The Future of Data Storage

This is a guest post by Terry Philpott at Datlabs Data Recovery – the UK’s leading hard drive and server data recovery specialists.

Data storage has come a long way since the first computers when hard drives were the size of refrigerators, cost tens of thousands of pounds and could only store a few megabytes of data.

These days it is possible to store gigabytes of data on one small pen-sized USB flash drive that can be simply unplugged and put in your pocket when you want to transfer data between machines. In fact, the world’s first 1TB capacity USB flash drive has recently been announced by Kingston and will be shipping soon.

The data storage devices today are unbelievably tiny and hold an amount of data that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. As capcity continues to increase and size is already as small as is practicably possible, what does the future hold for data storage?

The Cloud

As the Internet becomes increasingly pervasive worldwide, users are moving away from the traditional idea of storing data on a physical disk drive or USB flash drive and instead are uploading their files to “the cloud”.

Cloud computing involves a network of servers that is connected over the Internet and accessible from any location at any time. Rather than saving your data onto a traditional medium such as a hard drive or DVD, files are uploaded onto cloud storage through the Internet and can be accessed from anywhere, via a web browser or application.

Several large companies such as Google and Amazon are offering cloud services and some common examples are the Google Apps suite of applications, file storage and sharing services such as Dropbox and the Amazon Kindle software which stores purchased e-books in the cloud so that they can be accessed on any device.

When using the cloud there is no need to copy files from one computer to another with a disk or pen drive – simply access your files from the cloud when and where you need them. As well as convenience, cloud computing offers practically unlimited storage space and an effective backup solution.

The move from HDD to SSD

Solid-state storage mediums have been used for many years in digital cameras and similar devices, but it is only in recent years that SSD technology has become advanced and affordable enough to consider it as an alternative to a traditional hard drive. SSDs save data as an electrical charge, rather than the disks with magnetic coating that are found inside an HDD.

Ultra portable notebook computers or netbooks started to be shipped with SSDs in 2007 but only in the last year or so has capacity increased to a size that can rival traditional laptop hard drives.

SSDs are still expensive but the price is coming down all the time and they offer other advantages over HDDs such as increased speed, greater durability and reduced size and weight. The current maximum capacity of an SSD is 1TB but this is certain to rise over the next couple of years.

Human DNA?

A recent article in Nature magazine discussed a new technique that has been developed by researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute, in which DNA was used to store several iconic files: the complete set of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, a clip from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, the first research paper to describe DNA’s double-helix structure and a JPEG photograph of the European Bioinformatics Institute.

DNA is designed to carry information, needs no power supply and is stable over long periods of time, making it easy to store and transport. The miniscule size of DNA also means that 100 million hours of HD video could be stored in one cup of DNA.

The technology needed for this process is still obviously very expensive and the process is time consuming to carry out but the fact that it is even possible means huge consequences for the future of data storage.

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