because you never know when you may get a virus or your hardware may randomly fail.
Ease of Access
You always want easy access to your files. After all, some people have tiny hard drives and use backups as a secondary hard drive. As a side note, if you’re using an external drive as a secondary hard drive, please make a separate backup of this drive, too.
If you need access to your backups from anywhere, the answer to local backups vs. cloud backups is typically the cloud. After all, you can access your files anywhere you have Internet access. Just make sure your connection is secure to avoid being hacked easily.
Cloud services often have apps too. This makes it easy to access and store files on mobile devices as well.
On the other hand, a network-attached storage device gives you the same remote access as long as your backup drive stays connected to your home network. NAS drives help create a private cloud at home. But you don’t get the same redundancy as the cloud, meaning if your NAS fails, your backup is gone.
Obviously, you don’t want some random person accessing your files. This is where local backups shine. Unless someone breaks into your home, only people within your home can access the backup. Plus, you can add password protection to your drive for extra security.
If you’re using a NAS drive, you still face the same risks as with any Wi-Fi-connected device. Make sure your network is as secure as possible to reduce your risks. Also, ensure you’re using updated antivirus tools since a virus on your network can infect your NAS drive.
With cloud services, your backups are only as safe as the security measures the provider takes. Look for a provider that utilizes strong encryption. This doesn’t mean they’ll never be hacked, but your data is a little safer. Also remember that cloud services tend to be bigger targets for hackers than individuals.
For some users, security is the main deciding factor when it comes to local backups vs. cloud backups. Some choose to store more sensitive files locally and other files in the cloud.
With cloud backups, you’re always at the whim of your ISP. If your signal drops, your cloud backup isn’t accessible. Plus, even the best services only offer 99.9 percent uptime, meaning there could be outages. They’re rare, but they do happen.
The only thing in your way with a local backup is hardware failure. As long as the drive is functioning, you always have access.
Winner: Tie (99.9 percent isn’t bad at all.)
You can’t talk about local backups vs. cloud backups without mentioning the costs. You can buy an external hard drive for less than $100, and that’s the only expense.
With cloud storage providers, you pay a monthly fee. Many offer free storage up to a certain amount. For instance, Google offers 15 GB of free storage. Depending on the provider, you can get terabytes of storage for less than $10/month.
With local backups, you do have to replace your backup drive every five to ten years to be safe. SSD (solid state drives) may hold up longer and are less susceptible to damage, but they do cost more.
While you do save money with local backups, cloud backups offer a redundancy safe. This means if the provider’s hard drive fails, there’s another copy of your data on another server to prevent losing any data.
Winner: Tie (saving money vs. no risk of hardware failure)
Finally, you have to think about how easy it is to recover your data. If your device, such as a computer or phone, fails, you want to get back up and running immediately.
With cloud backups, recovery times are limited to your connection speed and any data limits imposed by the provider. For instance, trying to mass download all your files could take hours or days depending on how much you’ve stored.
With local backups, the connection is direct via a USB cable. The transfer is much faster, though it may still take a few hours if you have a lot of data to restore.
Which Should You Choose?
As you can see, there isn’t a clear winner when it comes to local backups vs. cloud backups. The ideal answer is to use both. Having two backups of your files at any given time is always the best and safest option.
If you’re worried about security, store your most sensitive files locally or encrypt them before uploading to the cloud. Some users even give a copy to a trusted friend or relative or buy a safety deposit box at their local bank.