The future is in the cloud. For most of computing history we have stored files locally on individual hard disks. Yet there has always been a desire for portability. Floppy disks were only the beginning. We then graduated to ZIP disks for greater storage capacity. Writable CDs increased capacity for portable media. Flash drives have been the largest capacity and most stable portable media. Yet even those are becoming less and less popular, thanks to cloud storage services.
When you upload files to a cloud storage service, they are available anywhere you have an internet connection. That might have seemed restrictive years ago, but with the drastic increase in smartphone usage, it seems we always have an internet connection available. Does that make the cloud the present as well as the future of file storage?
Probably not. There are still many dangers when hosting files in the cloud.
When you host files in the cloud, you host them remotely. That’s the key word. You are not hosting them on your own machine. You are hosting them with someone else’s, in a location you may never see. The hosting company is responsible for the security of your files. Are you comfortable with a third party taking care of what you might consider important information?
Security breaches at cloud hosting services do occur. Just this past summer Dropbox, perhaps the most well-known cloud hosting service, experienced a hack that put many customer accounts at risk. An inclined hacker could have conceivably stolen sensitive files from any number of accounts. An even more inclined hacker could continue finding security exploits in the Dropbox system, putting more accounts at risk.
Users must take care to properly protect their accounts. This means choosing a strong password and changing it at regular intervals. It can also mean keeping especially sensitive files off cloud servers. That itself makes the service less useful.
The other problem with hosting files on someone else’s servers is that when they go down, you’re out of luck. No server stays up 100 percent of the time. Whether it’s for scheduled maintenance, a planned server migration, or just general crashing, you might not have access to your files at all times. The lack of access is only temporary, but it might come at the wrong time. At that point you’re out of luck.
The good news is that cloud services are mostly reliable. Yet it’s the moments of downtime that can make cloud storage an unreliable storage system. There is also a risk, albeit small, that they lose your data. Most cloud services use many different servers in many different places to store files. They are merely renting room from whoever has the capacity available. If one of those data centers experiences issues, you might lose those files.
As with most technology, cloud hosting services will become more reliable with time. As servers continue getting smaller and we can store more information on them, there will be more intricate backup systems. But right now they’re not quite reliable yet.
While most people have an always-on internet connection via a smartphone, not everyone has one. Using a cloud hosting service without a smartphone doesn’t provide the highest level of convenience. In fact, users without smartphones would be better off storing files on USB drives and other portable media. They will prove more reliable and convenient for those who don’t have an always-on smartphone connection.
Even smartphone users might run into issues. While most populated areas have fast and reliable wireless data connections, there are still many areas that are not well covered. In any area without a signal, a cloud storage service is useless. Weak coverage can prove just a big a hassle. Files can take long to download, if they download at all.
The expansion of 4G LTE networks will help solve this issue, but even the largest wireless carriers are still experiencing growing pains with LTE. It will also take them years to roll it out in all markets. Without an internet connection, cloud storage services are useless.
Still mostly good
All of this is not to discourage anyone from using cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive. They are highly useful services when used correctly. Since both have free tiers, there is little reason for users to not give them a try and see how cloud storage services work for them.
Users must take caution, though, before uploading files to the cloud. Users with sensitive files, or files that they might need on a moment’s notice, might do better to store those files locally. That is, if security, reliability, and convenience are priorities, cloud services might not be the solution. In the future they will provide more of all three. But for now users should take care. Think before you upload.
Author Bio:- Joe Pawlikowski writes and edits many tech blogs across the web, including the BlackBerry blog BBGeeks. He looks to enterprise cloud hosting providers to fulfill his remote storage needs.