Outgrown the SSD in Your Laptop? Here’s What to Do

If you’ve purchased a laptop sometime in the last couple of years, you know that we’re living in interesting times when it comes to storing all of our crap on our computers.

While you might think that the march of technology would have solved our storage problems by now, it’s actually done anything but. We have faster storage technology that’s looking to unseat the hard drive as the default storage mechanism, but slow adoption, small capacities, and high prices have made this a very slow revolution indeed.

There’s a very simple problem that laptop owners are experiencing lately, and it has to do with the what and how of the things we store on our laptops. Here’s the problem:

SSD is the heir apparent to HDD

There are two main points I want to drive home here, and the first is that your next laptop simply needs to have an SSD. If you’re not familiar with the term, SSD stands for solid-state drive, and right now it’s looking like the heir apparent to the traditional hard disk drive (HDD).

SSD’s are not only much smaller, but also a great deal faster. My new MacBook Pro boots in something like 20 seconds; my previous, HDD-based MacBook Pro was taking closer to two minutes. Plus, everything else you do on your computer throughout the day will simply happen much quicker and snappier.

Speed or space: pick one

Now, here’s the problem: SSDs are still pretty small. There are practical limitations to how much storage a solid state drive can offer, and you get into seriously pricey territory if you opt for one of the larger drives. The short version is that they can cost several times as much as a comparable hard drive.

Apple is a case study for the awkward position that SSDs have placed the modern laptop owner in. The basic 13” MacBook Pro comes with a built-in 128GB SSD. If you have another desktop machine that serves as your primary computer, this probably isn’t much of a concern. But for the rest of us who like using our MacBooks as our primary computers, this is a bit of a problem.

Quite simply, our digital libraries have only gotten larger over time. I personally have close to 200 gigabytes of music, dozens of gigabytes of photos, and a large library of (perfectly legal) movie files. What happens when I want to take all of that with me?

The best compromise

For years I’ve been using an external hard drive with my laptop – something that more-or-less defeats the purpose of having a light and portable computer. I couldn’t just grab my MacBook and take it into the next room: I had to undock the drive and physically unplug it before I could go on my merry way.

Again, we’re talking serious first-world problems here, but problems nonetheless.

The best solution so far has been cloud storage, but for reasons unknown just about every single cloud provider has gotten it wrong, including Apple. Services like iCloud Drive and DropBox insist on keeping local copies of everything you store in the cloud. What this means is that even though you’re shelling out between $10 and $50 per month for those terabytes of online storage, you also need 5 terabytes of local storage to take full advantage of it.

Cloud storage done right

A couple weekends ago I discovered Bitcasa, a cloud storage company founded in 2011. Bitcasa seems to be the only company that understands the predicament that SSD owners find themselves in.

To that end, they’ve introduced what they call the “infinite external cloud drive.” Instead of storing all of your stuff locally and in the cloud, they basically “trick” your computer into thinking your content lives on your computer.

In other words, you can finally leave that clunky hard drive behind.

I put Bitcasa to the test. I copied my iTunes library files and music folders into my Bitcasa drive and pointed iTunes to the new directory. Everything was seamless, gapless, and sounded just like it was playing off my computer’s drive. Very impressive.

It’s not streaming, exactly; Bitcasa does use a locally-stored cache to make this as seamless as possible. You can choose how large you want the cache to be.

I’ve tried almost every other cloud provider for a solution to my iTunes problem, but this is the first one that’s gotten it right. Frankly, it feels like the future has finally arrived. It’s not without its drawbacks, obviously; simply getting that much music uploaded took quite a lot longer than I expected. But that’s only needs to happen once.

By and large, Bitcasa has effectively solved the largest annoyance I have with Apple’s latest notebooks. I hope Cupertino is taking notes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sell my non-vital organs to buy a 4TB solid-state drive.

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