Losing data due to a lack of enough digital storage space is a pain, because you’re forced to pick what stays and what goes; sacrificing favorite items to save important ones is a frustrating experience indeed, to put it mildly.
In the past, I’ve had to clean out files to make room for new stuff, of course, devices such as:
- USB flash drives
- SD cards
- External HDDs
Are all excellent storage options, as they’re cheap and portable. But, being physical objects, they can always get lost, damaged or stolen, and the same will happen to your data stored within them.
Instead of using an external hard drive or other removable media, have you pondered using cloud storage instead?
Of course, the question remains, what is cloud storage and what makes it an appealing option in 2016?
Let me explain; cloud storage is a way of saving digital things online, allowing you to protect valuable data from issues that effect things like flash drives, discs, etc.
However, just like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to using this kind of technology.
The Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage
|Anywhere, anytime access||Useless without internet access|
|Public file sharing||Requires monthly payments|
|Great for disaster recovery||Has security and privacy issues|
|Works across multi-OS systems||Easy to confuse with cloud backup|
The Benefits of Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is very much like an external hard drive regarding purpose and functionality; you select files and transfer them to something outside of an internal HDD.
However, unlike an external storage device, the cloud works via an internet connection and not a USB wire.
Most often, cloud storage services require consumers to move files using a web app interface or software installed on a desktop.
Usually, they provide an option to use both.
By saving information off an HDD, you gain more space on it and other benefits that are frequently unavailable to physical storage mediums.
Taking It All with You
The best part of cloud storage is the ability to access files on-the-go.
There’s no need to transfer different files to a flash drive to take them to the office, or send fifteen emails with various parts of a project — to yourself.
Cloud storage provides online sharing, streaming and editing tools.
Most cloud storage services allow users to open specific documents, and make changes to them directly in a browser window. The benefit here is there’s no need to transfer data onto a system, then reload it in the cloud.
In addition to accessing necessary documents, you also gain the benefit of having access to music and video files stored in the cloud.
I love listening to music, but my collection is too large to stick in an MP3 player. Utilising the cloud, I can access music files and listen to my favourite tunes from any:
If there’s an internet connection strong enough to stream media content.
Sharing with Family, Friends, and Co-workers
In addition to accessing data from anywhere, cloud technology also offers the unique ability to share files with anyone.
The sharing feature tends to be specific to cloud storage services only, as cloud backup providers do not allow users to share with others (there are certain exceptions to this rule–like IDrive).
Sharing is beneficial on both personal and professional levels.
Family and friends can enjoy viewing pictures and videos; while co-workers can collaborate on projects without having to wait for emails.
Of course, with sharing come security concerns.
The good news is, only users with an invitation and “key” can access shared files, documents are not available for the public to find via an internet search.
Disadvantages of Cloud Storage
There are many ways cloud storage is beneficial, but to be fair, some areas have given consumers a cause for concern.
The biggest concern of which is privacy.
Users usually worry about spying by server owners, or worse, the government. Cloud storage provides less control over data security, compared to an actual HDD.
Cloud storage also comes with potential connectivity problems. If the internet gets lost or becomes slow, there is no way to reach files stored on someone else’s servers.
Under traditional circumstances this should not be a problem; however, during a disaster, there could be no way to access data in the cloud.
Finally, almost all cloud storage providers allow you to access files from any web browser; however, some require smartphone applications for those who want to enter their account via a tablet or phone.
Consumers using a non-smartphone device may not be able to install the required application.
Personal Cloud Storage
Public cloud companies are excellent services that keep documents and other data safe.
However, there is always the concern about security.
A lot of people are not overly comfortable with corporations storing their information. Many users also worry that parties who own the servers will view their files, or the government might intrude without their permission.
For privacy-conscious consumers, Personal Cloud storage is the way to go.
The cloud server resides in your house and connects to a local network via either Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Like public clouds, the personal version can transfer files from any attached computer.
However, there is a limitation, unlike public clouds; private clouds only access systems connected via Wi-Fi.
There are a few personal cloud options out there, like the Seagate Personal Cloud, that provides remote access when no one is home if its media app is downloaded to a phone or tablet.
Sharing may also be limited to those who can connect to the owner’s home network.
Difference Between Cloud Storage and Online Backup
Often consumers use the terms cloud storage and cloud backup interchangeably. While both cloud storage and online backup allow users to save files offsite; they are not the same thing.
The objective of online backup is to store a mirror copy of data to protect it against loss. By design, service providers automatically include all important files on your system, not just individual ones.
Of course, consumers using a service with limited capacity can pick only the files they want to save, instead of performing a total system backup.
One of the great things about backup software is it works continuously and automatically. The software runs in the background, moving copies of selected files to offsite servers.
Backup software also allows you to choose when it runs, so it doesn’t waste bandwidth.
The downside of online backup services is that files often have to remain on the internal hard drive. Many, not all, companies will delete files from their servers if the originals are missing on your HDD.
Almost all backup businesses will keep deleted files for at least 30 days — before removing them.
Cloud storage isn’t as complicated as it sounds. If you’re like me and have more data than current space allows, then it can be a necessary product to use, unless you want to keep piling on external HDDs.
There are many providers, like:
Which offer a limited amount of free space, since we all need additional storage space from time to time.
Even if you don’t trust a third-party to keep information safe, there are cloud storage services which provide zero-knowledge security.
Like with an external hard drive, cloud storage is yet another way to protect user information. It just comes with a lot of cool extras like sharing, anywhere access, streaming, editing and stuff.
So, please feel free to share your preferred method for safe keeping data, and why it’s so, in the comments section below.