It’s hard to think of any technology that has affected the way we live, at a more fundamental level, than cloud storage.
Put simply, cloud computing harnesses all of the world’s computer services (intelligence, storage, analytics, networks, databases, and more) — putting all of this to work on your smartphone and other devices.
Software as a Service (SaaS) as one of the most popular cloud storage solutions, wherein software is able to one in packets over the Internet. This includes the likes of Microsoft 365.
Whereas Platform as a Service (PaaS) systems like Amazon Web Services AWS give developers the ability to program online — ending up with everything from and including:
- ☁️ TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Amazon deliveries, WhatsApp
- ☁️ Driverless cars, UberEats, Google Maps
- ☁️ Your dental record
The last component, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), gives corporations the power to remotely operate their businesses rather than needing to have their own data centre with a manager and buy up physical servers. It’s all there, ready and rentable.
But, what are the risks and benefits of cloud storage? We explore…
Table of Contents:
What is Cloud Storage? 📁
Rather than having to store all of your files and data onto your USB stick, or a portable hard drive, today people are very comfortable with simply using cloud storage. In extreme cases, an office might need to otherwise by its own server. The servers would need to be stored off-site, somewhere secure. Furthermore, backups of data would need to be made regularly, the saved on multiple sites and centres.
Instead, all of this is arranged for you at points across the world, in a distributed way so that no single server contains all of your data. If one of these is hit by natural disaster, your files are secure. And you access them whenever you want using the Internet from your home or office.
Online businesses have the options of many different cloud drive services — these come with their idiosyncratic risks and benefits. At a glance:
- ✔️ The cloud offers convenience for storing all of your most crucial files.
- ✔️ Using cloud storage, you can access your most important files from anywhere — documents, music, movies and more.
- ✔️ But using cloud storage has implications that someone else can see or even access your information (unless there is a zero information mechanism).
- ✔️ Knowing the downtime: the best cloud providers have a track record of dependability, which gives you a sense of how they will perform in the future. View the latest posts by the cybersecurity site, CISA.
History of Cloud Storage’s Development and Transformation
Humble Beginnings: Cloud computing first developed as a concept in the 1960s, going back to ARPANET. In fact, mainframe computing started as early as the 1950s. However, the 1960s saw the US Advanced Research Projects Agency. This agency began connecting all of the various computing points. This eventually led to The Terminator movie… Just kidding. The result was ARPANET, which enabled multiple computers to connect with each other as well as share information. This was in fact the precursor to the Internet and its cloud computing and cloud storage backbone.
Consumer-Focused Services: It wasn’t until the 1990s that cloud computing began to focus on providing services for consumers using cloud technology. Before this, there weren’t really any customer-facing offerings. However, AT&T create a service called PersonaLink Services in 1994 which it advertised as ‘the cloud’. On offer were both personal communications and business exchanges that also let people store online files. This is one of the first ever services offering online storage—before this, everyone had to use floppy disks.
Salesforce also offered cloud storage solutions, as one of the first cloud computing services for business Software-as-a-Service programs. The main selling point was that these companies were existent online. There was no need for any physical programs for them to be used. This was a revolution in cloud computing and it was the beginning of SaaS as an industry.
Modern Cloud Storage: the raw giant of cloud storage was Amazon. They were the first to launch a major cloud storage provision, known as Amazon Web Services. In 2006, this grew in popularity. In fact, several other cloud storage names, including Dropbox, operate inside of the Amazon Web Services architecture, providing storage for these companies. We see many other major offerings since then, such as Google Drive.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
So we’ve covered what cloud storage is. Let’s go over some of the benefits of cloud storage.
Access is the central benefit of cloud storage. Almost all cloud services give their users a very accessible interface that lets them drag and drop files at a whim. For example, let’s look at Google Drive, there is also iDrive for Apple.
Both of these have an extraordinarily simple interface that lets you very quickly upload files and copy and share without needing any special training. For instance, you could save a file onto Drive on your mobile phone, and retrieve it via your computer or any other device that has internet connectivity. It’s irrelevant what your location is. As long as you have a good enough Internet connection, you can get access to these documents and give somebody else the right to also view, modify and share their own.
