Since the dawn of the internet, data storage and protection continue to be a significant area of concern for everyone. Perhaps your focus is storing photographs, illustrations, videos, or other space-intensive files off your computer’s hard drive to save space. Or maybe you prefer to keep sensitive information off the cloud. Either way, you may be one of the many people who prefer having a reliable on-site, physical data storage system, the kind provided by the best external hard drives.
While where and how to protect computer data is an issue in many sectors, it is of primary concern in industries such as healthcare. For example, many complex issues persist, particularly around cloud storage of electronic patient records, as reflected in the Telehealth.org article What is HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage and Why is It Important to You? More explicitly, even if the user is a healthcare provider, they may prefer to store their confidential information on an external hard drive kept in their locked brick-and-mortar office rather than sending such sensitive information to the cloud.
What is an External Hard Drive?
An external hard drive is a device that attaches to your computer to give you additional storage space for data. The data stored on your drive is only accessible when the hard drive is plugged into your computer. Many people use an external hard drive to store files that they only access infrequently. They also can be quite helpful while traveling if, for example, you take many photos or videos. External hard drives are used for other functions beyond storage, however. These extra functions include making backups, digital editing, data sharing, and gaming. Each of these is briefly described below.
Backups are copies of your hard drive that you’ll have available if something happens to your computer if your computer fails or gets stolen. One of the problems with cloud storage is that if anything affects your access to the internet, your data becomes effectively unreachable. While this may occur only rarely, you may want to use an external hard drive to avoid the possibility altogether if timeliness is an issue. For instance, you may not wait for your Internet Service Provider to fix the network issue or your power company to install a new transformer if downed by a winter storm. Physical external hard drive storage offers a reliable backup or alternative option for these unforeseen moments.
Digital editing is needed by such people as videographers and graphic artists who need to work through huge files to create a final product. External hard drives give those creators the space they need to do their work.
Data sharing with an external hard drive involves the use of one computer’s stored data by another laptop or computer. An example of this is when an external backup drive is used in the process of setting up a new computer when cloud storage has been avoided. Data sharing via external drives is also notably quicker than via the cloud or thumb drives when large amounts of data (such as gigabytes) need to be shared.
If you’re a hardcore PC gamer with a hard drive that is overstuffed with games, an external hard drive is important. It can allow your computer to run faster by avoiding the delays caused by having too little free space. An external hard drive will significantly boost your performance when gaming.
As the Business Insider succinctly concludes, an external hard drive is “one of the best ways to protect your important files.” Its portability, resilience, and storage space make it a versatile and reliable way to protect your data in a readily accessible physical object.
What Do the Best External Hard Drives Offer?
Of course, all computers come with their internal hard drives, so it may be tempting to conclude they will be enough to manage your data. However, external hard drives can be considerably larger than those on computers. While internal hard drives measure their storage in double-digit gigabytes (GB), external hard drives tend to offer storage levels from triple-digit GBs to terabytes (TB). A thousand GBs equals 1 TB for scale. Therefore, a large internal hard drive will only hold 10% of the data capable of being stored on the smallest drive on our list.
Besides size, computers need upgrading and replacing far more frequently than external hard drives. They are also much more likely to be damaged physically or by viruses. The data you store today will almost certainly need to be moved in a few years. Or worse, the files may be corrupted by a damaged internal hard drive.
Finally, there is the portability of the external hard drive. At a size typically between that of a cell phone and a tablet, external hard drives are light and easy to carry. Even laptops are more work to carry from desk to desk or office to office.
To help you navigate your choices in external hard drives, Telehealth.org gladly offers up this list of the top five best external hard drives.
5 Best External Hard Drives of 2021
Seagate Portable 5TB External Hard Drive HDD
The Seagate STGX5000400 offers 5 TBs of storage, which corresponds to approximately 156,000 documents. With PC and Mac compatibility, this external hard drive is versatile enough to interact with almost any desktop or laptop computer. Packed with an 18-inch USB 3.0 cable, the drive’s only limitation is that you need to purchase additional peripherals to connect to earlier USB ports or Apple’s Thunderbolt ports.
In comparison to the other drives on this list, Seagate’s biggest advantage is its pair of warranties. They offer a limited one-year warranty to protect the physical device. Even more impressively, they also include a one-year Rescue Data Recovery Services subscription.
WD Easystore 1TB External USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive – Black WDBDNK0010BBK-WESN
The Easystore has a smaller amount of storage maxing out at 1 TB or about 30,000 documents. PC and Mac compatible out of the box, it will easily fulfill your data storage needs at home or at the office. It also utilizes a USB 3.0 cord but offers additional components to adapt for the USB 2.0 port as well.
Where WD separates itself from its counterparts is its dedication to fulfilling both your physical and digital storage needs. The Easystore drive comes with WD Backup software that schedules automatic digital backups at intervals anywhere from hourly to monthly depending on your preference. For Mac users, the software easily interacts with Apple’s Time Machine feature.
G-Technology Portable External Hard Drive
The G-Technology ArmorATD offers a 5 TB external hard drive that pairs with Mac and Windows desktops and laptops.
While it does come ready for comparatively less current USB-C connectivity, it can upgrade to compatibility with USB-3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 devices. Therefore, despite its standard connection being out of date, it can still be easily up-converted.
While the Seagate’s external drive focused on streamlined versatility, the ArmorTD focuses more on the physical protection of the device, an add-on reflected in the higher price tag. Described as “triple-layer shock” resistant, it has a 1000 pounds crush rating. It also notes that it is rain and dust resistant, which makes it able to be stored for long periods without being touched and transported through the elements with confidence that the device will maintain integrity.
ADATA 2TB HD830 External USB 3.1 Hard Drive
ADATA 2TB HD830 External USB 3.1 Hard Drive
The ADATA HD830 is a 2 TB external hard drive giving enough space for the equivalent of over 60,000 documents. As with its three predecessors on the list, it comes Mac and PC compatible without the need for any add-ons. It uses a USB port but does not indicate any route to make it adaptable to other versions of the USB or any of Apple’s ports.
Similar to G-Technology, ADATA is concerned with the physical strength of its drive. It goes even farther than the ArmorATD though, with over 6.6 times the crush rating, making it able to resist at least 6,600 pounds of pressure and a drop of about 4 feet. It also has essentially achieved waterproof and dustproof status.
BIPRA External Hard Drive
BIPRA 500Gb 500 Gb 2.5 Inch External Hard Drive Portable USB 2.0
The smallest external hard drive on the list, the BIPRA only offers 500 GB. That may be about 15,000 documents but it still suffers in comparison to this list’s other featured drives. Additionally, while the other four hard drives can be used with either PC or Mac, BIPRA is a Windows-only product. It can connect to Windows devices by a USB 2.0 cord, and if you wish to use a different kind of port, you will need to purchase additional peripherals.
What truly makes the BIPRA attractive is the drive’s speed. The drive boasts an average seek time of 12 milliseconds or about 12 one-thousandths of a second. If you need quickly accessible data and you need comparatively less storage space, the BIPRA’s trade-off for speed over storage makes it an attractive option indeed.