External storage device are the ideal solution for your back up needs whether you are an individual or a small business and with the digital explosion of movies, films, games and applications, external storage is more vital than ever before.

The price of external hard disk drives has fallen sharply thanks to a highly competitive storage market which has forced manufacturers to come up with novel ways of “packaging” dumb hard drive into smarter, albeit more expensive, storage appliances.

In its simplest form, an external hard disk drive is nothing more than an enclosure with a bit of electronics glued in and an internal hard disk drive stuck to it.

At the other hand of the spectrum, more elaborate models boost automated backup and networking features as well as redundancy functionalities.

There are umpteen storage devices available on the market meaning that everyone’s needs can be catered for.

So here’s our list of 10 things to be condered when purchasing an external hard-disk based storage device.

(1) Storage

Unsurprisingly, the amount of storage needed is going to determined what solution you will choose; generally speaking hard disk based devices carry the best combination of price and storage capacity; 1TB external drives can cost as little as £110; you would need more than 200 blank DVD or more than 1200 blank CDs just to match the capacity of these drives. The rule of thumb is to choose a hard disk drive that has twice the capacity you currently need; this should accommodate for future needs, especially when yuo bear in mind that upgrading an external storage device is not as easy as doing it for a desktop PC.

(2) Size

If you are seldom going to move the external storage device, it makes sense to invest in an external desktop drive which is bulkier than a portable version but will provide with more storage capacity at any given price. If portability is your primary concern, see whether a large capacity USB flash drive could possibly answer your needs; but then they are expensive for anything above 8GB wheras portable hard drives cost as little as £36 for a 120GB version.

(3) Connectivity

There are currently three major connections on the market – eSATA, USB and Firewire; USB 2.0 is by far the most prevalent version and offers great transfer speeds as well as quasi-universal compatibility; eSATA is the newest kid in town and offers improved performance and consuems less resources than USB. Firewire is often relegated to niche and high end platforms like content creation but offers the best performance of the three as well as superb compatibility with the Mac environment.

(4) Budget

External hard disk drives are slightly more expensive than their internal counterparts and your allocated budget will help you decide whether you should go for a desktop bound solution or for a more portable one. All in all, the cheapest external hard disk drive solution costs under £40 while the most expensive 2TB external drives currently on the market is available for around £330.

(5) Speed

Storage devices using desktop based components are likely to be the quickest but only when matched with an equally capable interface; for even faster performance, some manufacturers like LaCie, even allow two hard disk drives to be configured in RAID-0 mode which should significantly boost performance.

(6) Software

Software is often the main differentiator between the various external hard disk storage devices solutions on the market. A great software package can make up for average performance and enhance the overall user experience, especially when dealing with something like backup. Some applications offer the ability to automatically upload files to dedicated websites, rollback systems and file encryption on the fly. Others have build-in synchronisation functionality and allow you to use your favourite applications like Microsoft Excel or Word.

(7) Warranty

Some manufacturers like Seagate offer up to five year warranty on their storage solutions which comes handy should one of them fail to boot; bear in mind though that no manufacturer will provide data recovery facilities in case of hard disk failure.

(8) Platform

Where you use your storage device could also determine which solution would work out best for you; are you a laptop, remote worker? Then it might be preferable to get a USB flash drive or a portable hard disk drive solution, many of which do not need an external power source. Furthermore, if you are a Mac aficionados, purchasing a Firewire model makes more sense as it will provide you with more expandability.

2TB LaCie Rugged Triple Interface Hard Disk (USB3.0, USB2.0, 2x Firewire 800)

(9) Sturdiness

Storage devices based on traditional hard disk drives are by default fragile but some are more than others especially the bigger ones which are more likely to suffer damage when dropped down; if you are likely to experience kicks and knocks as well as the occasional drops, then better grab a flash drive rather than a spinning hard drive.

(10) Security

External Storage device vendors like Western Digital bundle two hard disk drives together in order to improve redundancy if one of the hard disk drives fail; likewise, Seagate has a welcomed “on the fly encryption” feature which should keep your files safe, away from prying eyes.