Storing and securing sensitive data is a more pressing and immediate concern than it ever was before. Whether you are a small business owner looking to keep your customers orders, addresses, and information safe, or you simply want to make sure that you have all of your personal files in a secure place, cloud storage solutions could represent the best option.
What is cloud storage?
In the shortest possible terms, cloud storage is a way to store data and files outside of your computer or smartphone. In this way, the cloud is a lot like having an external hard drive. The main difference is that files stored in a cloud are kept in an off-site data center so that they can be accessed via an online account.
The Internet is absolutely crucial to the functioning of cloud storage services. When you retrieve your files, you are essentially accessing another device remotely to access your files. There are three main types of cloud storage solutions:
IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
IaaS solutions are generally restricted to the big players of the tech world. Corporations such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google rent massive computing infrastructures to other businesses. These businesses will store their sensitive files and data within these secure infrastructures to facilitate their international or global functioning.
PaaS (Platform as a Service)
PaaS solutions are mid-sized services that tend to function as online spaces for individual developers who want to create online applications or software for a niche set of users.
SaaS (Software as a Service)
SaaS solutions are entirely online and tend to be the most accessible to individual users and small businesses. One example of this type of cloud storage is Dropbox.
Most of the readily available cloud storage solutions used by private individuals are SaaS solutions that offer affordable access to secure storage, usually with space limits of 1 to 3 GB at the entry-level.
Benefits of cloud storage systems
There are a number of benefits to using a cloud storage service, either for personal files or as the start of a small business venture. These include, but are not limited to:
Cloud storage options offer flexibility that using a single device or hard drive cannot. As well as being accessible to a number of approved devices, cloud storage allows you to download and access only the files you need, rather than keeping huge amounts of information on a personal laptop or desktop.
Ease of access
As long as you have Internet access, you will be able to upload and download any files you wish to access or store in the cloud. This makes it much easier to work on the go or modify information when you are away from your day-to-day device (without compromising the security of the files).
While investing in highly secure storage for large volumes of files on-site can be costly, both in terms of the cost of hardware and the secondary costs associated with running and maintenance, cloud storage is affordable. There are many SaaS platforms such as Dropbox that offer free accounts with storage limits as well as larger storage limits for as little as $15 per month.
A reputable cloud storage service has inbuilt security measures to prevent hacking or unwanted access to your files. This can be harder to achieve with a personal device or on-site form of storage if you do not have the money to invest in professional help and maintenance.
The potential risks of the cloud
Of course, there are also risks and drawbacks to consider when you are thinking about investing in cloud storage solutions. These include:
Mandatory Internet access
If you want to access your cloud storage, you need to have Internet access. If something causes your Internet to go down, you will not be able to access your cloud storage until you gain a connection once again.
Cloud storage service providers are businesses; they want to keep you with them. As such, it can be hard to migrate files and data from one service to another without spending a lot of time doing it manually. This is a kind of ‘Vendor Lock-In” that can be inconvenient. Be sure to research cloud systems before making a choice.
Security is both a pro and a con because, while most SaaS providers can offer more security than an individual can create alone, they still have weak spots. If you store lots of personal financial or sensitive information, or you have customer details and financial information to protect a more robust (and expensive) service may be necessary.
The best way to ensure that you are getting the best solutions for your personal or business files, especially when you are new to the concept, is to consider what experts have to say. Check out this cloud storage review from SFGate to get a great overview of the most popular systems on offer right now.
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by MJ Tierney.