It’s been around for years, but the concept of the cloud is still a difficult one for many to grasp. The name itself, simply a metaphor for the Internet, conjures up visions of important and private data floating around in the ether, which doesn’t evoke a strong sense of security. However, cloud storage is much safer and more secure than many on-site servers and hard drives.
Though you ultimately leave the cloud storage service in the hands of skilled professionals, it doesn’t hurt to understand how it works. Find out how the cloud is changing the technological landscape for businesses and what to look for when choosing a provider.
So what is the cloud?
It may sound like just one more buzzword that will soon pass out of our collective vernacular but, in reality, the concept of cloud computing has been around for decades. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the word “cloud” was first used, but its origins lie in the early days of network design.
A network is basically a collection of computers and other devices (e.g., printers, servers, etc.) that share data over a wireless or cable connection. The best-known example of a computer network would be the Internet, but you likely have one in your home (connecting your personal computer, modem, router, printer, etc.) and office (connecting your computer, your coworkers’ computers, printers, scanners, servers, modems, and routers).
Cloud storage provides additional layers of security that, while not 100 percent guaranteed to keep your data safe, comes much closer than a local storage option.
In earlier years of network design, when engineers charted out their networks, it involved mapping nodes (the devices that originate, route, and terminate the data on the network). While a simple network such as the one you use in your home might involve three or four nodes, a larger network could feasibly have millions. In this scenario, when drawing lines to represent single links between nodes, the diagram can easily become a nebulous blur of connections, with much of the represented activity happening outside of the home or office. Many engineers grouped those external connections together inside a bubble or other similar shape, which led to its eventual designation as “the cloud.”
The cloud as we know it today.
These days, the term is understood as signifying data that is accessed online via the Internet. It’s very likely that you’ve been using websites that use cloud storage without even knowing it—social media, email companies, and banks are just some of the many businesses that utilize the cloud when storing your photographs, emails, files, and other data. Cloud-based companies offer the following benefits:
Think of cloud storage as a self-storage facility. When your belongings get to be too much for the home you live in, it clutters your space, making it difficult to move around and even harder to find something you’re looking for. The perfect solution is an o -site storage unit, where you take all of your extra furniture and boxes, freeing up your home and making it easier to find the things you need. If you want to access your storage unit, simply make a trip over to the facility and grab whatever it is you need. Cloud storage is the same concept—move your excess data to an off-site storage facility, where it is easily and quickly accessible, freeing up space on your computer so it can handle more important tasks.
Why can't I just do it myself?
Perhaps you’ve been storing your company’s data locally on your company computers or on a server maintained by your IT department. Or perhaps you have outsourced it to an IT company. Even if you’re pleased with how it has been working so far, there are several distinct advantages to utilizing cloud storage.
Even if you have virus and malware protection on your company computers, computer viruses change so rapidly that protection can become obsolete if not updated frequently enough…
The most important of these advantages is security. It is likely that any client data you store contains contact and payment information, including addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, or other account numbers—information you absolutely do not want falling into the wrong hands.
Even if you have virus and malware protection on your company computers, computer viruses change so rapidly that protection can become obsolete if not updated frequently enough, (and even when it is, sometimes a new virus can pop up and proliferate before antivirus software engineers can provide updated protection for their product). A particularly nasty virus can completely corrupt your hard drive and wipe out all the data you have saved, which is disastrous for a business of any size.
There is also a threat of hard drive failure, which can occur randomly without any outside influence. A study done by Google shows that 8.6 percent of three-year-old drives fail; many small businesses rely on technology older than that, which only increases the odds of failure. While no one is truly safe from a natural disaster occurring, your office is likely to be much less prepared to handle earthquake, tornado, re, or flood damage than a reinforced data center.
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Cloud storage provides additional layers of security that, while not 100 percent guaranteed to keep your data safe, comes much closer than a local storage option. Most cloud storage services house their servers (where your data is stored) in highly secure data centers that are monitored by surveillance and multi- factor access control systems. An ideal data center is staffed around the clock by trained security guards and authorization to access the server area is extremely limited; in fact, much of the security tasks are performed by automation, eliminating the opportunity for unwarranted accessibility and potential errors. Additionally, many data centers require that personnel be screened when leaving areas that house customer data.
Cloud storage services not only provide security against physical theft or damage of your files, but also against intangible threats (e.g., corrupted files, server failure, etc.) by making frequent backups of your data in multiple locations, a process called “redundancy.”
Good Storage: Cheap at Twice the Price
Think of the bills you pay in your personal life—electric, water, cable, Internet, gas,etc. For the non-necessities, you likely pay a at rate for the entire month, whether or not you watch any TV or browse the Internet. For the public utilities that are necessities, you likely pay a scalable rate; the more you use, the more you pay. The majority of cloud storage solutions o er the same set up, making them work for most organizations regardless of their size and storage needs, from an individual all the way up to a mega-corporation.
Security features can also affect the price of a service. A business with sensitive data might be willing to spend a little more to ensure there are certain precautions in place, such as a remote wipe (the ability to delete files off of a stolen computer by using another device connected to the same cloud service or geo-redundant storage (copies of your data are stored at various data centers spread across a region in order to protect it in the event that physical damage, such as a re, occurs at one data center). Enterprise cloud storage often comes with much more stringent security, better access to support, team management tools, and a price that covers all users, not just individuals.
Want to more tips on how to protect your data? Click here to download the rest of this free eBook.