Cloud Storage vs. Local Storage: 19 Pros and Cons

Posted on July 28, 2021 - by Ashley MacDonald - in Growing Your SaaS Company

Cloud storage vs. local storage

This guest post is from 45Drives who provides affordable high-performance, high-capacity, enterprise storage solutions for all industries and all size data requirements.

What is better: cloud storage versus local storage? 

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer because no two data storage needs are the same. For that reason alone, it’s impossible to say that a specific setup will solve all of your problems. It’s going to depend on your particular needs and requirements, including security requirements.

Where and how your data is housed will play a massive role in the creation and implementation of your Business Continuity Plan. Because a Business Continuity Plan gives businesses the tools to be prepared in the face of unexpected events or to quickly respond to disruptions in their operations, these details should include provisions about your data too. For the sake of backing up your data, you may need both cloud and local storage. 

There are many widely accepted advantages and disadvantages when considering cloud storage versus local storage. We’re going to go through them in this blog. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Storage

Four Advantages

  1. Hands-off approach: With cloud storage, data management is virtually hands-off. Data sent to “the cloud” is backed up at regular intervals with almost no human intervention required. If your computer crashes? No need to panic – your data is safe. Unlike traditional local storage, you also don’t have to take your files with you. Meaning you don’t need to physically transport them from one location to the next. 
  2. Your files are easily available: As long as you have access to reliable internet, your files will always be available to you whether you’re working from home or from a coffee shop. With the prevalence of working from home due to the recent pandemic, cloud storage has also made collaborative learning and file sharing easier.
  3. The cloud is easy to scale (with only a few gigabytes or terabytes): If you only have a small amount of data, the cloud is a great solution. Increasing the amount of data that you have stored in the cloud is painless too. There are usually costs associated with doing this, of course, but adoption of cloud storage is still, by comparison, less expensive than local storage when you have small amounts of data.
  4. Worried about physical data loss? The cloud has you covered: If you’re only using cloud storage, there are no physical servers or external hard drives kicking around. So, there’s a limited worry of you losing your data to things like a fire, water damage, physical damage, etc. Besides its ease of use, this is definitely one of the main selling points of the cloud for many people. The data centers owned by cloud storage providers have multiple redundancies in place to ensure that your data is always safe and accessible. They also employ a variety of additional security layers like encryption to further safeguard your files.

Five Disadvantages

  1. Unexpected paywalls: Upfront costs of cloud storage can seem attractive. The relative cost per gigabyte, especially when you only have small amounts, can seem low in comparison to local storage costs. But the price tag begins to increase significantly as soon as you try downloading data that belongs to you already. Even uploading more data outside the scope of the package you purchased can see those costs start to climb higher. Downloading your data from the cloud is called an egress charge, and NASA was hit with some unexpected realities when they failed to realize the egress costs associated with placing 247 petabytes of data into AWS would cost them $30 million per year by 2025 in addition to their original budget.
  2. Reliance on the internet: Cloud storage is exclusively online, which means if you experience any kind of internet downtime or disruption, your files are difficult to access. The performance of your internet can also affect your ability to access them. Slow download speeds and bottlenecks can dramatically affect data retrieval.
  3. When you’ve got tens of TBs of data, the cloud just doesn’t cut it: Cloud storage is not ideal when you have large amounts of data. Yes, it’s a viable solution when you only have a few gigabytes. But when you get into the realm of tens of terabytes of data, it’s probably time to consider moving away from the cloud. Also, having large amounts of data usually warrants some kind of IT-service management to keep track of it all, make sure it’s set up properly, and that the levels of access are there.
  4. Not all data can be stored on the cloud: Not all data is a candidate for cloud storage, especially sensitive files or personally identifiable information. These types of data sets, whether for legal reasons or reducing risk of a cloud breach, need to be protected and monitored from an on-site location. Furthermore, if you need to follow measures like HIPAA compliance, you need technical, physical, and administrative safeguards in place to protect that data with stringent controls. Plus, depending on where you’re located in the world, data stored on the cloud could be among several different data centers across the country. Some of them could even be located internationally.
  5. Cloud storage providers are hacked more often: Cloud storage is often more prone to data breaches. It is a very enticing infrastructure to hackers. In a recent publication by McAfee, their findings state there’s been a 50% increase in enterprise cloud computing since the first quarter of 2020. It makes sense, given that more people have been working from home lately. Plus, the cloud has just become more widely adopted in recent years. But, frighteningly so, there has been a 630% increase in attacks across all industries. Cybercriminals are working to create new, highly mechanized, widespread attacks against the cloud — this problem is not going away.

