As sales reps, from time to time, we may find ourselves wondering how safe our data really is. Yes, we have taken steps to keep intruders off our systems and have taken measures to lock down our laptops. And just as we think our data safe and secure, we hear a strange clicking notice coming from our laptop. Or our desktop freezes up. And then we have this sinking feeling in our stomachs as we see the screen turn blue with a string of white characters that can best be described as an arcane recipe for disaster.

So we take our system down to the local tech shop or maybe the Geek Squad, hoping that they can breathe life back into our machine. After spending an hour with our system, the tech emerges from the back room and says, “Sorry dude. Your hard drive is dead.”

So, do you:

  • Cringe at the thought of buying another hard drive only to be faced with the daunting task of reloading that 120 GB hard drive from the cache of 20 backup DVDs you made two months ago?
  • Break out the Pepto Bismol and the Vodka realizing that your entire customer database was on that drive and you don’t have a copy anywhere else?
  • Breath a sigh of relief, stating that you were glad that it was just your home machine and your business data is safe, only to later realize that all of your family photos were on that dead drive?

As hobbyist and mobile business people, one of the major concerns we have now that they drives are so large, is how do we effectively protect our data from a hardware failure and in particular a drive failure? Let’s face it—120 GB is a lot of data to backup to tape and DVDs only hold up to 7GBs.

One of the things that we can do is to use a second disk drive to back up our data and keep it close at hand. Because we have a number of options available to us, one of the questions that frequently come up is, “Which one is more reliable, an internal drive or an external drive?”

Most of the drives these days come with a warranty for 5 years and an average lifespan well over that. Therefore, as long as you don’t bang them up or subject them to cruel and unusual punishment, everything should be all right regardless if the drive is external or internal. There are, however, some other things to consider when deciding on the type of drive to use. Here are some points to remember regarding internal drives versus external drives:

External Drive:

  • Portability. You can take it wherever you want and can connect it to any machine (laptop or desktop).
  • Slower Data Throughput. USB connections are easy to establish and are quick. They will also run slower than the bus in your system (unless you are using an eSATA).
  • Unsecured Data. With external devices you are constrained to using the FAT file system. You can’t use the NTFS (there are ways around this, but you may be subjecting yourself to severe data loss)
  • Additional Power Outlet Required. The smaller 2.5 format devices like the western digital passports, can get their power from the USB connection. Larger drives like the My Book series will suck back more power than the USB connection can deliver and will need an external source like an AC adapter. Can be a problem if you are at the local Starbucks.

Internal Drive:

  • Not As Portable. Yeah, it’s inside your desktop or laptop. It has to go where your machine goes.
  • Some Assembly Required For Installation. If the thought of opening up your desktop or taking a screwdriver to your laptop frightens you, definitely stick with the external option. If you have spent time building your own machine, are familiar with connecting cables and anchoring hard drives, and you have some spare time, you may want to take advantage of this option.
  • No Additional Plugs Needed. Power is coming from your system. If you are short on outlets, this could be a big plus.
  • Faster Device Access. You’ll be using either a PATA or a SATA connection with an internal drive. SATA is capable of 3Gb/s. On the other hand, an external USB2.0 connection tops out at 480Mb/s.
  • Data Is More Secure. You have the option of setting up NTFS on your system in additional to FAT. Naturally, NTFS gives you a lot more security over FAT. If security is a major concern, you will want to use an internal drive and the NTFS file system.

Here is one more consideration. Putting your backup drive inside your desktop may protect you against a drive dying on you, but if your desktop gets damaged or stolen, then both drives are going down with it. If one of your drives is external, then it’s not subject to the same conditions as your desktop.

Considering the overall rate of capacity growth, the falling cost/gigabyte, and the mean-time-to-failure of today’s drives, chances are good that you’ll replace the drive long before it dies on you regardless of it being internal or external.

So when you are looking for ways to protect your data from hardware damage, map your individual needs against considerations like portability, access, security, installation and power requirements. Spend less time worrying over which type of drive will last longer.

Check out the equipment from Western Digital. They make a decent product and as long as you don’t roll it down the stairs, you should be good to go. Here is one review of the Western Digital 1 TB My Book portable from a blogger across the pond.