Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage: Which is Better?

Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage: Which is Better?

Data volumes are growing faster than businesses can control them. The amount of data created, consumed, copied, and captured worldwide is predicted to reach 180 zettabytes by 2025, practically doubling from 97 zettabytes in 2022. The two main options organizations have for storing data include cloud storage and local storage. While businesses may be looking to move to the cloud for a more flexible solution, the upfront time and effort to migrate workloads can be a barrier. We’ll cover the differences between cloud and local storage, and considerations businesses should make before deciding where to house their data.

What is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage allows organizations to store their data with a cloud storage provider, which provides easy access to data online from remote servers. Businesses could store photos, documents, applications, and videos using cloud storage, reducing need for on-premises infrastructure.

What is Local Storage?

Local storage is where users store data on the enterprise’s own hardware, such as corporate workstations and servers or on an on-premises data center run by the company. While there can be accessibility with local storage that extends beyond one device, there may also be limitations, such as not being able to access data when away from the office.

What is the Primary Difference Between Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage?

The primary difference between cloud storage and local storage is who owns the storage and how the data is being stored and accessed. Cloud providers handle data storage and access with infrastructure they manage, which can be scaled up and down based on business needs. Local storage is either on a particular device or on a server that manages all office devices.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage

Because of its flexible nature, cloud storage offers benefits that include scalability, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness. However, companies should also consider potential downsides, such as vendor lock-in, internet dependency, and security concerns. 

Pros of Cloud Storage

Compared to traditional local data storage methods, cloud storage is highly scalable. Businesses can increase or decrease capacity on demand without purchasing more physical hardware or worrying about underutilized resources. This can be ideal for organizations with fluctuating storage needs. Cloud storage is also normally more cost-effective. You only have to pay for what you use and reduce infrastructure costs.

One key benefit of cloud storage is its improved accessibility, which enables greater collaboration. Users can access their data from any device, whether they’re in the office or not, and can collaborate on files live more easily. This avoids issues that come with versioning or competing file names that may get saved to different devices or an on-premises server.

Cloud storage can be a key piece of business continuity planning as well. With cloud storage, organizations get built-in redundancy with data replicated across multiple servers, often in geographically distinct locations. This can protect data from natural disasters or hardware failures. Cloud storage servers also tend to automate data backups, reducing the risk of data loss from hardware failure or accidental deletion. While businesses are still responsible for specific aspects of data security, cloud storage providers may have infrastructural security measures in place as a first line of defense for stored data.

Cons of Cloud Storage

Despite cloud storage’s advantages, organizations should still be mindful of its limitations. While it’s more accessible, cloud storage relies on an internet connection for access, and particularly synchronization. Even if users have files or applications set for offline access, they can’t be updated in the cloud without a connection, so reliable internet is necessary.

Storage in the cloud is often more cost-effective than local storage; however, businesses should understand their options and weigh the benefits against vendor lock-in. Switching to a new cloud storage provider can be complex, especially for organizations storing a lot of data with one provider. Dependencies can pose an issue, and depending on the vendors you choose, easy export options may not be available. Pay-as-you-go models can be less expensive than local storage, but exceeding set storage tiers or storing large amounts of unnecessary data can run up a bill.

Cloud providers cover some security measures, while others are the customer’s responsibility. For example, data is encrypted in cloud storage, but organizations need to think about what happens when data is downloaded or accessed by various devices.

Pros vs. Cons of Local Storage

Cloud storage has become a big business, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right fit in every case. Local on-premises storage can offer more data control and sovereignty, as well as speed and performance, for businesses that need it. However, data capacity can be more limited when stored locally.

Pros of Local Storage

Unlike cloud storage, local storage affords an organization complete control over its data. Because the data resides on a physical device, such as a computer or on-premises server, the user has more direct control over data privacy and security.

Local storage also normally offers faster data access compared to cloud storage. Latency is reduced because data retrieval happens directly from a device. When applications need access to larger files, this speed can be essential to proper performance.

An internet connection is also less important, or not important at all, with local storage. In an environment with unreliable internet access, local storage may be your only option to retrieve and manage data.

There is also a potential for lower costs with local data in some instances. For businesses that have predictable storage needs that don’t vary much from month to month or year to year, they may be able to create a plan with on-premises storage options that are more affordable than a cloud storage subscription option.

Cons of Local Storage

Because of its limited capacity and lack of resources compared to cloud storage, many businesses may find that they’ve outgrown local storage options. Organizations that are growing may not want to shoulder the additional expenses associated with purchasing new hardware, maintaining, or troubleshooting storage challenges.

Local storage is also more prone to data loss due to the lack of automatic backups. If the server or device is damaged, data may not be able to be recovered after an outage, deletion, or ransomware attack.

Data can also become more isolated with local storage, creating data silos and conflicting versions of the same file. This can make collaboration, particularly remote collaboration, more challenging.

What to Consider When Choosing Between Cloud and Local Storage

Some businesses may find that local storage suits their needs. In many cases, cloud storage can be hugely beneficial, but it can also be a significant undertaking to migrate data to a new environment.

Before choosing cloud or local storage for your data, consider the following:

1. Scalability and Growth Projections

Cloud storage is much more scalable than local storage, making it ideal for businesses with fluctuating requirements. Local storage scalability is generally limited to the physical infrastructure your organization has purchased.

2. Performance and Latency Needs

Slow internet connections can increase latency and reduce performance in the cloud, which is especially noticeable for frequently accessed files. However, cloud providers offer tiered storage so businesses can prioritize performance where it matters most. With local storage, users have faster access to data with no internet latency. This may be appropriate for larger files.

3. Existing IT Infrastructure and Resources

Minimal IT infrastructure is required for cloud storage. The cloud providers are responsible for most of what is needed to maintain cloud storage. Local storage, on the other hand, requires more IT infrastructure, as well as additional resources for storage device maintenance and management.

4. Data Security and Compliance Requirements

Cloud providers encrypt data and typically have a few different options for encryption. However, users still have to think about data security on external servers. Local storage offers complete data control and sovereignty, but security is dependent on the encryption and backup strategies implemented by the business. Depending on the regulatory standards your business has to meet, compliance may be satisfied better by one storage approach over another.

5. Cost and Budget

Cloud storage operates on a pay-as-you-go model, which can change based on storage usage and features. Local storage is most expensive on the initial investment, with no recurring costs outside of energy and maintenance unless there is a need to upgrade and add more equipment.

6. Additional Considerations

You may also want to consider how much collaboration you need around data. Will teams be working on making real-time updates that are better suited for cloud storage? Disaster recovery is another consideration – cloud storage has built-in redundancy for data protection, which may be important for more sensitive information or operation-critical data. Internal resources may also play a role. Cloud storage requires less in-house technical expertise compared to local storage.

Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage – Which is Right for You?

Your organization’s needs will dictate whether cloud or local storage is optimal for you.  Cloud storage offers enhanced scalability, accessibility, and inherent redundancy compared to local storage solutions. Although the transition process demands thorough planning, TierPoint can help find the right storage solution for those seeking these advantages. Our IT advisory services can help you take the next step on the path to digital transformation, improving collaboration and fluctuating with your needs.

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