Aside from email, one of the most known and widely used “cloud” services is data storage. As I continue my 30 Days With the Cloud journey, I have a wide choice of online storage options to choose from. Today I will take a look at some of them, and some of the pros and cons of using cloud storage at all.
Google provides online storage for data with Google Docs. The advertised storage allocation is 1GB, which doesn’t sound like much. However, as I pointed out on Day 6, the files I create in Google Docs or convert to Google Docs formats when uploading are not counted against the quota, which means it is virtually unlimited storage.
There are so many other options out there, though, that it is virtually impossible to do them all justice in the course of one short blog post. Microsoft has SkyDrive. Apple recently rolled out iCloud. There are a myriad of startups and other players filling the online storage space as well: Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDox, ADrive, and more.
Pros of Cloud Storage
There are a number of benefits to storing data online. First, having your data stored in the cloud means that you have access to your data from virtually anywhere as long as you have access to the cloud.
In addition, most online storage services also provide some means of sharing files with others–making it easier to collaborate on or deliver large files without clogging up the email system with massive file attachments.
These are two big benefits in favor of cloud storage. If you have ever forgotten a crucial file on your desktop PC, and not had remote access to get it, or if you have ever dealt with the frustration of trying to share and work with a 10MB or larger file via email, you will appreciate the advantages of cloud storage.
Cons of Cloud Storage
There are some potential down sides to storing your data in the cloud as well, though. For starters, having universal access from anywhere you can connect to the Web only works if you can connect to the Web. That means if you don’t have an Internet connection, you don’t have any data.
There are also security concerns to consider. Hopefully the data you store in the cloud is being stored encrypted to it is protected from casual access. However, if the storage provider controls the encryption keys you are A) trusting that the it will do securely and that the keys won’t fall into the wrong hands, and B) trusting that the employees of the storage provider won’t abuse their access to the encryption keys.
One other issue is that when you store your data online you run the risk that it may just be gone one day. The storage provider could have a data center meltdown and your data could just be gone. Buh-bye.
Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust my data in the cloud. Actually, it is more accurate to say that I don’t trust my data solely in the cloud. As much as online storage vendors preach redundancy of data centers and tell me that my data is safe and secure, nobody cares of my data the way I do.
Of course, I also don’t trust my data solely on my local drive either. Basically, when I am using local software and storing my files locally, I back up to the cloud so I know I will have my data even if my house burns down. Now that I am working and living in the cloud and storing my data online to begin with, I feel compelled to back it up locally to guarantee I will still have my data no matter what happens to the cloud storage provider or its data centers.
I am using the storage provided to me by Google Docs, but I have been a long-time user of Box and I like the fact that Box is integrated into many of the mobile apps I use on my iPhone and iPad, and that Box enables me to sync data to a local folder on my PC as well so I can rest assured that I will still have my data no matter what happens to Box.
Of course, I also have accounts with SkyDrive, iCloud, and Dropbox…and maybe a few others. I prefer to try and be consistent, though, so I don’t end up with files scattered willy nilly across the Internet.