We will look at the other end of this in the risk section of this article. But, of course, whenever you are handling information over the Internet, the safety of your information is a key concern. Companies will also need to use a trustworthy cloud storage service.
Cloud storage companies save your data using redundant servers, which in effect means that even if one of the data centres gets swallowed in an earthquake, the data will still be protected by other data centres.
This means your data is theoretically safe and under supervision regardless. The only way that your information could be totally lost, theoretically, is if every data centre was destroyed. But a large cloud service provider will have thousands of data centres scattered around the world. Backups of your information may be kept in other data centres too, so that even in cases of corruption or losing data it is still protected.
It’s simply untenable to operate and manage your own servers, in the bulk of cases, if you are running a big business. Cloud storage services are simply a way to outsource this storage issue.
By using storage services, businesses are streamlining their expenses. Internal resources are greatly reduced. Not only is there no internal electrical power needed, but the cloud storage vendor also handles the management and operation of the physical servers holding your information. A few of the major cloud storage services offer lifetime deals for small businesses and even individual users.
We could have placed this as the top benefit of using the cloud storage service. Every single reputable cloud storage service offers the ability to share files with other users, quickly and virtually instantly.
You simply give permissions to your selected users and give them the link. Comments and edits on documents can be tracked. Multiple users can review your data. And most cloud storage vendors allow multiple users to work on a document at the same time. This is an enormous increase in productivity and time efficiency—facilitating collaboration. A good cloud storage service provider will have efficient organisation and an assortment of files and folders.
Synchronisation and scalability
How storage would not be as effective if your data was not synchronised with devices instantly. Cloud storage allows data to be accessed from any device wherever in the world, using synchronisation. As long as you have the right permissions, you can access the service and view your data without needing to make any copies from that device.
Not only is it flexible, but cloud storage is also scalable. If you do not have enough data storage permissions, you can increase the size of data movable from one location to another. And there are extra features that can come with higher pricing plans suitable for e-commerce and enterprises.
Risks of Cloud Storage
Your data belongs to you. The worst situation might well be if somebody gets access to your data without you allowing them to do so. You know for sure that nobody has access to your data if you carry it around with you on a physical device such as a cryptocurrency wallet.
Crypto hard wallets exist for a reason… People understand that the online environment is a terrain full of bandits and cyber criminals. It’s naïve to believe that your data is totally secure when it is online because of the existence of malware and other cyber viruses.
These bits of programmed warfare can be put to work to target your information. It’s only in recent times a massive proportion of this has been focused on financial markets, owing to the increase in online trading for retail investors. But during the pandemic, we saw an immense number of attacks on businesses and organisations like healthcare—which bore the brunt of cyber attacks.
With this in mind, you must strike a careful balance between knowing what data you can store over the cloud and what is best left to physical hardware. Whenever you migrate sensitive information onto the cloud, there is a possibility that it is less private than otherwise.
Another Person Has the Data
Let’s get straight to the point. When you are using a cloud service provider, you are essentially hiring somebody else to store your information on their computers. How trustworthy this provider is depends on many factors. That’s why the saying “it’s not the cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer” has become so popular. Although it is a simplification, it’s not untrue.
Let’s explain how cloud storage companies work. When you use a cloud storage company, you are paying for somebody who has control of a server or multiple servers. These servers are allocated to other cloud storage users. If you are using a shared hosting plan or a VPS plan, for example, multiple people are using the same server.
With virtual private servers, certain programming is used to artificially turn your allocation of the server into a private server. This gives you extra barriers in case some unknown third party tries to corrupt opt that server with malicious coding.
However, this itself is also a simplification. Data isn’t typically stored on a single server. Instead, packets of it are stored across different locations. There are certain protocols that encrypt your data to safeguard against cyber attacks. The most secure systems are purportedly zero-knowledge cloud services— in essence, these mean that the service provider has no idea what information is being stored on its servers. It’s technically impossible, unless they have access to your encryption keys, which only you have access to. Theoretically, nobody should be able to access your data without your password.
So your data should not be shared. However, unless you are using a dedicated server, the facilities will be. As long as your server is secured well, that should not be an issue. But there have been instances where problems have been known to happen. Dangerous files have been anonymously filtered into the server.
