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Cloud Storage vs Local Storage: Which One Is Better?

cloud storage vs local storage

If you have an online presence, you need to prioritize your data security. Historically, people have stored their data on local devices, like hard drives or USB sticks, but it is becoming increasingly common to store data online, in the cloud. However, it’s worthwhile to ask which one you should be using.

The debate between cloud storage and local storage has been going on for years, and there’s a ton of information out there. This guide will break down the pros and cons of each type of storage and help you to determine which type is best for you.

Cloud Storage and Local Storage: Definition & Types

To compare cloud storage and local storage, the first thing we need to know is what they are.


  • Cloud storage stores data on remote servers connected through the internet and owned by someone else, usually a cloud service provider. Although the provider will typically provide some security, most use a shared responsibility model that requires you to take security measures to protect any files that you store on the remote server. Your data could also be stored on multiple servers, depending on your provider.

  • Local storage stores data on physical server equipment on your premises, either in flash memory or hard disk drives. You are completely responsible for security and accident prevention, and no one else is involved with how you choose to organize the files that you store.

Types of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is much more complex than local storage. One reason for this is that while the way you use a local device is very straightforward, there are a lot of different options for you to manage your infrastructure and applications if you host them in the cloud. How you use cloud computing somewhat determines the type of cloud storage available to you.

There are three common types of cloud computing services: Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS focuses primarily on providing an execution environment as well as hardware and software tools for app developers. Microsoft Azure can be used as a PaaS solution. With PaaS, your data is stored in the cloud, and you may have separate locations for the data you need to build apps and essential business data.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS platforms involve software and applications that are available via a third-party, like Microsoft, over the Internet. Examples of common SaaS providers include OneDrive, Dropbox, Outlook, Word, and Excel. These apps are customer-facing and generally must access most of your data at any time. As a result, you will most likely store your data on the same server as your applications (or at least a server that connects to them).
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS works primarily with cloud-based and pay-as-you-go services for storage, networking, and virtualization. Instead of investing in their own hardware and infrastructure, businesses can use IaaS for much of their critical infrastructure. Amazon AWS and Digital Ocean are good examples of this. Generally, all of your data will likely be stored in the cloud to minimize the number of devices you need to buy.

Types of Local Storage

Some local storage options include an SD card, hard drive, flash drive, local file server, or Network Attached Storage drive (NAS drive). Standalone storage devices, like SD cards, hard disk drives (HDDs) and flash drives have long been popular and widely used among individuals, small businesses, and larger organizations.

SD cards and hard drives are often useful for security cameras and computer systems. Equipped with hard disc drives (HDDs), some IP camera brands have launched their own NVRs or DVRs to make camera footage and video storage easier and more hands-off for their users. Reolink is one of them. For example, Reolink PoE cameras allow users to record video constantly and to save weeks of security camera footage to standalone NVRs/DVRs.

Additionally, some companies, like Synology, specialize in data storage have launched Network Attached Storage drives (NAS drive). NAS is a local storage device that can be accessed over the Internet. This gives you some of the advantages of cloud storage while maintaining complete control over your data.

Cloud Storage vs Local Storage: What's the difference?

In the last few decades, technology has advanced significantly. The days of floppy disks and enormous computer rooms have given way to slim hard drives and cloud storage. However, cloud storage isn’t for everyone, just as some people or companies might have too much going on to realistically depend on local storage.

If you aren’t sure which to use (or how to balance both), consider some distinctions between them.


Cloud service providers (CSPs) have invested heavily in state-of-the-art security over the last few years, and AI technologies make security smarter and more scalable. Only authorized personnel such as you and your employees should have access to the documents and files stored in the cloud.

Local storage has digital data stored on physical storage devices, such as hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), or external storage devices. If you use local storage, you have complete control over how the data is stored and who can access that data. Cloud relies on encryption to limit access.

To some degree, the choice depends on how comfortable you are with another entity hosting your private information and how confident you are that they will protect is as well or better than you can.


Buying physical storage or hardware can be expensive. A monthly cloud storage fee can be cheaper than buying external drives that can fill up over time and will eventually need to be replaced. Although small hard drives can be cheaper than you think, the cost of large-scale local storage (such as on-premise servers) causes sticker shock for most of us. Coupled with the fact that you need to upgrade hardware every 5 years or so, local storage can be pricy.

