Study: Backup, security to boost personal storage demand

Data backup requirements will catapult the use of personal storage devices to an annual growth rate of more than 20 percent

More complex data protection and data backup requirements for consumers and small to midsize businesses will catapult the use of personal storage devices to a compound annual growth rate of more than 20 percent from 2006 to 2011, according to an IDC study released Monday.

The study, which examined external hard disk drives (HDD) in home and work environments, found that most personal storage devices are sold based on their simplicity and capacity. The 3.5-in. HDD was the most dominant design and will remain the favorite for years to come, said Wolfgang Schlichting, research director at Framingham, Mass.-based market research company IDC.

According to Schlichting, the proliferation of personal storage has raised interest in two areas of data management: security and backup.

In terms of data protection, as network perimeters expand through the use of mobile devices carrying larger quantities of data, the likelihood of sensitive information being exposed increases, industry experts say. Just as important, HDDs carrying critical personal or corporate data must be properly backed up. Failure to do so could hamper retrieval and could in fact carry serious legal consequences.

Schlichting said ease of use for USB-configured devices is another area of the personal storage market that continues to develop in tandem with demand because vendors and enterprise storage manufacturers have gotten the message that most end users "don't have the patience" to learn complicated devices.

"With a fast plug-and-play interface like USB 2.0, consumers were up and running quickly, and manufacturers have adapted that to make the design of the [HDD] box and software bundled with it really simple to use," Schlichting said. "[But] manufacturers need to focus on performance. USB 2.0 might be feeling a lot slower than it is today, because you're moving much higher capacities through that interface."

The study analyzed worldwide and regional market demand for external disk drives through 2011. The resulting data covers unit shipments of devices that were 3.5 in., 2.5 in., 1.8 in. and smaller than 1.8 in. in size. It also looked at the capacity ranges within each disk size by interface, such as USB, eSATA and Ethernet.

As consumers and companies of all sizes become more reliant on mobile data, greater opportunities could arise in the market for smaller devices, such as the popular 2.5-in. HDD, the study said.

However, Schlicting said IDC predicted a tough climb for adoption of the 1.8-in. and even smaller HDD devices, which have struggled to gain acceptance due to pressure from flash-based removable storage counterparts.

As personal storage growth outpaces that of other hard disk business areas, such as the desktop and enterprise storage systems, Schlichting said the market may prove to be "very attractive" for some of the best-known IT vendors to lend their names to the emerging technology.

"It could make a slot of sense for them to be in that business. I'm talking about the HPs, Dells, even Microsoft and Intel and some other well-known brands. Users would definitely look to those brands when the decision of personal storage devices comes up," he remarked.

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