So is very important to go with a company that has a strong track record for robust security and third-party audits. Some people go so far as to create their own private clouds using a NAS. However, this is not a particularly budget solution. Nevertheless, it’s really the only way of knowing that your data is your own.
Finally, there is a chance that your cloud service will have downtime. Even Google Drive has, in rare instances, experienced these. These are not common with the major cloud service providers, but they can be bugs in the cloud centres that totally kick out its service. The best services will have inbuilt disaster recovery features that proactively handle backups so that your information does not totally disappear.
We’ve written articles on censorship and government intrusion on data. And there have been instances broadcasted on an international scale, such as Edward Snowdon whistleblowing against surveillance by the NSA. Supposedly, several thousand companies have left American shores after this situation. Ultimately, it’s probably best to not have any data that you wouldn’t want anybody to legally know about.
A bit more on cybercrime. This really reached the forefront of many people’s minds after the ransomware attack by WannaCry. This led to an enormous amount of money lost, chaos, and hackers have been a growing concern ever since. It’s worth keeping in mind that some car companies have more robust security than others.
Dropbox, for instance, has a long track record of major security breaches. To avoid this situation, should make sure that your service provider offers industry-grade encryption, and the best protocols, ideally do not log your data activities and also has zero knowledge protocols with the staff members. Many breaches occur from bad actors working inside of the cloud providers themselves.
Ownership and Legal Obligation
There are actually certain legal dynamics that take place once you transfer your data to a cloud service. This is probably the most applicable in the United States, where litigation lawyers are very active. But your license agreement will impact the nature of ownership of your data once you transfer it. Lawmakers are still behind the speed of this new technology boom. So this question is an evolving one. You should opt for a company that makes it very clear who owns the stored data.
In terms of liability, what happens when this data breaks the laws of a certain region? Some people encrypt their data before they send it off to the cloud. This is an extra layer of protection.
What about technical problems? It’s fair to say that some of the cloud service providers are so big that it can be very impersonal and ineffective trying to get support for corrupted files and other issues with cloud storage. However, many of these are keeping pace with expectations that this is a customer-focused service. You might want to look for services that offer email and phone support as a standard. Having priority assistance will be more important the more complicated and important your data is.
Lack of Regulations
This might come as a surprise. But there is no standard regulations for cloud storage, in one way of thinking. Cloud storage services have great flexibility of what they do with your data; for instance, we’ve covered the dangers of some of the free VPN providers like Hola, which actually do the opposite of what they proclaim to do.
What else? One benefit of this is that companies can attempt to innovate in this area. Some companies like Sync.com are purportedly doing a good job, offerings security as well as innovative products.
Cloud Storage: Buyer’s Guide
The level of concern you should take with how your cloud storage is managed should be proportional to the importance of that data.
If you are a business doing substantial amounts of orders or handling sensitive data (healthcare data, money and others fall under specific regulations), it’s more important for you to be compliant with industry standards and legal requirements.
But here are a few general factors to consider when choosing your favour cloud storage provider:
We mentioned this before. Crypto wallets are advised, and many major investment companies have taken billions of pounds from hot storage to cold storage, for the very reason that the online environment is indeed a territory where cybercriminals work. There was a constant war raging between antivirus companies, and bad actors, and these sometimes overlap. (Cybercriminals often work in the service providers themselves, giving deeper penetration to outside attackers).
While some cloud storage systems offer robust security features suitable for e-commerce, some are better than others. Features to look out for include two-factor authentication—2FA it’s very simple but highly effective. It simply means that users need to pass an extra test before they can sign in. they have to verify that the code has been sent to the phone number, and they have to correctly input this code in order to access their data.
This is one example of a feature we would consider key for good security. But it is up to you to decide what you think is best for your circumstances. Every bog standard class or service uses encryption keys when transmitting information for uploading, downloading and sharing between users.
The more space you want, the more you typically pay. You usually get a free entry period, such as Google Drive offering a certain amount of space before you need to upgrade for more. How many limits your cloud service company provides will depend on your specific company. Others offer a maximum of our gigabytes, while others get into the terabytes or even unlimited cloud storage.
Multiple Platform Compatibility
Can you retrieve your data via your mobile and desktop or tablet? Does your cloud storage service offer a special mobile integration or app that you can use when on-the-fly? It should be compatible with multiple operating systems, and simply allow you to drag and drop files into different folders using the system.
