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What is Cloud Storage?

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We had a customer one time, we’ll call him Bob, who accidentally ran over his laptop with his car. This thing was pulverized. I don’t know the details of how this laptop got to be on the ground, but Bob’s wife had passed away recently and the only place that he knew of that he had photos of her was on this laptop. I told Bob when he came in with the laptop that there was zero chance of getting any information off of that hard drive at all. So we talked about different ways of backing up photos and documents for the future.

What is the “cloud”?

Now that fast, broadband Internet access is more common, cloud storage has become a more popular way to back up files. Have you ever seen a diagram of the Internet? This diagram shows all the interconnections between every computer in the world, mostly anyway. To me it looks more like a tumbleweed than a cloud honestly, but “cloud” is the nickname it has nonetheless. So cloud storage then is just a fancy term for letting a company keep your files on one of their computers that’s connected to the Internet, but physically located somewhere else in the country or even the world. As a side note, thinking of the Internet as a cloud is a great way to distinguish between the terms “upload” and “download”. You upload things up to the cloud, and download them from the cloud down to your computer or mobile device.

diagram of the Internet resembling a cloud

Who provides cloud storage?

There are many common cloud storage services that the average person might use to store files. The biggest and most well known are Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and Google’s Drive. Dropbox is another one that specializes in storing files with the express intent of sharing them with others under the assumption that those files are too large to send via email. Amazon, Samsung, and a whole host of other companies have cloud storage available to the general public as well.

Why use cloud storage?

Cloud storage is a great way to back up your files in case something happens to your computer. Cloud storage companies have multiple redundancies in place to prevent data loss. It’s also a great way to be able to access your files from different places. For example, you could create and edit work documents from a computer at home and a computer at work. Also, you could store pictures somewhere on the cloud and see those same pictures from your computer, your tablet, and your phone. It’s also a great way to share photos and videos and other files with other people. Additionally, cloud storage companies often have amazingly solid encryption so they can store files more securely than a small business or individual can on their own.

It’s not all roses and butterflies though. To access files stored on the cloud, you must have a working Internet connection. If you have an unreliable Internet connection, working with files stored elsewhere is going to be stressful. Most of the time cloud storage is free, but cloud storage can cost a monthly fee if you need more space. Privacy can be a concern too. Sometimes the company you’re working with to store your files can have a clause that allows them access to your files. Even if they say they won’t, just knowing that it’s possible can be a deal breaker. And while a company is generally going to have solid security, larger companies are often larger targets for hackers. If you are dead set against anyone else seeing your stuff, store it locally on USB flash drives or an external hard drive instead of on the cloud.

A happy ending

So what happened with Bob and his obliterated laptop then? Well, like many people Bob had no idea what cloud storage is, but he had been using a Microsoft account with his laptop and his files were being saved in OneDrive on Microsoft’s servers anyway. When we went to set up a new laptop for him, we logged in to his Microsoft account and OneDrive showed his photos in the Pictures folder just fine! All’s well that ends well. We hope you found this article useful. If you’d like more information, you’re welcome to contact us via phone, email, Facebook, or in person.

Image by The Opte Project – Originally from the English Wikipedia; description page is/was here., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25698718

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