Backup Solutions Explained

Learn more about the most common forms of computer backup available. External drives, network drives, flash drives and online backup.

With so much of our lives stored on our computers, data back up has become increasingly important. There are several common used methods to protect and back up your data. They are External Drives, Flash Drives, Online Backup, Network Drives, and other backup devices.

External Drives

External drives plug directly into your computer through USB. The direct connection makes setup easy and file transfers quick. External drives can have large storage space 500GB to 2TB and quick USB connection makes them perfect for backing up entire computers.

Prices range between $80 for 1TB and $120 for 2TB’s. In addition to the hardware, companies provide backup software to help you schedule and automate the process.

One important factor to consider is if the external drive requires a power supply. Some can run off USB power while others need an AC adapter. A drive with out an AC adapter is nice because it is more portable but it may not run as fast or require two USB ports.

In general, external drives complete backup jobs faster than online storage and slower than flash drives. 


  • Relatively inexpensive(16.7GB’s per dollar based on the 2TB hard drive)
  • Easy Setup
  • Large amount of storage
  • Fast file Backup and file restore.


  • No off-site protection
  • Not ultra portable like flash drives or DVD’s
  • Can be lost or stolen.

Flash Drives

Flash or Thumb drives are small devices that use solid state memory for storage. They plug directly into your computer’s USB port. Sizes and prices range between 2GB for $5 and 32GB’s cost around $30.

Flash drives are one of the most convenient forms of backup because they are small, fast, and do not require a power supply. The downside is they are not very large compared to hard drives.

The strength of flash drives is that they are small, convenient, quick, not very expensive and can easily be given to customers or friends. They are often used as a quick transport of files from one computer to another.


  • Easy to use
  • Very portable
  • Quick file transfer
  • No power supply required.
  • Inexpensive $5 to $45


  • Expensive price per GB (1.06GB’s per dollar based on the 32GB flash drive),
  • Easy to lose
  • Not automated
  • Not as much space as hard drive.

Online Backup

Backup companies use cloud or redundant servers to securely store your data. This means if one server fails another server is ready to take over. Plans range in cost from $4.95 to $50 per month, depending on the amount of storage used.

Online backup is perfect for storing data offsite. If there is a natural disaster robbery, or fire then your data is safe because is physically located in another part of the world.

Online backup companies provide downloadable software that installs on your computer and then backs up your data automatically and on a schedule. It can truly be a set it and forget it setup.

The downside to online backup is that it is slower than external drive or flash drive backup. This is due to the fact that your data has to be transferred across the internet, which is a slow process. It should be noted that after the initial backup the subsequent backups are much faster.

Many of these companies have incorporated file syncing so you can share files with others. This is accomplished by social sharing features in Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.


  • Data is stored safely offsite
  • No limit to the amount of data that can be backed up
  • Sync files to other people computers
  • No hardware to fail your you to maintain


  • Slows initial backup
  • A third party is storying your data
  • Monthly cost.

Network Drives

Network Drives or Network Attached Storage (NAS) are external drives, but instead of connecting to your computer via USB they are connected to your network via network cable. Data on these drives accessible to the entire network. Prices start around $400 for 4TB configuration and can go into the thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest strengths of NAS is that they turn several drives into one big drive using a RAID configuration. RAIDs provide failsafe protection so that if one hard drive fails the data is safe because the information is stored across all drives. The other drive can recreated the data on the broken drive. 

Network attached drives make it easy for multiple computers to share data when on the same network. Common uses for network drives are shared file systems, home theater setups that stream movie and audio files and gaming centers. Network drives typically have software to automate backups and file sharing.


  • Perfect for backing up networked computers
  • Secure RAID disk configuration
  • Reasonable price per GB (around 10GB per dollar based on the 4TB NAS)


  • Setup and maintenance requires technical expertise
  • Expensive price at $400
  • No off-site protection.

Other Backup Methods

You can also use devices like CD/DVD burns for backup. They are great for making copies and sending to others ad a very low cost. Prices start at a few cents per DVD.

The downside is they don’t hold very much data and they can be broken easily. CD/DVD are not considered an long term storage solution and have high failure rates.


  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Low cost


  • Easily lost or stolen
  • Easily damaged