Anyone who has ever lost data to a computer crash will know how important it is to create backups. The crash might have happened through physical destruction of the hard drive, a virus requiring the drive to be formatted, or simple user error deleting or corrupting files that are critical to one’s work.
The possibilities are endless—even standard software updates can cause files to have problems. And that means you need to make backups.
But how do you do that? It can take time and hardware to make backups manually. There has to be a method of backing up software that makes it easy and fast.
As a matter of fact, there is: Cloud storage. The idea behind this method of making backup files is that most of the legwork is done by your computer and the cloud storage service you use. But how does this all work? There are a lot of potential features to a cloud storage service, as well as some core fundamentals. We will go over each of them and explain how they work so you know what you need.
Table of Contents:
How Cloud Storage Works ☁️
Let’s start with talking about what is going on when you store something “in the cloud”.
Cloud storage means that rather than files being stored on your computer, they are stored on a server belonging to whatever cloud storage service you are using. The most common examples are Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, because they are both free and come bundled with other tools.
In the cases of both services, you upload your files (either through a web browser or a desktop tool) to a server. That server can then be used to access those files from a different computer. Your files will also stay on that server no matter what happens to your computer. If your computer explodes or gets washed away in a flood or is slain in a dramatic sword fight, the files you uploaded will remain intact.
The reason the cloud is called the cloud is that your files are rarely in one place. Once you upload your files to a Google Drive, for example, Google is not just going to keep those files on one server. If they did, it would create the same liability of that server being lost as exists with your local hard drive.
Google Drive, and just about every other cloud storage service, creates backups for your backups. Your files are stored on multiple servers simultaneously, meaning that even if one server goes down, you can still access your files.
What are the Core Features of Cloud Storage? ➡️
The main thing that cloud storage has to do is store your files. Ideally, a cloud storage service will be able to store files of any type, whether they be .RTF documents or .EXE programs. At this point it is uncommon for cloud storage services to be limited by filetype. More often they are limited by space.
When you use a cloud storage service, you should be careful to select one that meets your storage space needs. Some will give you a few gigabytes of storage space, while others will give you a few terabytes.
Cloud storage in the amount of terabytes is usually intended for specific tasks. Most people do not need two to four terabytes of storage unless they are doing work that requires them to backup numerous files of incredible size, or if they want to back up their entire computer.
The last important feature of cloud storage is file sharing. It’s not really cloud storage if you can’t access your own files from elsewhere, but file sharing takes it a bit further. There are a few options to this, but what you will see most frequently is the ability to share a link that goes to where the file is stored.
This link might also initiate a download immediately, but not all cloud storage services design it like that.
What are the Secondary Features of Cloud Storage Services? 👀️
So, we have gone over the things that cloud storage has to have: You have to be able to store things remotely, store any file type, know how much space you have, and send files to other people.
But many cloud storage services will have other features that set them apart from the competition. These will also be used to justify their prices. But just what secondary features are the best?
The most commonly implemented feature that is not part of the “core” cloud storage package is easily the ability to automatically upload your files to the server (from a definition of “automatic”).
What happens here is that you designate a folder on your hard drive for a desktop app to treat as the “upload folder”. Some apps will even allow you to upload files from multiple folders onto their cloud storage.
Then, at a set time of day, the application will upload everything in that folder to the cloud storage server. Though some services will just upload things as you move them into the folder as well.
Jumping off from that, another common secondary feature is the ability to upload your entire hard drive and operating system onto the cloud storage server. This is great for people who want to be able to restore their entire computer if the hard drive gets corrupted by a virus or physically damaged.
Essentially, you use this feature to create a “restore point” for your computer. Some cloud storage services will even allow you to download these backups onto your computer remotely. This can be great for bypassing ransomware and restoring computers that would otherwise be lost.
What do Cloud Storage Services do for Businesses? 👨💼️
How are Cloud Storage Services Kept Secure? 🔑️
Most of the features we have mentioned so far have been focused on serving individual users. But businesses and business owners arguably benefit from cloud storage more than anyone. How?
Well, consider the fact that something like a video editing studio, a graphic design workshop, or an app development firm might need cloud storage in order for their projects to work at all. Each of these industries, and many more, need individual files to be edited by multiple people.
Cloud storage is the only way to do this without necessitating that everyone be using the same computer. Many cloud storage services that are focused on businesses will also have plans specifically to facilitate this. For instance, they will have administrative tools for organising teams.
One of the features of administrative tools that sometimes gets used by individual users is the remote desktop system. This allows someone, usually an administrator or tech support worker, to take control of someone else’s desktop (with their permission, of course) in order to resolve issues the user can’t.
Not everyone has the foresight to ask this question, but fortunately for everyone, most cloud storage services think about this constantly. Security is critical to cloud storage services for many reasons.
The main reason comes from how people use it. Imagine you are just doing your work on a laptop in a coffee shop. It is a desirable environment, making it a common practice. This usually requires you to connect to the internet through a WiFi service, which is a massive security issue.
Hackers will commonly use coffee shops to pick up on people’s data. As computers transmit data over wireless internet, hackers will use “packet sniffer” programs to decode and read the information being transmitted. This can be passwords, classified information, or financial data.
One of the things most cloud storage services will do is encrypt any data that is being uploaded through their application. So, if you use the Microsoft OneDrive application to upload files to your OneDrive, that data is being encrypted before it is sent, meaning that if a hacker finds it, they will not be able to read it.
While basically every cloud storage service uses some form of encryption, the type of encryption you should look for is called “256 key encryption”. This is a form of encryption that replaces every character you are transmitting (so, every number and every letter) with a string of numbers and letters that is between one and 256 characters in length. It would take billions of years to decrypt that.
How Much Should a Cloud Storage Service Cost? 💷️
This is the million-dollar question—literally, in the case of some businesses. A cloud storage service will usually cost an individual between $8 and $20. But remember, the $20 version has some amazing features. Meanwhile, pricing works a little differently for big businesses.
Most of the time, a business will pay by the user at a slightly lower rate. This can be as low as $5 per user or as high as $20 per user. Though again, a $20 per user plan better reinvent your business.
In short, make sure you are not getting overcharged for your cloud storage services.
To recap: A cloud storage service is a method of backing up and sharing files. An individual can use it, but a business can also get a lot out of it.
They are easy to use, secure, and not that expensive. So, be on the lookout for a good deal, and enjoy the convenience and peace of mind they offer to you.