Removable Storage Devices.

How does one move data from one location to another? In previous times one used punched paper cards to move data from one computer to another. Then one used tape – much like cassette tapes or large floppy disks (5.25″). This was followed by smaller, harder disks – still known as floppy disks (3.5″) and eventually by CDs and DVDs. Now we have several major segments of removable storage:

Floppy Disks

These small disks are the bane of any IT Departments’ existence. They should not be present in any office. They are unreliable, have small capacity, and are a waste of time. There are many other better ways to move data.


No longer like cassette tapes, they are popular for backup purposes and have extremely high capacities – hundreds of gigabytes on a single tape. They are a good choice for archiving data, but not a good choice for data that needs to be accessed frequently. This is because they read in a linear fashion. One cannot randomly open to any file, rather they are similar to a scroll – it must be unrolled until the correct area is reached. They are a good solution, but are likely to be replaced by remote disk and removable disk solutions in the near future. Some vendors of tapes and their drives/libraries include Exabyte, HP, and Dell.

Flash Drives

Small chunks of memory encased in plastic these are extremely useful devices, but also make stealing of data simple and are not entirely reliable. They can make a good portion of data methods, but should never be relied on solely. They are available affordably at 32 GB and 64 GB sizes.

Optical Media

This includes both CD’s and DVD’s. CD’s hold several hundred megabytes while DVD’s hold several gigabytes of data. CD’s are still useful, but quickly being replaced by DVD’s. Expect to see them entirely phased out within the next few years and Bluray become a primary optical media for backups with its larger capacity than DVD or CD.

Hard Drives

A number of companies, most auspiciously Iomega, have pioneered removable hard disks. These drives offer significant capacity in a method that doesn’t suffer from the linear reading method of tape. If one needs to restore a file, just like a normal hard drive, one can perform random access reads. I would recommend evaluating the products from Dell and High-Rely if you are looking for removable hard disk solutions.

Remote Hard Drives

Using a service or your own hard disks located off-site and replicating the data across the WAN/Internet. This technology can be useful in situations where the data to be replicated is not massive. It is possible to easily replicate several gigabyte of data, but when it enters the hundreds of gigs or terabytes, the task is nearly impossible.


When one begins to look into various removable storage technologies one should differentiate between the different purposes of removable storage. Smaller devices (e.g. optical media, flash drives) may work fine for small offices looking to move small amounts of data (e.g. creating a CD of PowerPoint presentations to send to a potential customer or copying an antivirus program onto a computer overwhelmed by malware). Removable Hard Drives and Tapes are generally for larger storage – backups and archival. Furthermore in this realm one can go with a single drive – which holds only one disk at a time or a library – which holds multiple disks or tapes at a single time. Your choice in this matter will also depend on how much data you have to back up.