Last night I returned home and heard the unmistakable, unnerving, familiar destiny of all mechanical hard drives: the click of death.  My Time Machine drive had given up after exactly 4 years and 6 days on the job.  That’s probably a fair length of service, especially for a Seagate drive; a brand which evokes mixed emotions in most product reviews.

My reaction is visceral and instinctive: shop for a new one.  Immediately I recalled the BackBlaze hard drive statistics published last month, which revealed that HGST is far and away the top choice for a reliable successor.

“But wait!” I say to myself when I am on the precipice of a swift decision.

In June of 2012, I paid $120 for this Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2TB drive.  That’s a tidy $30 per year of service; $2.50 a month.

Can anything in the cloud touch 2TB for $2.50 a month?

A quick search returned this list of top cloud storage providers from Cloud News Daily.  Of note, there is BackBlaze, perched right near the top at $50 per year, no limits.

I am seriously considering this avenue.  There’s really no guarantee that I get another 4 years from the next external drive I purchase; it could go either way.  One thing is undeniable though: when the drive fails again, it will consume more of my time.  For a premium of $1.60 a month, as much as  I love hardware, I’d sleep a hell of a lot better.

The next step is to really dig into the cloud service provider.  How is data encrypted and protected in a multi-tenant environment, how are encryption keys managed, is there multi-factor authentication, what’s under the hood in terms of storage technology (you already know a little from the BackBlaze storage report).

It will be fun to research this, but one thing seems clear to me at this point: unless you have exceptional data security requirements, which most individuals do not, external storage may no longer make sense.  I’m not sure I’m ready to bet my tax returns on it yet, but at least for family photos I can never take again, this one is easy.