To start, maybe you are wondering… what actually is the “cloud”? Basically, “the cloud” is just a creative name for a tangible network of connected computers (thousands of servers typically stored in a colossal warehouse, or several hundred colossal warehouses) that provide data or services to other computers. These warehouses are controlled and protected by companies capable of managing immense quantities of data (think Google Docs, Apple (iCloud), and Dropbox).
- Your data is physically out of your hands. You aren’t saving files to a hard drive located inside your office. You are sending your data to another company, which could be anywhere in the world. So, keeping that information safe is now dependent on someone else.
- Privacy... After the well-publicized attack on Apple’s iCloud (The headlines said that the cloud had been hacked, that nude pictures had been stolen from the private accounts of 26 celebrities), users reported feeling more vulnerable and began questioning the security of their data. While the photos were indeed stolen from the victims’ personal accounts, the important distinction that never made headlines was that the cloud wasn’t hacked. The breach was a result of vulnerabilities in Apple’s password security system, enabling persistent hackers to guess the passwords and security questions of select users. (The cloud itself was never actually breached.)
- Even if data isn’t stolen or published, it can still be viewed. Governments can legally request information stored in the cloud, and it’s up to the cloud service provider to deny them access. A large percentage of the time, these companies hand over at least some kind of data, even if it’s not the content in full.
- While cloud storage keeps your data secure from fires, floods, hurricanes, and computer meltdowns, it is not accessible in the event of a system outage. But since there are no geographical limits to cloud storage, you can choose any cloud storage provider. The best cloud providers keep your data safe while dependably accessible, so do your research.
- The biggest cause of concern for Cloud storage isn’t hacked data, it’s lost data. Dropbox recently had a glitch in their sync system that left many subscribers with lost files. For those who only had their files saved on Dropbox, there was no possible way to retrieve them. In this case, redundancy to another cloud platform would have been a good idea.
Benefits of Cloud Storage
If security is your main concern, you should understand that the data you save to the cloud is far more secure than it is on your own hard drive. In addition to the cloud servers being stored offsite, heavily guarded, and away from most personnel, the data is also encrypted, making hacking extremely laborious, if not a formidable task for criminals. Compare that to a malware infection on your computer that could expose all of your data to cybercrooks, and even leave your files vulnerable to ransomware threats.
Cloud storage is also cost-effective and allows for easy access. You can store tons of data accessible from anywhere on cloud platforms, often for free. If you measure that against the number of external hard drives and USBs you’d have to purchase, and the difficulty accessing data once you’ve stored on multiple devices, you can see why cloud storage has become popular.
Files stored in reliable cloud services are some of the most secure files you can have, provided you have good passwords. Cloud storage is also most reliable when used in tandem with another storage system. So, if your data is ever lost on one platform, you can easily locate it through the other storage platform. Some companies offer seamless integration services via the cloud and most storage platforms; making it impossible to lose your files. And, if privacy is your main concern, and you have sensitive data you’d like to keep from prying eyes, it is best to store the data on a hard drive that remains disconnected from your home computer.
10 Tips for Keeping Secure:
- Backup data locally
- Install anti-virus software
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication
- Audit your file and folder shares
- Clear out your 'deleted' files
- Check your connected apps and accounts
- Turn on account alerts
- Deactivate old devices that still have access
- Enable account recovery options
- Sign out when you're not using your accounts
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