What brands does everyone recommend for external HDDs? Also, how long would an external HDD be expected to last on average before data loss/hardware failure and are there any more robust methods of long term data storage than external HDDs?
It tends to be specific models, rather than brands that get recommended. BackBlaze is a good source of data as they use lots of shucked external HDD's.
As for more robust methods, pretty much .. anything.. is more robust than a single external HDD. The most common home solution would be a NAS with multiple drives in RAID.
I'm a geek, a gamer, a dad and an IT Professional. I have a full rack home lab, size 15 feet, an epic beard and Asperger's. I'm a bit of a Cypherpunk, who believes information wants to be free and the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
Chances are you will never know whats actually in them .
you wont find anything much in reliability stats for small 2.5" drives used in portable USB HD's
some USB HD's even state that they shouldnt be used for backup/purposes purposes (most wont openly admit to that)
They SOMETIMES have the cheapest & most unreliable drives in them (cough cough WD Green) .
They often get dropped : never a good thing
The USB3 connector is too fragile & can fail
Some dont have SATA connectors on the actual drive inside the case , making data recovery so much harder
3rd party cases to put HD's into dont seem as reliable from what Ive seen , perhaps because we buy the cheapest enclosure ?
So , generally, never rely on a single USB HD. You need at least 2 for backup & rotate them
NEVER EVER have a USB HD as the only device with your data : ie dont use a USB drive as data storage without having a backup of it.
SSD USB Drives might be more reliable , but long term we dont know that yet .
I prefer to buy a good brand of standard hard drive and use it in a docking station like this one, which I store in a case like this. So far they've been more reliable than external disks or enclosures.
Any important data is on multiple devices in multiple locations, usually with incremental backups or versions. I also keep a mirror in AWS S3, with proper protections set up to make them difficult to delete.
The Seagate Expansion Drives like these have normal 5400RPM Seagate notebook hard drives in them, not some queer thing with a USB port direct on the drive, which means it's easy to swap out the enclosure if & when the port gets damaged. They would be my go to for a standard external drive. External SSDs are probably much of a muchness. ADATA have good value drives, or you can build your own, this is generally dearer though.