Network or Cloud Storage? That’s one of the many questions facing the tech person at a small church. This post will help you learn the difference between the two, so that you can decide which option is best for your context. Spoiler Alert – We use both options at Greenwood.

What is the difference between Network and Cloud Storage?

Network storage usually takes the form of a hard drive on a server. But that isn’t the only way to do network storage. You could simply share a large hard drive from one of your workstations that will always be left on (network storage needs to be accessible 24/7). Or you could invest in a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. Either way, Network storage is simply a hard drive (or group of drives) attached to your local network. It may or may not be accessible from outside of the network. You could make it accessible in a variety of ways, but that isn’t the focus here. The point is that Network storage is something that you can easily touch with your hands.

Cloud Storage differs from network storage in two basic ways: 1) you cannot see/touch it, and 2) It usually exists in several redundant data centers. Some examples of cloud storage might be Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. You can save files to these locations without taking up space on a device on your network.

Network Storage: Advantages and Disadvantages

Network storage has a few advantages over cloud storage. Speed is the main advantage. Most of the time a device used as Network storage will have faster read/write times to your machine than cloud storage will. That’s because you aren’t transferring anything over the internet, only across your local network (LAN). Now if you are trying to access the file on your work network from another location (like your own house) then it may actually be slower than a cloud drive because your internet connections are likely not super fast.

Security can be another advantage. Simply put, you can keep network storage off the internet and away from 90% of hackers. Now it’s still possible that your local network could get hacked and then someone could gain access to your network storage – but it is much less likely.

One main disadvantage to Network storage is that your files will be harder to access from outside of the network where the files are stored. True, a vpn connection can make it pretty simple, but it will still likely be slower than a cloud storage solution in that case.

Another disadvantage is shareability. It is hard, if not impossible, to share a file from network storage with someone who is not a part of your network.

Cloud Storage: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantage one is that Cloud storage is easily accessible from any location with internet access. You can often access the files from just about any device or platform. In other words, when a file is in dropbox, I can access it from my phone, my windows computer, or a friend’s macbook.

Advantage two is shareability. You can easily send a link to a file via email/sms and someone else can quickly download the file. It’s not that easy on a network storage device.

Disadvantage one is speed of transfer. Now if you have a high end fiber connection you won’t really notice much of a difference. But most small churches have slower internet connections than silicon valley! That means that it will take a few minutes to transfer large files to and from your cloud storage. Sometimes it can take hours for large videos.

Disadvantage two is security. Dropbox, and many other cloud storage services are not encrypted. That means that if someone hacks their system (and it happens) then your files are exposed.

Network Storage: My Use Case

We use Network storage primarily for two things. The first is that we backup our financial software (quickbooks) to a network location and locally on a workstation. We use it to have quick access to another copy of the file in case it were to get corrupted. That way we can quickly get back to business. The second use is for media storage. We produce video and audio at church. So we choose to store the media on a computer that shares the files across the network. Without going into too much detail, we can remotely log in to a video editing machine on the network, using a beastly machine for editing instead of our whimpy laptops.

Cloud Storage: My Use Case

We primarily use dropbox for our cloud storage. I’ve coached our team to save anything important (read: anything you want to keep) in their dropbox. We also have several shared folders that contain shared logos, documents, etc. These files are small enough that speed isn’t really a big deal. What matters is ease of sharing files. We can collaborate on documents or presentations easily by storing the file on a cloud service. Another big advantage is that when a person’s computer dies (and it happens!), they can simply download all their important files from the cloud, and pick up working again with minimal downtime.

Conclusions about Network and Cloud Storage

As you can tell, I’m a fan of both types of storage. I think both have their use cases. I hope this post will help you decide how to solve the storage issues at your church or workplace.

One other option I haven’t mentioned yet is to have your network storage backed up through something like Carbonite to the cloud. These backup services encrypt the backup so that your information is safe. They also allow some of the off-site advantages that cloud services have. If it sounds intriguing I hope you’ll check it out. I’m an affiliate with Carbonite. That means that even though you don’t pay any more to go through my link, you’ll be helping me earn a little revenue because of my advertisement.

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