A few years back, I bought a 1 terabyte external hard drive. At the time, I thought that this hard drive would be all I ever needed. I only needed a few gigs to back up my laptop. However, in 2022 I don’t need to worry about the space on that hard drive at all because I no longer use it.
The fact is that I backup my laptop to the cloud. Most of my files aren’t even saved on my laptop in the first place. They go straight to the cloud. It is way safer and more convenient. If my laptop gets stolen, I can rely on theft insurance for my laptop to claim the cost back, but relying on a hard drive for the contents would be strange. After all, where are you supposed to keep a hard drive which you need for weekly backups but near your laptop?
But backups aside, will we get to a point at which hard drives become obsolete entirely? Can the cloud cater to all our needs?
What is a hard drive?
Before discussing whether hard drives will become obsolete, it is important that we’re on the same page regarding what exactly a hard drive is. A hard drive is an external storage device that stores all forms of digital content, your operating system, and your applications. Bringing these into operation is the role of other components of your computer.
Now, how much longer will we need this?
In theory, we won’t need hard drives for much longer due to the cloud. Everything, from operating systems to digital files and applications, can be stored in the cloud. A lot of the content on your laptop is probably already in the cloud, if not exclusively there.
However, the problem comes in when trying to run this content. Storing it is one thing, but it needs an interface to process it. Current interfaces can do this from a physical hard drive, but processing from the cloud would not be nearly powerful enough, and that is why we still need hard drives.
In other words, at present you need a hard drive, but don’t necessarily need too much space. You need space for the OS, as well as the application you are currently running and any files it is using.
This could all change, however, with the use of SSDs in conjunction with increasing cloud capabilities.
The future is already here
Solid State Drives (SSDs) are an alternative to hard drives that are already in use. They work very differently to hard drives, but are similar in that they are physical components that your computer needs to run. The hardware is more advanced, however, and they run more quickly and efficiently. The main reason they are not used exclusively is that they are still very expensive.
This is also a reason why the cloud might overtake SSDs as the hard drive alternative. The cloud is increasingly affordable and reliable. While we tend to see it as an unchanging entity, the hardware supporting it is constantly improving.
So, should you get rid of your external hard drives? Chances are you don’t really need them, but for the foreseeable future, your computer will contain a hard drive that is fundamental to its functioning.