Here are 10 of the most common devices used to store digital data and transfer it between computers.
What Is Digital Data Storage?
Digital data storage is essentially the recording of digital information in a storage medium, usually by electronic means. The storage device typically enables a user to store large amounts of data in a relatively small physical space and makes sharing that information with others easy. The device may be capable of holding the data either temporarily or permanently.
Digital data storage devices have many uses. For example, computers usually rely upon information storage to function. Storage media can also be used to back up important information (storing digital data can involve durability and reliability issues, so making independent copies of information is normally a sensible precaution). Some storage devices are also portable, meaning that they can be used to transfer information from one computer to another.
Digital data storage media generally fall into one of five categories: magnetic storage devices, optical storage devices, flash memory devices, online/cloud storage, and paper storage. I will give one or more examples of each category below.
10 Digital Data Storage Devices for Computers
- Hard Drive Disks
- Floppy Disks
- Compact Discs (CDs)
- DVD and Blu-ray Discs
- USB Flash Drives
- Secure Digital Cards (SD Card)s
- Solid-State Drives (SSDs)
- Cloud Storage
- Punch Cards
I will go into more details regarding each device below.
The hard disk drive in your computer probably looks something like this.
1. Hard Disk Drives
A hard disk drive (also known as a hard drive, HD, or HDD) can be found installed in almost every desktop and laptop computer. It stores files for the operating system and software programs as well as user documents, such as photographs, text files, videos, and audio. The hard drive uses magnetic storage to record and retrieve digital information to and from one or more fast-spinning disks.
2. Floppy Disks
Also know as a diskette, floppy, or FD, the floppy disk is another type of storage medium that uses magnetic storage technology to store information. Floppy disks were once a common storage device for computers and were very common from the mid-1970s through to the start of the 21st century. The earliest floppies were 8 inches (203 mm) in size, but these were replaced first by 5.25-inch (133 mm) disk drives and finally by 3.5-inch (90 mm) versions.
In the past, magnetic tape was often used for digital data storage because of its low cost and ability to store large amounts of data. The technology essentially consisted of a thin, magnetically coated piece of plastic wrapped around wheels. Its relative slowness and unreliability compared to other data storage solutions have resulted in it now being largely abandoned as a storage medium.
4. Compact Discs (CDs)
The compact disc, (or CD for short) is a form of optical storage, a technology that employs lasers and lights to read and write data. Initially, compact discs were used purely for music, but in the late 1980s, they began to be used for computer data storage. Initially, the compact discs that were introduced were CD-ROMs (read-only), but these were followed by CD-Rs (writable compact discs) and CD-RWs (rewritable compact discs).
5. DVD and Blu-ray Discs
The DVD (digital versatile disc) and Blu-ray disc (BD) are formats of digital optical disc data storage which have superseded compact discs, mainly because of their much greater storage capacity. A Blu-ray disc, for example, can store 25 GB (gigabytes) of data on a single-layer disc and 50 GB on a dual-layer disc. In comparison, a standard CD is the same physical size, but only holds 700 MB (megabytes) of digital data.
USB flash drives are often used by students and professionals to save work from one computer and continue working on it on another.
6. USB Flash Drives
Also known as a thumb drive, pen drive, flash drive, memory stick, jump drive, and USB stick, the USB flash drive is a flash-memory data-storage device that incorporates an integrated USB interface. Flash memory is generally more efficient and reliable than optical media, being smaller, faster, and possessing much greater storage capacity. Flash drives are also more durable due to a lack of moving parts.
7. Secure Digital Cards (SD Cards)
SD cards are commonly used in multiple electronic devices, including digital cameras and mobile phones. Although there are different sizes, classes, and capacities available, they all use a rectangular design with one side “chipped off” to prevent the card from being inserted into a camera or computer the wrong way.
8. Solid-State Drives (SSDs)
A solid-state drive uses flash memory to store data and is sometimes used in devices such as netbooks, laptops, and desktop computers instead of a traditional hard disk drive. The advantages of an SSD over an HDD include a faster read/write speed, noiseless operation, greater reliability, and lower power consumption. The biggest downside is cost, with an SSD offering lower capacity than an equivalently priced HDD.
9. Cloud Storage
With users increasingly operating multiple devices in multiple places, many are adopting online cloud-computing solutions. Cloud computing basically involves accessing services over a network via a collection of remote servers. Although the idea of a “cloud of computers” may sound rather abstract to those unfamiliar with this metaphorical concept, in practice, it can provide powerful storage solutions for devices that are connected to the internet.
10. Punch Cards
Punch cards (or punched cards) were a common method of data storage used with early computers. Basically, they consisted of a paper card with punched or perforated holes created by hand or machine. The cards were entered into computers to enable the storage and accessing of information. This data-storage medium pretty much disappeared as new and better technologies were developed.
6 Common Causes of Digital Data Loss
There are a number of ways that digital data can be lost. I’ve listed six of the most common ways below. Generally speaking, the best way to protect data is to back it up in different places.
- Accidental deletions: This is a very common problem and has happened to most people who deal with data, including myself. As well as deletion, reformatting a device can also result in the loss of stored information.
- Power failures: Many electronic devices depend on electricity to function properly and maintain data. A loss of power can therefore be disruptive or destructive, especially in cases where the power loss is sudden. As well as power losses, power surges can also cause problems.
- Spills, drops, and other physical accidents: Anything that causes physical damage to the storage device can corrupt data or prevent access to it. Even minor accidents, such as knocking over a cup of coffee, might be all it takes to cause the loss of large amounts of data.
- Viruses and other forms of malware: Many modern forms of digital data storage are exposed to the internet. This means that the data risks being corrupted by malware, either directly, or via wider damage being caused to say, the operating system.
- Theft: Whether through burglary, pickpocketing, mugging, or other forms of theft, you can lose the entire device and all the information that’s on it.
- Fires, floods, explosions, and other catastrophic events: These can all destroy vast amounts of data. This is one of the main reasons why data should never be backed up in the same building, but rather in a separate place.