So, now that we’ve discussed the common advantages and disadvantages of cloud storage let’s move on to local storage, also known as on-premises storage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Local Storage

Six Advantages

  1. Physically on-site, so you have full control: With your local storage server on-site, you have full control over your storage infrastructure. You can set permissions, create file trees, set data quotas, buckets for specific users, and create permissions for user access. This functionality is still available with the cloud too, but you can have more rigorous controls in place when your storage servers are located at your business or your home office. Also, by having your data at your location, there is also a decreased risk for intrusion into your systems. Physical storage servers are not targeted by hackers as much as cloud storage providers are. 
  2. Local storage systems can be changed easily: Briefly, we discussed those unexpected paywalls that can happen with cloud storage. An on-site solution can mitigate those surprises. If you need more storage space, you can increase the size of your infrastructure. If you need better performance, you can change the components within your storage server. There are no surprise surcharges or a need to apply guesswork to project what cloud storage package you’re going to need in three months, six months, and beyond.
  3. Helps with compliance measures for frameworks like HIPAA and GDPR: To reach certain levels of compliance, your data sometimes needs to be stored on-site — in a location that is easily accessible. For example, law enforcement’s digital evidence like crime scene photos, victim information, etc., cannot be stored on the cloud for many different reasons. Think of how detrimental it would be if crime scene evidence was stored on the cloud and the provider of that cloud storage was affected by a data breach. Not just the fact that those photos could get into the wrong hands, but also that any trial happening as a result of that crime would need to be abandoned. The same goes for data like personal health records. There are so many horror stories out there about data breaches that have happened, where personal records were exposed or sold on the dark web for ransom.
  4. No WiFi required: Unlike the cloud, for local storage, an internet connection is not required. Your data can be accessed whenever you need it, without the worry of internet speeds, connectivity issues, or general reliability. You also don’t have to worry about any additional costs associated with downloading your own data. Or costs to upload more of it, for that matter. Save, of course, for the times when you have to increase your storage capacity. But generally speaking, local storage is more reliable and is always accessible.
  5. Local storage can still have cloud storage: The ability to easily access and share data from the cloud is one of its big advantages. But an on-premises cloud can be made too. With the help of the S3 protocol, you can turn your local storage into its own cloud. Having your own “cloud” at your location gives you the option of creating specialized buckets with their own unique links, similar to the way that cloud sharing works. Only the individuals with that specific link can access the data that has been shared with them and/or work within the parameters of the quotas that have been assigned. These permissions can also get very granular, depending on how they are set up, and can operate exactly like an online cloud. It’s the best of both worlds, really.
  6. No hidden fees: As mentioned above, the cloud can come with a mix of hidden paywalls and fees. And while there can be some significant upfront costs with purchasing storage servers and the upkeep of those servers (general maintenance, power consumption, upgrades, etc.); once you have your storage infrastructure in place, there are no unforeseen costs when it comes to things like downloading your data, service charges, or unplanned spikes in the cost to store it all. Similarly, if you want to increase your storage limits, you can customize your own infrastructure to best suit your needs rather than paying prices that lock you in for specific periods of time. Worse than that, switching your data from one provider to another isn’t exactly easy to do—you have to download all of that data from one location and upload it to the next. This is both time-consuming and potentially very expensive. 

Four Disadvantages

  1. Local storage requires physical space and oftentimes specialized IT staff: Having your storage solutions on-site can sometimes require the expertise of trained IT employees. The cloud is backed up automatically, and it is constantly “running” in the background to guarantee that your data is always available. Particular redundancies and/or performance mechanisms need to be implemented among your storage devices; therefore, requiring the intervention and skilled services of IT professionals. Not every organization has the means to be able to afford this or the bandwidth from current staff to control it all, which can account for the reasons the cloud is put into action.
  2. Risk of unwanted internal access:  Because your storage servers are physically at your location, you need to make sure that these servers are stationed in the proper areas based on your physical security policy — that they are locked away securely in separate rooms or at least in a space that does not see high traffic. Additionally, with local storage, there is an increased risk of data tampering, i.e., If it’s not protected with the necessary firewalls and encryption – that cloud services often provide – you are running a greater risk of that data getting into the wrong hands. Whether from an external source or by a disgruntled employee who wants to do harm.
  3. Higher upfront costs to local storage: Getting started with cloud storage costs less than getting started with on-premises solutions. Especially if you’re just using the cloud to back up your data (cold storage) and don’t necessarily need to access/download your data regularly—which is where cloud storage can really become cost-prohibitive. Also, the more data you have, the more physical storage you need. So, the upfront investment can potentially be a barrier to install and manage.
  4. Physical servers are more susceptible to external damage: Keeping physical servers at the office or data center does come with the risk of losing them through external damages. If there is a fire, a flood, or your building experiences some kind of structural damage, you’ve likely lost all of your data. And if you haven’t retrieved it, it can be very difficult.

The data storage solution you choose is really going to depend on your use case, the physical space you’re working from, and, of course, your budget. The advantages of one may significantly outweigh the advantages of the other when you’re making that final decision. There are many cloud providers out there, all with their own offerings. Weigh the pros and cons of cloud storage versus local storage with careful thought and consideration, and choose what is going to make you most confident in the end. Visit 45Drives to learn more about our product line of enterprise-grade storage servers powered by open source technology. Our storage solutions are non-proprietary, giving you the freedom to run any software you choose. Our team would be more than happy to help you answer any questions you might have and determine the solution that’s going to best suit your needs and your budget. Visit www.45drives.com to learn more about our many storage options available.

About the author

Ashley MacDonald is the Technology Education Manager at 45Drives, where she helps deliver knowledge about 45Drives product solutions through various streams of content such as blogs, webinars, and as a presence on the 45Drives’s YouTube channel.