What is External Storage?

Posted By BrokenClaw on April 5, 2008

Most home users can store all of their data on the hard drive that comes with the computer. The size of today’s hard drives are easily large enough to store your normal data files, like documents and photos. The only time that storage becomes an issue is when you start saving video, or large collections of music, on your computer.

External Hard DriveFor computer hobbyists, the need for more storage may be solved by installing a second hard drive inside the computer. However, a simpler solution is to purchase a ready-to-use external hard drive. An external hard drive contains the same type of hard drive that is inside your computer, enclosed in another case, and it connects to your computer with a standard USB plug.

There are several advantages to having an external hard drive, besides its easy installation. Depending on how your home network is configured, you could make the hard drive into a shared device. In other words, other computers in your home could access it and use it for storage, not just the computer to which it is connected. Even if you don’t have sharing set up, since an external hard drive is portable, you could simply unplug it from one computer and plug it into another. In either case, the external hard drive would be a good choice for your backup plan.

Netword Attached StorageThere is another type of external hard drive setup which is called network attached storage (abbreviated and sometimes pronounced NAS). In this setup, the external hard drive is not connected to a particular computer, but instead, it is connected directly to your router. The advantage of a NAS device is that no host computer has to be turned on for the other computers to access it. In a sense, the NAS device is like a separate computer, with no capabilities other than the operation of the hard drive. Since it is more sophisticated than a simple external hard drive, a NAS device is more expensive and more complicated to manage.

Another type of remote storage on the network is even more remote, that is, outside your home network. It uses the Internet to move your data and store it on a computer somewhere else. As with all things Internet, the actual location is irrelevant. There are some free and inexpensive services which allow you to upload your data onto their web servers for storage. Of course, remote storage is not something you’d want to use for your day-to-day computing, but it could be part of your backup plan. For example, you could use a free Internet service to store a backup copy of all your family photos, in case something happened to your computer at home. Your ISP may offer some amount of free online storage as part of your service plan.

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