How Does Cloud Storage Work?
While the theologian asks, “What is in the clouds?” a novice computer user might ask, “What is the cloud?” Whether you’ve got a few cherished photo albums on your PC or call yourself a veritable information hoarder, addressing the concern of how to store, protect and share your digital content is crucial. Cloud computing has become a popular alternative to external hard drives or other more tangible methods of data storage, and as a result several different cloud-based services have popped up online. Before you sign up for the first one suggested by your search engine, why not take a closer look at the fundamentals of cloud storage, the different motivations for utilizing cloud storage, and some prime companies that are vying to host your 18 gigs of prized cat videos.
What is cloud storage?
Put simply, cloud storage refers to the remote storage of your data via the internet. You can save all your videos, music, documents, contacts, and other information to a cloud storage provider, which will then maintain the servers on which your information is stored. Precautions are taken to make sure you have 24/7 access to your uploaded data, as well as ensure that your data will not be lost. And despite what the name connotes, your data is stored in a secured data center, not the earth’s atmosphere. Basically you’re trusting your information to a third party, who in turn provides safe and convenient storage. As long as you have access to the internet, you have access to your data.
Why use cloud storage?
Though today’s average computer has more processing power than all of NASA in the sixties, two facts will never change: computers have limited storage capacity and crashes are bound to happen. Therefore, it is best to prepare for the inevitable by backing up all of your important documents, media files, etc. In the past, consumers have opted to back up files to an external hard drive, but this method has some drawbacks to consider. An external drive can be easily lost, stolen, or damaged; you usually have to remember on your own to perform back ups; and you can only access your backed up files if you have the drive handy. Cloud storage, on the other hand, can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. Additionally, cloud services go to great lengths to protect your data, storing it in duplicates on multiple servers in case of a crash or power failure. This means less maintenance and hassle for you! And finally, if you have more than one device, say a desktop, tablet and smartphone, you might want to store and sync your data across all three devices. Rather than plugging in your smartphone to your desktop, syncing files, doing the same with your tablet, and then FINALLY backing up your desktop to an external drive, you can manage your devices far more easily with cloud computing.
Who is offering cloud storage?
The biggest clouds in the sky – Apple, Google, and Microsoft – have each developed cloud storage options for their millions of users. Apple offers iCloud, which is ideal for the Apple enthusiasts who have several products from the brand and want to easily sync their data. For example, with iCloud you can download an app on your iPhone from Apple’s ecommerce platform and it will automatically appear on your iPad. The iCloud service also performs daily backups whenever your device is plugged in to a power source, so without conscious effort, your data is being protected. Google Drive, launched by Google in 2012, is an option for those who want to store, share, and manipulate data. Google Drive’s collaborative design is ideal if you’ve got a document to share with multiple users who will be editing said document. Then there’s SkyDrive, developed by Microsoft, which offers cloud storage focused on Microsoft’s products and operating systems. Of the three, SkyDrive offers the most free storage space (7 GB) and the best price for premium storage ($50/year for 100 GB).
Your decision on who will host your precious data might depend on who makes your primary devices and why you most want to use cloud storage (backups, syncing, collaboration, etc). No matter which service you select, you will be doing yourself a favor.
Renee Floyd is a prolific writer, visual artist and photographer. She credits her love of innovation and technology to growing up in the Silicon Valley.