Long story short – For backing up large amounts of data, an external hard drive is cheaper, and faster to use.
For accessing your data easily across multiple devices, cloud storage is easy and convenient but is much slower when restoring large amounts of data. Large amounts of data storage means a monthly charge.
Case in point, I just finished helping a customer whose laptop with his company data died. His hard drive failed.
He backed up his hard drive using Carbonite so he didn’t lose anything. He had ~13 GB of business files I recovered to his other laptop.
However, it took 10 HOURS to restore his files from Carbonite’s cloud. Restoring it from an external drive would have taken 20-30 MINUTES. 13 GB is not a lot of data.
Another customer last week had the motherboard on his PC die. It was old and not worth fixing but he had LOTS of files (photos, music, documents) stored on his hard drive. Like ~100 GB or more of stuff.
He too used Carbonite’s cloud to store his data. He tried downloading his data to his new PC. After 36 hours, he got frustrated and called me.
Fortunately he lives close by me in Beautiful, Exotic, Leicester. I got his dead PC from him, pulled the hard drive out, and in under 2 hours had his data copied to his external hard drive.
I’m not picking on Carbonite here. The restore times would have been the same for both customers whatever cloud service they used.
Cloud storage is great for accessing files across multiple devices (PC/laptop, phone, tablet) or disaster recovery (the house burned down with all your computers).
But when you need that data fast, nothing beats an external hard drive for quick and easy access. And they are cheap. You can pick up a 2 TB drive for $99 or less.
Ideally you should use a combination of the cloud and local storage to hedge your bet.