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The Future of - Internal/External Data Storage

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/6/2009

In our second article on the new "Future Hardware" series, we look at how the external and internal hard drives we know and love are evolving to meet consumer needs.

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    Solid State 101

    Last time, we were talking about how online mediums have revolutionized how data is stored for corporations and how these changes are making their way into our homes, but what happens to the venerable storage juggernaut – the hard drive?

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    Evolving the Hard Drive

    Hard Drives are undergoing a renaissance that had been lost for years since the inception of the terabyte hard drive a few years back. What’s the reason for this? The solid-state drive is driving progress of larger capacity drives that are much more eco-friendly and reliable than their plate-spinning counterparts.

    The SSDs are the future for a simple reason- they’re starting to become more cost-effective than their HDD counterparts- and that can drive sales. The SSDs also offer the advantage of no moving parts so the result is a quieter, faster, and less heat-generating piece of technology. This means heat efficiency that allows for mini-PCs and netbooks to be made much more readily.

    In the future, solid-state drives will undoubtedly drive the development of hard drive integration into devices we never thought possible. Imagine a television with a built-in server for all your media files, a cook top or oven capable of playing back all your music collection over your local area network, or even a car that’s able to play back DVDs and music over the air on 3G networks.

    Hard drives will still exist in some form or another, and the technology is becoming increasingly more efficient. Plates have never spun as fast and read/write heads have never been quite as reliable. These advances are leading to higher-end, better terabyte hard drives, which in turn leads to even greater increases in the amount of information humanity can generate in a year.

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    Evolving the Holographic Drive

    No, you read that correctly. Holographic Drives! It’s like Star Trek, only in the present and not nearly as cool as that show’s representation of a Holodeck.

    Yes, holographic data storage solutions are being currently worked on, and the implications could be tremendous. This type of data storage works off an optical principle, using an interference pattern on a photosensitive material, and it can read resulting data in the form of lighter or darker pixels.

    Without getting overly technical, the beams of light are focused on the material and the diffraction pattern tells the reader what kind of information is stored on there. The important part is that companies now are working on materials that are capable of holding up to 500 Gb/in2. This could have mind-blowing results in the field of home and corporate storage. Server farms operating holographic data storage hard drives could theoretically hold more information than the entirety of mankind has ever produced.

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    Evolving the External Drive

    Sadly, one device that looks to be quickly on its way to extinction is the venerable external hard drive. It had a great run, for a while there; it really looked like these drives would become the larger-capacity portable solution of the future. However, with flash memory in the form of SSDs becoming increasingly cheaper, it might not be too far off in the future that we have the Terabyte Flash Drive. Once that becomes the status quo, who would want to lug around a giant enclosure for a hard drive?

    Furthermore, even if we were to assume that SSDs were making no progress whatsoever, there would still be the question of online and remote storage. As we covered in the previous article, these “cloud” based storage solutions could also prove to be the death of the external hard drive.

    Join us next time, when we’ll be looking at the future of Keyboards and what that’ll mean for your computer experience.

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    More Reading

    For those interested in the differences between internal and external, check out this article.

    For those wondering what the best current portable flash drive is, check out this article.

    Finally, for those wondering what the advantages (and disadvantages) are of an internal HDD, you’ll want to take a look at this article.

Future Hardware

A new series looking at where the future will take existing hardware solutions. Topics range from data storage on online servers to peripherals (such as mice and keyboards).
  1. The Future of - Online/Remote Data Storage
  2. The Future of - Internal/External Data Storage
  3. The Future of - Keyboards
  4. The Future of - Mice