These up integrations include cross-compatibility with other nonaffiliated platforms. These use APIs to quickly communicate transfers between the different services. You might be using Slack and share a file from Google Drive. Microsoft Office itself is integrated with Google Drive, which includes a good move of other integrated programs that include Google Sheets, Gmail, and others. You want the most compatible customer system so that you can talk to the largest amount of apps when being productive.
And you also looking for a solution that has an attractive interface that is also intuitive. How is a support team? Can they be reached when you need them the most?
Finally, businesses will be particularly concerned with the scalability of the cloud service provider. This includes elements of all of the above. A good cloud service provider for business will be very well attuned to integrating compliance with the various industries, such as HIPAA for storing healthcare data. You’ll be able to talk to our wide number of apps that businesses commonly used for their team productivity. And they should also be able to grow with your changing needs. If your business month is going slow, that you may need lower storage space—can you easily tweak your subscription level?
Cloud Storage: FAQs
What Is the Public Cloud?
The public cloud represents anything that uses able to access using the Internet for free or using their own personal credit or debit card. The public cloud service is made to be very accessible in public spaces across the planet. Companies who want to reduce their overhead when they first begin operating may rely on the public cloud rather than their own Internet. For extra security, some people opt for virtual private networks while using the public cloud.
What Is a Private Cloud?
This works in the same way, giving you easy access wherever you are. The difference is that your data and files are put behind a firewall that is not publicly accessible. Only the company staff members have access. And the actual service can be tailored to meet the requirements of your business infrastructure. For instance, some of the big Fortune 500 firms like GE use private clouds in order to manage their cloud storage matters.
What is a Hybrid Cloud?
For the bigger companies out there, it’s not always a straightforward or sensible decision to migrate from old IT to the private cloud. There are cost, scalability and security issues comes into play. This can be very complicated. So some of the older firms with lots of data stored across time up to go for a hybrid cloud setup. This gives them the ability to use the public cloud system under certain contexts while integrating this into the fabric of their own in-house, private server resources. A few examples of companies that go for this approach include IBM, Cisco, Hewlett Packard and Dell.
How Should I Select Her Right Cloud Storage Provider?
Once again, this gets very complicated according to your specific circumstance. The first step is to know how much data you have to store. What kind of data do you store? How secure do you need it to be? Are there are regulatory requirements such as if you are storing data related to customers? Where does data need to be accessed?
If you find that the questions you have are quite legally complicated, then you probably need to talk to a data manager Or data protection officer. But for normal circumstances, it’s enough to rouse the features of your cloud service provider or to talk to their expert support team using chat or phone, or email. Have an idea of how many terabytes this will amount to in the years ahead to make a good comparison on how the different cloud drive companies measure up against each other..
How Hard Is It to Migrate My Data to a Cloud Server?
A good way to gain a while back for this is to work with cloud storage specialists, who will give you a strategy for planning out your storage and equipment needed. They should look at your current circumstances, objectives and future projections. And education for your team members should be involved as part of the process for maintenance and proper use. This will give you a systemised migration.
Closing Thoughts 📘
It is quite possible that storing data on physical machines will become even more uncommon as time goes on…
But as long as the internet is not completely secure, then there will always be a reason to store the most important data on physical hardware. It’ssimply much harder to obtain data that you have in your back pocket or stored in a safe in a vault somewhere. And this is a large reason why most people will advise storing substantial amounts of crypto in a cold storage way rather than online.
There are clearly an immense number of benefits to relying on cloud storage, nonetheless. There is a immense automation of backups, mobile access, scalability, connectivity, and all-around flexibility. These talk to an abundance of third-party programs. It also functions as a way of delivering applications themselves—cloud storage makes possible everything from driverless cars to mobile YouTube and Netflix. And developers allow this to expand pre-existing technologies.
We’ve only really discussed the edges of how beneficial cloud computing has been. We’ve only really discussed the edges of the dangers of cloud computing. Really, we are discussing the impact of the Internet itself, which is the sharing of information online remotely without you needing to carry round information with you. This issue—the risks and benefits of cloud storage—will therefore remain a major cultural and technological question in the future.