Whether you know about cloud-based storage or not, chances are, you are already using it. From sending emails to using Google Docs, to sharing documents — cloud storage is here to stay.

But do you know everything about cloud storage? Using a cloud-based storage service means:

Affordable pricing compared to physical storage devices

Easy setup with no extra infrastructure

Storage can be increased or decreased according to requirements

In the event of a disaster, files are easy to recover

If you’re thinking about moving data to the cloud but are still confused about the technology, this is the perfect guide for you. Here is everything you’ll need to know about cloud-based storage, in a nutshell.

Files Stored in The Cloud Are Accessible From Anywhere

Once files get stored in the cloud, they’re accessible from anywhere, unless you’re somewhere with no internet connection.

All that’s required to access data are login credentials.

Since there are no extra devices or cables to carry around, you’ll never be stuck having forgotten to take a major file to the office and running back for it.

Files just have to get uploaded the cloud storage service of your choosing, and that’s it really, simplicity itself I’d say.

However, some services are better than others at data retrieval, so be sure to carefully select a service, based on your needs and internet speeds.

The Cloud Makes Collaboration Easy

One of the primary reasons why businesses have adopted cloud technology is because it makes collaboration smooth, easier, and faster.

Employees no longer need to have meetings in their offices or work together on a document, by sitting next to each other.

Today, meetings happen on Slack and document collaboration is possible via Google Drive and Dropbox.

The cloud has also pushed the culture of working remotely in companies around the world, with 45% of US employees working from home.

Cloud Data is Stored in A Remote Location (And Location Matters)

Here’s one common question a lot of people ask. If my data doesn’t get stored on a computer, then where is it exactly?

Well, the answer is a bit complicated

Cloud data usually gets stored on a company’s servers in a remote area, the exact location of which depends on the cloud storage service provider.

For instance, Dropbox has its servers in the US and Ireland, and Google Drive has data centers spread across:

The United States

Taiwan

Europe

But despite the location of their servers, companies clearly specify that all data is subject to US laws–which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Cloud storage services that don’t have any servers in the US  are not subject to US laws — which is a good thing.

And the locations are important, because as soon as data gets uploaded to the cloud, it can be seen and accessed by the US government, without any prior notification or consent.

It doesn’t matter whether the data is deleted later, once it’s uploaded, it’s out. While the snooping issue might not be a big deal for people who upload non-sensitive data, for large enterprises, snooping can be a major problem.

In fact, cloud storage laws are the reason why many corporate companies still own and set up their private servers and infrastructure.

Pro Tip – If you are looking to safeguard your data, I recommend picking out a cloud storage service with servers in Europe. Like Jottacloud, which has servers in Norway, and Tresorit, which is based in Switzerland and Hungary.

Canada is also a great option.

Data Encryption is Essential

With new data breaches happening almost every month, encryption is a significantly crucial way to protect data.

Before going any further, it is important to know the three locations where data should be secured:

When it’s on the user’s computer

When the data is in transit (being uploaded to the cloud)

When the data is on the server (resting in the cloud)

Some cloud storage services, like OneDrive, only provide SSL encryption when the data is in transit, which means files are at rest on the server, it is not encrypted.

So, if a hacker gets into OneDrive’s servers, the data will be right there in a readable format.  Cloud storage services, like iCloud, provide both transit and server side encryption.

But is that enough?

Even when data gets encrypted during transit, it is the cloud storage service that’s doing the encryption. So, not only does the company have access to your data, but you may also not know how the company is encrypting it.

Of course, one way to get out of this problem would be to encrypt data before uploading it to the cloud, personally.

But why do that when there are cloud storage services like CrashPlan and IDrive, which allow users to encrypt data with a custom encryption key.

Also, encrypting data slows down upload and download times, and there will be no way to preview data online; it will always have to be downloaded first.

Many Cloud Storage Companies Can Access Your Data

When signing up for a new service, we often decide to skip the terms and conditions part. After all, who has got the time for it?

But, if I am storing sensitive data on the cloud, shouldn’t I know if a cloud storage company can snoop or access my data?

While looking into the terms and condition section of many cloud storage services, I found one common line in almost all of them – what’s yours will stay yours.

So, what I upload will be mine and the company cannot publish that on its own, but does that mean that a cloud storage company cannot access user data? Not at all.

For instance, while using Google Drive, users might have intellectual property rights, but the company’s ToS page states that users give Google a worldwide license which allows the company to reproduce or modify the data.

It also allows Google to use customer information for data mining and advertising purposes.

Then there is Dropbox, which might not be using customer data for advertising purposes, but the company’s ToS indicate that in the case of a dispute, customers cannot bring out a class-action lawsuit against Dropbox, they just provide an arbitration process.

If you’re already disappointed, know there are also services like SpiderOak and Tresorit that provide zero-knowledge privacy, but they are not as easy-to-use, nor do they integrate as well, compared to Google Drive or Dropbox.

Overall, choosing a cloud storage service is  a call between security and accessibility.

It’s Important for Companies to Check Data Compliance Standards

Every business is supposed to follow a list of standards and regulations, based on its primary industry.

When a company moves its data to the cloud, the same rules apply online as well.

There are several dozen compliances, including these three major ones:

HIPAA

FERPA

CORPA

Before picking a cloud storage service, check if it follows the compliance standards required by your business. If you cannot find them listed on the service’s official website, contact support for confirmation.

In Conclusion…

All in all,  cloud-based storage comes with its baggage.

But the reason why so many people, including me, use cloud storage every day, is because it makes things easier for us. The mobility and ease-of-access that cloud storage brings are unparalleled.

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Instead of depending on local and external drives, we can access work from anywhere and from any device. So, in conclusion, which is your favorite cloud-based storage service? Let us know in the comments section below.

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