Storage devices

Using storage devices to share files

Companies that work with large files often have trouble collaborating. File size limits make email unrealistic for all but the smallest files, and FTP can be complicated. Many teams eventually resort to saving files to USB thumb drives, SD cards, or external hard drives, walking them over to co-workers, and copying files over.

While this is a low-cost way to share files, it offers nothing in the way of file sync or versioning, and introduces certain security issues if files are not manually deleted from the device after use.

Background

Before the Internet, physically moving storage devices from one computer to another was the only way to share data. We’ve come a long way since then, but storage devices do still play a role in many industries. Raw video footage, hi-res photography, and large databases are just a few examples of when a USB stick can be more efficient than transferring files over a network connection.

Latency vs. bandwidth

Network connections always require a trade-off between latency and bandwidth. Latency refers to how long a message takes to get to its destination, while bandwidth refers to how much data can be transferred in a given period of time. Generally, networks strive for lower latency and higher bandwidth.

For example, when you send someone a text message from your cell phone, they get it almost instantaneously. This is an example of the relatively low latency of cellular networks. But, if you try to send a high-resolution picture, it will take at least a few seconds to send. Thus, cellular networks have low bandwidth.

Storage devices as file share solution are on the opposite end of the spectrum. While they have high latency, their relatively high bandwidth makes up for it. For example, writing a note and running it to a co-worker downstairs takes a long time (high latency), but if you grab a removable hard drive on the way, you can transfer a lot of information (high bandwidth).