by Dinesh Thakur

There are three types of storage that we can use for our files: HDDs, SSDs, and cloud-based storage. In some cases, we have the option of foregoing one type in favor of another when looking for more capacity, faster load times, or dynamically shifting capacities. Read on to determine which applications are best suited to which storage types.

HDDs. The hard disk drive has been the go-to PC storage medium for a long time, but the SSD has been threatening its dominance for the past few years. One of the biggest things HDDs have going for them is capacity: You can get HDDs in capacities up to 3TB, and most modern PCs let you create a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) to increase capacity of a single volume, increase the read/write speeds, or make the storage volume more reliable. HDDs also have a very low cost per gigabyte. On the downside, HDDs rely on moving parts that suffer from physical wear and tear, and HDDs generally consume more power than SSDs. The read/write speeds of HDDs are also significantly slower than those of SSDs.

SSDs. The SSD may be the new kid on the block, but there are a number of things going for it that make it a viable storage option. We’ve already discussed the SSD’s extremely fast read/write speeds: Using an SSD for your PC or notebook’s operating system can dramatically increase your system’s bootup speed. Applications that require heavy nonvolatile storage access, such as those that involve working with large images or editing video files, can also benefit from a fast SSD. The solid-state nature of the drives also makes them shock-resistant. And, as with HDDs, multiple SSDs can easily be configured in a RAID array for more capacity, faster read/write speeds, and redundant data security. However, despite the advantages, there are a few reasons you might opt for cloud-based storage or HDDs over an SSD, including the relatively high price per gigabyte, lower capacities, and the 2.5-inch form factor, which normally requires a drive bay adapter if an SSD is to be used in an older PC.

The cloud. Cloud-based storage is our newest storage option, and one that doesn’t require us to purchase storage hardware. (This is a bit ironic, given that the remote servers that back these storage-on-demand options themselves consist of banks of machines loaded with HDDs and SSDs.) For consumers, cloud storage is great for any bit of data to which you require access from any device; just upload the file once, and you can download it using any device that has a Web connection. For businesses, cloud storage is a great way to outsource archiving to meet mandated data retention policies without having to spend money on additional maintenance, power, or infrastructure. An organization’s storage capacity needs may grow or shrink over time, and cloud storage providers all offer multiple tiers to satisfy those dynamic capacity needs as they change. The caveats? Some applications may need instant access to data, and the data may not be available that quickly—or at all. Cloud storage data rates are heavily dependent on network connection speeds. Cloud storage vendors’ security and uptime policies can vary widely, so be sure to read the fine print. If you or your organization frequently needs fast access to very large files, a combination of SSDs and HDDs may better suit those needs.