Computer Basics: 10 Examples of Storage Devices for Digital Data
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 the 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.
Digital Data Storage Devices: 10 Examples
- Hard Drive Disk
- Floppy Disk
- Compact Disc (CD)
- DVD and Blu-ray Discs
- USB Flash Drive
- Secure Digital Card (SD Card)
- Solid State Drive (SSD)
- Cloud Storage
- Punch Card
I will go into more details regarding each device below.
1. Hard Disk Drive
A hard disk drive (also known as a hard drive, HD, or HDD) can be found installed in almost every desktop computer and laptop. 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 Disk
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 lasted from the mid-1970's through to the start of the 21st century. The earliest floppies were 8-inch (203 mm) in size, but these were replaced by 5 1⁄4-inch (133 mm) disk drives, and finally a 3 1⁄2 inch (90 mm) version.
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 magnetically thin coated piece of plastic wrapped around wheels. Its relative slowness and unreliability compared to other data storage solutions has resulted in it now being largely abandoned as a media.
4. Compact Disc (CD)
The compact disc, known for short as a CD, is a form of optical storage, a technology which employs lasers and lights to read and write data. Initially compact discs were used purely for music, but in the late 1980's they began to be also used for computer data storage. Initially, the compact discs that were introduced were CD-ROM's (read only), but this was followed by CD-R's (writable compact discs) and CD-RW's (re-writable 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.
6. USB Flash Drive
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, as well as being more durable due to a lack of moving parts.
7. Secure Digital Card (SD Card)
A common type of memory card, SD cards are 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 the camera or other device the wrong way.
8. Solid State Drive (SSD)
A solid state drive uses flash memory to store data and is sometimes used in devices such as netbooks, laptop, and desktop computers instead of a traditional hard disk drive. The advantages of an SSD over a 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 and 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 Card
Punch cards (or punched cards) were a common method of data storage used in the early computers. Basically, they consisted of a paper card with punched or perforated holes that have been created by hand or machine. The cards were entered into the computer to enable the storage and accessing of information. This form of data storage media 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.
- Deleting files by mistake. 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 failure. 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.
- Spillages, drops, or 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.
- The storage device is stolen. 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Paul Goodman