I had never really cared for portable storage. Hard drives and thumb drives were just things that people used if they had ridiculously large music catalogs or needed to securely transfer files from place to place. With modern cloud services such as those available from Google, Microsoft, Apple and others, which sync your music, files and photos across multiple devices, more and more it seemed to me that portable storage was becoming a thing of the past. I use several such services -- mainly Xbox Music to store my music collection online, Microsoft's SkyDrive (soon to be OneDrive) for syncing across my Windows devices, Google Drive to store and create documents for work and Google Plus to sync all of the photos I take on my Android phone. I have gigabytes of data soaring around in the cloud, waiting for me to access them at any moment. So why, then, would I ever need a portable hard drive?
It was a question I was surprised to find had a rather simple answer: I do need one, and I love it. Seagate was kind enough to send me its Backup Plus Slim Portable Drive to test, and since receiving it I rarely go a day without using it. My portable hard drive is in my pocket almost as often as my phone.
It's aided by some incredibly petite dimensions. At 4.4 inches by 3 inches, it's a small, unassuming little device. It's also only slightly thicker than an iPhone 4. Indeed, it feels just like a slightly wider iPhone in the hand and at 5.3 ounces. It's a total featherweight. That's what gives the Seagate its appeal -- extreme "pocketability." Why, though, would you need to pocket your hard drive? For a myriad of reasons, as it turns out.
I have the 500GB model, but it's also available with 1 or 2TB of storage space. On my Slim I've got my entire music catalog, every photo I've ever taken across five years of Android and Windows Phone devices, important documents, a bunch of (legally procured) films and TV series, and save files for several games. I have a Windows laptop, tablet and All-In-One, and I move between devices regularly. If I want to take something with me, I just plug the Slim in, copy the file across and move it to the other device. It uses USB 3.0, so transfers are significantly faster compared with the older USB standard. A 4GB film will no longer leave you waiting endlessly as it drip-feeds data onto the hard-drive. Instead, it's done in just a few minutes.
I take it with me to work, in case I need to share something with a colleague. I take it to friends' homes to bring my own music and films, should we run out of content. I take it when I'm working from a coffee shop, just as an additional backup in case I lose WiFi or something happens to the device I'm working on.
What really seals the deal on portable storage for me is the peace of mind. This small, plastic box – available in blue, black, red or silver – has most of my digital life on it. No matter what happens to my laptop or my Surface, I know that all of my photos are stored on it -- every vacation, every night out, every hipster-y shot of a crunchy leaf on the sidewalk -- and my necessary files are kept safe from hackers. Want to stop someone accessing your data? Disconnect the Slim from your computer. Simple. That I can take my entire digital life with me in something smaller and lighter than my phone, which boasts great read and write speeds and has so far withstood me dropping it, standing on it and a glass of water being accidentally thrown over it (I'd caution against repeating these scenarios -- I may just be extremely lucky), is incredible.
Of course, I still use Xbox Music, Google Plus Photos, Google Drive and SkyDrive -- a portable hard drive can't match them for convenience. What it can do, though, is add both an essential backup to those services, and beat them in situations where you don't have unlimited data, or accessible WiFi, or just want to immediately watch a film or TV show. Until Internet access is ubiquitous, incredibly fast and unlimited, storage drives will always have their place in the world. For the Seagate Slim, it's a small place. Literally.
Seagate Backup Plus Slim Portable Drive is available from seagate.com at $69.99 for 500GB or 1TB and $129.99 for 2TB.