Before sending your electronics to computer recycling services, you should back up all of your files. SanDisk is a household name in the file storage business, but their lesser-known data recovery software is helpful to users who have lost or destroyed files. Luckily, this tool is included with a purchase of any SanDisk hard drives and SD cards. Unfortunately, this will only work on physical data, such as hard drives or SSDs, and not internet-based cloud services. These function separately.
Apple is a perfect example of a company that strong-arms you into purchasing digital storage space. When you get a new phone, their settings directory pesters you to set up your iCloud subscriptions. These offers are made especially tempting once you, very quickly, realize the cloud’s storage cap. Every week or so, you’ll be prompted to update your cloud, which has room for a measly five gigabytes of data. When this inevitably fills up, you’ll get constant notifications that your iCloud backup has failed, and you need to delete data from your 32gb+ device or purchase more space. Guess which one is more convenient. What’s worse is the way your information is handled.
You might be alarmed to learn what cloud services actually do with your data. All of your content is password-protected, and most commonly locked behind two-factor authentication. Most services also offer local or end-to-end encryption. However, your data is still sensitive to hacks and leaks. This is because all of it still exists on physical servers. This system of servers is built to ensure ease of access from the web, but that isn’t always the case. These machines are generally well-guarded in the real world, but these are far beyond the average user’s control, and nothing is guaranteed.
To ensure online security, services will occasionally drop in on user accounts to make sure your information is safe. These services claim the best way to know if they’ve been breached is to take a look at user accounts. Take Dropbox for example. Their TOS states, “Like most major online services, Dropbox employees have access to your data but will only use it in the most extreme circumstances.”
For the average user, with two free gigabytes of storage on Dropbox, or even fifteen on Google Drive, this is totally fine. But for a customer paying $10 a month for extra storage, these vulnerabilities might be a complete deal-breaker. If not, Google Drive is the best value for you; where $10 gets you one hundred gigabytes on Dropbox, it nets you a full terabyte of storage on Drive. Of note is Adobe Creative Cloud’s storage, which is free with any subscription valued at $20 or over.
Physical storage is much better for the environment if you allow it to be. Physical storage like hard drives, SD cards and SSDs can be wiped and reused to your heart’s content. By recycling materials, like you’re hopefully doing with your discarded device, physical uploads can be eco-friendly. The average computer only uses 200 watts of power, per hour, while the average data center can burn up to a hundred times that. A reliably decent two terabyte hard drive will only set you back around $60 and can be easily transferred to another owner. This also leaves you in complete control of where your hard drive goes, removing the enigma from your physical data. Just be sure to remember where you put it!
You should organize your information into folders so it can be easily dragged and dropped into your next device. Organization and spatial awareness are the most important aspects of any storage setup. You need to know where to find every file in your library, and whether you have space to download more. It’s also important to make sure every executable file is in the same data drive as its assets; exe’s can’t function without them.
Delete your Data
Another option to deal with your old data is to simply delete it. Letting go of old files can be liberating, a metaphorical clean slate for your new device. Obviously, if your files are important, back them up. If they’re not important, let them go. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll always remember where you put your hard drive, or always have internet access to reach your files. Your hard drive may get corrupted, even destroyed, or Google’s servers may temporarily go down. There are many ways storing data can go wrong, but hopefully as technology advances, storage will too.