With cloud storage, you don't have to purchase and maintain any hardware. You also don’t have to pay for cooling systems to ensure your servers are running efficiently, for electricity to run the servers 24/7, or for hardware maintenance. Instead, you pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use cloud storage, and there should be no surprise fees. This makes it much easier to stay within your budget.


Data stored on the cloud can be easily accessed on any device that has an internet connection. With local storage, you do not need an outside internet connection to access your data.

However, when sharing the data, you will need a USB, a laptop or PC, or another device to transmit the data. While you might be able to use a file sharing app or email, the data that you want to send is often too large for this to be practical.

Storage Capacity

The maximum cap on cloud storage depends on the cloud service provider and your agreement. It is theoretically possible to provide unlimited cloud storage, but it isn’t usually practical. The true gauge of the capacity of cloud storage is the number of servers and hard drives available to the cloud provider.

When you want to expand your cloud storage capacity, you should talk to your service provider and upgrade your subscription, or you could consider a mixed cloud environment, bearing in mind that this may have implications for your security.

On the contrary, the capacity of your local storage depends totally on the hard drives you've chosen. The average hard drive ranges from 500GB to 2TB of available storage space. When you want to extend the capacity, you simply purchase another hard drive. This means there is no limit to the amount of data that you can store as long as you have room in your space and budget.

A Quick Comparison Between Cloud Storage and Local Storage

Here are the differences broken down into a side-by-side comparison.

Items Cloud Storage Local Storage
Security - Encryption is usually deployed by the cloud service provider, creating a layer of security around your data.
- Complete control over your data, including how data are stored, who has access, and information security protocols.
- Access can be added or removed easily
Cost - Cloud storage is usually cheaper than using external drives.
- Costs depend on the subscription fees of every service provider.
- Hardware and infrastructure costs are high.
- Adding more storage sapce and creates extra costs.
Accessibility - The Cloud gives you access to your files from anywhere. The only things you will need are an internet connection and your credentials. - Data is not easily accessible and harder to share with other teammates when needed. A device for moving the data between machines is needed.
Storage Capacity - The maximum cap on cloud storage depends on the cloud service provider and your budget. Financially impractical to purchase infinite cloud storage. - Depends on the capacity of hard drives. Technically unlimited, as long as you have the money to buy more drives.

Cloud Storage vs Local Storage: Pros & Cons

The data storage solution you choose depends on your needs. The advantages of one may significantly outweigh the advantages of the other when you’re making that final decision. Here are some pros and cons of each option.

Cloud Storage: Pros & Cons

Compared to local storage, cloud storage rely more on the Internet. This storage solution also has its own pros and cons.


  • Increased security. Cloud service providers protect their own servers. This will aid your security efforts, but be aware that you still need to be protecting your data yourself in most cases.
  • Lower upfront costs. Cloud storage is usually cheaper than using external drives. Costs depend on the subscription fees of every service provider.
  • Easy availability. Data can be accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection.
  • Scalability. Scaling down and up your storage can be easy. All you need to do is talk to your service provider and upgrade your subscription.


  • Reliance on the internet. Cloud storage is exclusively online. This means that if your internet goes down, you cannot access your data. If you want to log into cloud storage, make sure that the connection is secure. Never access private information on a public network.
  • Less control over your data. A third-party provider controls your data, which means that it’s possible there will be limits on uploading certain types of data.
  • Security vulnerabilities. The possibility of data getting breached is always there. Even your providers could access your data without authorization. Additionally, many CSPs use a shared responsibility model of security, and many users are not aware. This means there can be vulnerabilities if users are not on top of their security game.

Local Storage: Pros & Cons

With hands-off equipment as a storage backup, local storage can be a great data storage solution. Here are its pros and cons.


  • Full control of your data. You control who can access your data. Access can be changed easily, and you don’t need to go through anyone else to do it.
  • No Wi-Fi required. Your data can be accessed regardless of your current ability to connect to the Internet.
  • No hidden fees. After buying SD cards or hard drives used for local storage. You don't have to pay any other hidden fees.
  • Simpler security environment. You can remove your devices from your network at any time, and you can implement any encryption or firewall on your network that you feel is necessary.


