Before you go “to the cloud,” you should have an understanding of what that really means. “The cloud” is nothing more than a catchy buzz-word for the various networks and servers that make up the Internet; the very same Internet that you are using to access this blog post. Continuing advancements in technology are making it easier and more practical to access almost anything (documents, pictures, videos, etc.) from anywhere (mobile devices) via “the cloud.”
Expanding somewhat on that definition, let’s discuss “cloud storage.” You are probably familiar with typical computer storage whereby data keyed or brought into a computer is saved to some sort of disk device. From your home PC this is generally either a local hard drive, CD, DVD, or USB flash drive (a.k.a. jump drive). This same concept also applies to a home or business network drive where the data is stored on some network computer’s hard drive. “Cloud storage” in its pure form follows a similar process but is provided as a service from a data storage company. When data is stored in the cloud, it is stored on some server within the selected company’s network and is accessible over the Internet.
So why might you want to take advantage of “cloud storage?” The main reason is the accessibility of the data. Generally all that is needed for you to access your data is a device that is capable of connecting to the Internet from your current location. This can be the PC in your hotel lobby, a Wi-Fi connected laptop at your favorite coffee shop, or anywhere else a mobile device can get reception. You do not need access to your local PC or even have the portable storage device (CD, DVD, or flash drive) with you.
Here are some other considerations that should be taken into account before utilizing cloud storage. As with any other service, your cloud storage experience will depend on the company you choose and how well their product fits your needs. Therefore, be sure to do further research before deciding which cloud storage company to use.
- Cost – some storage companies may offer small amounts of cloud storage for free (e.g. Dropbox).
- Data availability – data may be backed-up regularly and disk drives protected against failure in order to ensure your data is available.
- Security – make sure you understand how your data will be secured both as it is transferred to/from the company’s site and as it is stored on the company’s servers. The level of importance here depends on the type of files you will be storing in the cloud. For example, security may not be as critical for pictures or music as it would for documents containing personal information.
- Performance – although the reliability and speed of your Internet connection will affect this, the cloud storage company’s hardware and system setup will also have an impact on how fast you can access your files.
Please feel free to share your own “cloud storage” experiences with us.