Cloud Storage — should I use it?

Cloud Backups, should I use it? What is cloud storage? From a users’ point of view, it’s simply an endless amount of disk space that resides “in the Internet” and is available for you to store your files (including music and photos). This space is secure, cheap and highly available for all your backup/restore needs. Remember, Cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. Technically, it’s networked online storage accessed through the internet (or WAN) connection. Its several servers or nodes clustered together forming large storage pools. The architecture is scalable, economical and manageable. But, you don’t really need to be concerned with this part – this is what the hosting company does.

There are several products available that provide this service. I recommend searching the Internet for products, features and pricing. One starting point is to get an idea of what your storage requirements are and what features you would like. Pricing varies based on the initial amount of storage you are going to use.

Advantages of using Cloud backup software:
• A copy of your data is stored offsite (outside of your house). Storing data on an external hard drive is still vulnerable for hardware issues and house related issues (such as floods and fires).

• Many services monitor your file changes and will back up the files as they change without your intervention (you don’t have to worry about scheduling backups). There is a small product that gets installed locally on your computer.

• Files can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection and the proper account information

• Scalable, you can increase storage limits as needed.

Concerns using Cloud backup software:
• Security (see below for more information)

• Performance is slower than local hard drives because you are going through a network connection.

• Point of vulnerability is your Internet connection

• There can still be hardware issues with the solutions provider, cloud computing is not infallible.

Security – deserves a paragraph on its own. Whether it’s your business or personal data, everyone is nervous about moving their data to an external provider. Are you willing to give control of your data to someone else? Most providers will encrypt the data in transit as well as when it’s at rest. Double encryption equals harder to crack. And, each customer should have their own encryption key.

Large providers, such as Amazon and Verizon vs. smaller startup type providers. Obviously, you should have more stability with the larger providers. Although, I have had a few issues with cloud instances being unavailable for several hours (but, that’s a different issue). There are so many small vendors that you have to question whether they will all be around in a few years. So, I wouldn’t put anything critical on the smaller providers sites. How would you feel if, the vendor suddenly went away and you no longer had access to your data?

There are also different types of software that use cloud storage. One is strictly for backup purposes and the other is for file sharing. You should consider your needs and make the decision accordingly. Pricing is comparable – it’s just a matter of what functionality you need.

There is another cool option for safely storing your data. There are now external hard drives that are both fire and water proof. They hold large amounts of data for about $150-$200. If you really don’t want to store data in the cloud and don’t have a need to share files with people outside your house – this may be the best option.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the “Cloud”