Secure data storage devices are becoming more and more important as we transition from a paper-based society to an electronic one. This transition has happened a bit slower than expected – many people thought we’d be entirely paperless by now – but it is happening.

For example, with the medical industry moving towards using electronic health records, the time will come soon when a paper medical chart will be a quaint relic of the past.

All of these new electronic records – from medical to legal records and more – require secure storage. And this requires storage media. So exactly what is storage media?

What is Storage Media?

Computers require information to run. This information or data must be stored somewhere. The physical item that computer data is stored on is called storage media. Computers store and transmit data using a digital format as opposed to analog. “Digital” means information is kept in a binary format, through a series of ones and zeroes.

Digital media storage is capable of keeping this binary information. Every digital file boils downs to raw code and numbers, no matter what it is. Whether it is a picture, video, MP3, game, or app, digital files ultimately look the same on the most basic level.

Because of the nature of computers, digital media tends to be more ephemeral and may be less likely to be preserved in the way treasured traditional media such as paintings or LPs have been. With improvements in digital storage technology, and the dedication of professional and amateur “curators,” this may change, however.

7 Types of Data Storage Devices

Computers can interface with many types of devices to access digital storage. As technology has advanced, some previously popular types of storage media have fallen by the wayside. For example, 360KB used to be a lot of storage on an old-fashioned floppy disk drive. Such a storage device could not even handle an MP3 today.

This trend towards new digital storage mediums will surely continue as computers become more sophisticated. Here are just a few past and present ways to store data on a computer:

1. Tape Drives

You might find an old tape drive on eBay, but you certainly won’t find one in your local computer store. (If you even have a local computer store these days, since most have gone online!)

Children of the 80s might remember the tape drives that worked with Commodore 64 computers. You could actually use standard cassette tapes to run computer games and other programs. These tape drives were super slow, of course, and prone to read/write errors.

2. Floppy Disks

The floppy disk is another 80s throwback. The original floppy disks were released in 1972 and measured a whopping 8 inches. This was deemed too large for the home PC market, so a 5¼” version was created. This disk was truly “floppy” and was in danger of being bent.

Thus, the smaller 3.5” “floppy” disk was created. This disk was actually not that floppy, as it was encased in a more durable plastic. These used to be very dominant in Apple’s Macintosh computers, but it was Apple itself that killed the floppy with its “floppy-less” iMac launched in 1998.

3. Hard Drive

Believe it or not, computers didn’t always come with hard drives, and often had to be run off of floppy disks. “Hard drives” (which aren’t floppy) are permanent storage devices inside a computer. Hard drive technology has changed over the years, and drives are now smaller and more electronic than mechanical, as they used to be.

4. Zip Drive

The Zip drive was a special external drive launched by the company Iomega in the mid-1990s. It was quite popular for many years. At the time, the storage it offered was extreme compared to the standard floppy. Zip Drives were launched with 100 megabytes of space, and then a 250 MB version was released. The final Zip Drive size was 750 MB, barely a blip in terms of storage space these days.

5. USB Drive

USB drives are small drives that can be inserted into USB slots of computers. They can be convenient ways to share and copy information.

6. Optical Disk

Optical disks include CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray disks. Having an optical disk drive in a computer or laptop used to be standard. However, in recent years, these drives have been included less and less as people tend to use the Internet now to download and install software.

These disks still have uses, however, and are recommended as a way to truly store digital data that is safe from electronic interference (such as an EMP). High-end optical disks can now store a huge amount of data, such as a terabyte.

7. Memory Cards

Memory cards are used in smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras. They come in different sizes but tend to be very small (such as the MicroSD card).

Now, the question is: Are any of these types of storage media secure? Truly, it depends on how secure the computer is that the media is connected to.

What is the Future of Digital Media Storage?

The technology of digital storage continues to evolve. Digital media can store more data using less space than ever before. Digital encryption and new enhancements in cybersecurity will further enhance digital storage to make it more secure and reliable.

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