  • Requirements of physical space and specialized staff. local storage requires the expertise of trained IT employees and a certain place to put your local storage devices. Hardware and infrastructure costs are high, and adding more storage space creates extra costs.
  • External damage. Disasters like fires or floods can destroy hard drives and, if you do not have any off-site backups, your data will be lost.
  • Higher costs. The more data you have, the more physical storage you need, so the upfront investment can potentially be a barrier.
  • Data loss and unwanted information. If it’s not protected with the necessary firewalls and encryption, there is a risk of that data getting into the wrong hands.

IP Camera Storage: Local or Cloud?

Local storage and cloud storage are also popular for IP cameras. It’s still very important to weigh the differences and conveniences of each storage measure to narrow down the growing pool of models available and find the best match.

Local Storage for IP Cameras

The most common local storage devices for IP cameras is SD card. Most IP cameras have at least one SD card slot, but some can also connect to an external hard drive. The majority of people who use these cameras are able to rely on the SD card.

If you are looking for a security system that can record video constantly and can save weeks of security camera footage, NVRs/DVRs with a built-in hard drive are a great option. You can also turn your personal computer into an IP camera storage unit by configuring a storage path to your computer; however, this could slow your computer down and eat up storage space rapidly.

Cloud Storage for IP Cameras

Although there are many local storage devices for IP cameras, IP security camera cloud storage is gaining popularity among users who are looking for an alternative to local storage as it is relatively convenient and can be safer. You can also view the footage stored in the cloud remotely, from any device.

Cloud Storage Subscription

As we mentioned before, an Internet connection is required for the IP camera cloud storage. Most IP camera cloud storage is free for the basic plans, and you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee for long-term contracts. An increasing number of cloud-compatible cameras have come on to the market, so let’s look at the cloud plan price of Reolink 4G security cameras.

Plan Cost
Basic Plan Free (1 camera & 7-day history)
Standard Plan USD 6.99 /Month(5 camera & 30-day history)
Premier Plan USD 10.99 /Month(10 camera & 30-day history)
Business Plan USD 15.99 /Month(20camera & 60-day history)

The amount you pay depends on how far back you want to keep your camera footage and how many cameras you want to install.


To wrap things up, here are some frequently asked questions about local and cloud storage.

Is it Cheaper to Use Cloud or Local Storage?

Cloud storage is cheaper in start-up costs, maintenance costs and support costs; however, the exact figure depends on the amount of data you have. There is no specific answer about which system will be most cost-effective because each user is different and has different needs.

Is Cloud or Local Storage the Safer Option?

Cloud storage is safer than the local storage because of the use of encryption, provided that users practice good security hygiene and patches are implemented appropriately. Only authorized personnel, such as you and your employees if applicable, will have access to the documents and files stored in the cloud. This adds an extra layer of protection.

However, only one algorithm is not enough. Besides the measures taken in the cloud to protect you against hackers, the possibility of your sensitive data getting breached is always there. Even your service providers can be a hacker.

What is the Difference Between Cloud and Hosted Storage?

Hosted storage is the same as "hosted services". The difference between cloud and hosted services is the location of the servers running the service. “Hosted services” is the general term for technology services using infrastructure located outside the service receiver's physical location. This can be at the vendor's physical location or can be hosted on the cloud.

But the servers of cloud storage are at off-site locations. The servers are maintained by a third-party provider who is responsible for hosting, managing, and securing data stored on its infrastructure.

Does Cloud Storage Have Unlimited Capacity?

The maximum capacity of cloud storage depends on the cloud service provider. It is theoretically possible to provide unlimited cloud storage, but it is often not needed or useful. Before you subscribe to any cloud storage service, confirm with your service provider what the maximum capacity is to ensure that it meets your needs.


Both cloud and local storage have advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to carefully consider each of them before making any decision. We hope that the guide above helps you compare the two types of storage carefully to determine which one best suits you and your needs.

Have you ever used local storage or cloud storage to store your personal or business data? Which one do you think is better? Share your experience with us in the comment section! We'd love to hear from you!


All Comments Are Welcome

Editor from Reolink. Interested in new technology trends and willing to share tips about home security. Her goal is to make security cameras and smart home systems easy to understand for everyone.