External Hard Drive VS Cloud Storage: Which One to Choose in 2024

Cici updated on Jul 04, 2024 | Home > Knowledge Center

In this digital era, we have an increasingly massive amount of data to store, from personal photos and files to business documents and computer backups. Storage technology has also been upgraded to meet these needs. The two popular ways to store data today are external hard drives and uploading to Cloud storage. 

Both solutions have their advantages and risks. Thus, it's important to understand their differences in terms of storage. This article on EaseUS will focus on external hard drive vs Cloud storage and make a comparison. You can read to check their performance in terms of data security, data syncing, cost and other factors.

External Hard Drive vs Cloud Storage: What Are They

As the two most frequently used ways for storing, the external hard drive and Cloud storage have been widely used. How much do you know about them? In this section, we will discuss the features of these two storage options. 

What Is an External Hard Drive

Before Cloud storage appeared on the market, the traditional and typical way to store data was to get an external hard drive. This has been the golden rule for decades. You connect the device to your computer by a cable. You can find HDD (hard disk drive) and SSD (solid-state drive) as the major types of external hard drives for storage. They come in different sizes and capacities.

external hard drive

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What Is Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is an online service that has gained increasing prominence in recent decades. It uses remote servers to store data online. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can sign into your account to access your data. You can upload, download, or transfer your data over the Internet.

cloud storage

External Hard Drive vs Cloud Storage: Which Is Better

Although the external hard drive and Cloud storage are used for data storage, they have different characteristics. To understand them better, we compare them from several aspects. Read on to find out more.

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👩‍💻Data Security

Data security matters significantly, whether for personal users or enterprises. No one wants their data to be stolen or compromised. You can encrypt your drive for privacy protection. However, as an external hard drive comes in a physical device, physical damage such as drops and wear can have a negative impact on its performance. Also, disk errors, such as a bad sector, might cause data loss. Each Cloud account comes with your identity and password. Cloud storage providers have been improving their services' encryption standards, such as 256-bit AES encryption, to protect your data on the Cloud better.

💻Remote Access 

One major advantage of using Cloud storage is its convenience for access.

  • Cloud storage: Free to access over the Internet. Some providers support an offline mode as well. No geographical constraint. You can log in to your account on personal phones, home laptops, or business PCs.
  • External hard drive: It is limited by physical plugging in. You must connect the drive to your computer to copy, paste, or transfer your files.

💾Storage Capacity

Both external hard drives and Cloud storage come with different options for storage capacity, and there are large capacities for you to choose from.

  External hard drive Cloud storage


  • Fixed
  • Flexible
Storage capacity
  • Ranging from GB to TB
  • 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 10TB, 28TB
  • Ranging from GB to TB
  • Require a paid subscription to get additional space

✍️Data Syncing 

  • Cloud storage: Automatically back up your data using sync technology. You don’t need to waste time transferring data between devices. The automatic mode will free you from the job. The syncing speed depends on several factors, such as your Internet speed and your service plan.
  • External hard drive: Manually upload what you need for backup. External hard drives apply the traditional "copy and paste" method to sync files. It can be time-consuming and tedious, especially when you repeat the process multiple times. Also, you need to ensure that your drive is plugged in all the time.


  • Cost efficiency is also an important factor to consider when choosing the storage method. Generally, you purchase an external hard drive and pay for it only once. The price varies mainly depending on storage capacities and also on brands and quality. A 1TB SSD can cost about $90-150.
  • Cloud storage seems to be more expensive, as they are subscription-based. Usually, there is a free space for you to start. For example, Google Drive offers a free 15 GB storage for each account. Then, you can upgrade to different plans to expand storage.


As a matter of fact, the external hard drive lifespan is limited, while online services do not have such a problem.

  External hard drive Cloud storage
Lifespan Around 5-10 years As long as you subscribe 
Influencing factors
  • Physical damage
  • Mechanical damage
Subscription status

External Hard Drive vs Cloud Storage: Which One to Choose

From the above section, you can see a detailed comparison of external hard drives and Cloud storage in terms of aspects. Which one should you choose for storage data? In fact, for different groups of people, your choice can be different.

  • For individual users: If you are an individual user whose data does not change very often, you can simply copy the files to an external hard drive and store the drive in a secure location. In addition, an external hard drive can be cheaper than the Cloud services which need continuous subscription. If you purchase a drive or a few, you can use them in the long run.
  • For business use: If you store data mainly for business and value remote access and real-time cooperation, you can choose Cloud storage. If you work remotely, you can send the files to your team and edit the files simultaneously to enhance productivity. Cloud providers also offer large capacity for enterprises and protect sensitive data by backing them across multiple servers


This article explored external hard drives and Cloud storage for data storage. External hard drives can perform well and have reliable data storage in this digital era. Also, they are affordable and cost-effective. On the other hand, Cloud storage provides a smooth experience with remote access and real-time operation. You can decide which one to choose based on your needs, such as business needs or personal use.

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Updated by Cici

Cici is the junior editor of the writing team of EaseUS. She accepted the systematic training on computers at EaseUS for over one year. Now, she wrote a lot of professional articles to help people resolve the issues of hard drive corruption, computer boot errors, and disk partition problems.

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