As more data is being transformed into the digital sphere, finding places to store it has become more difficult for the average user.
Almost all of your personal information, photos, and documents are now stored on your computer and phone, and that can take up a lot of space over time. It’s likely you are going to want to look for other storage options than memory cards and hard drives.
Cloud-based storage has made it possible for users to store vast amounts of information without taking up physical space on a device. Many corporations are also choosing to move clients’ files online, which provides access from anywhere in the world.
Considering also that information is safest when it is stored in two places. If one of those is on your computer, it will slow down your CPU’s response time since there is more information to sift through in order to access files or applications.
If you’ve been thinking about how you can safely store some of your files without slowing down or loading up your devices, then cloud storage might be your best option.
What is cloud storage?
While the basic concept of cloud file storage is pretty easy to understand, the details behind storing information digitally can be a bit harder to comprehend when you still think about files as taking up physical space. Once you differentiate physical files from digital, however, cloud storage makes much more sense.
Most of us accumulate a lot of data in our daily activities. Whether it’s through photography, writing documents, downloading music, or other actions, it’s easy to quickly run out of hard-drive space. A computer’s internal and even external HDDs can only manage to hold so much information before something must be deleted or transferred.
Before cloud storage, storing data on discs or external drives was an easy way to keep track of files while having a physical record of them as well. However, it was also easy to run out of space, especially physically as the discs and drives began to pile up on your desk.
This may not be a problem for large corporations that have plenty of storerooms to stash these drives, but it’s an issue for individuals and small businesses who find themselves constantly having to find new ways to store important information.
Because of this, cloud storage has become a popular and continually more affordable option when compared to traditional storage methods.
Most cloud storage includes an off-site location where a third party has large storage servers to accommodate the data. And thanks to the internet, you don’t need to physically access these servers - you can do it from any location in the world. This has changed how data is shared and how it is sent over various servers.
By uploading files to cloud storage providers, you can remove them from your computer or other storage methods and free up space for more data that you use regularly.
What are the advantages of cloud storage?
One of the great advantages of storing your information on a cloud service is the fact that you can access it from almost anywhere.
If you have an internet connection, you don’t need to haul around external hard drives, USB drives, and numerous CDs in order to have your information available. This can save you money by providing a vast amount of storage for a reasonable monthly or yearly subscription, and it can also keep you from buying additional drives to keep your data handy.
Cloud storage for companies can have some extra benefits, including access from a number of locations and for multiple employees. This means that if you have satellite offices in different areas or you have remote workers, they can still download or view data even if they are not in the same physical location.
What are some of the problems with using cloud storage?
While there are some definite benefits that come with using cloud storage, there are also some problems that a user or company can face.
One is the potential for hacking and phishing, which has been made much more possible with remote servers. Most cloud storage services recognize that they are holding potentially valuable information, and they use complicated algorithms that can be very difficult to get past.
Even so, storing information in the cloud can leave you vulnerable to having your data stolen.
The reliability of the cloud storage system can also be a concern.
If a cloud service provider finds themselves unable to run as a business or has technical issues, then users can often lose valuable files that they thought were safe. An unstable system can crash, causing small businesses to lose years’ worth of client information and individuals to lose precious memories, crucial documents, and much more.
This is becoming less and less common, but it’s still a possibility. It can be difficult to know whether a service has taken the proper precautions in order to make sure that nothing is stolen or that the servers will work.
The good news is that there are very reputable cloud storage services available, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding one with a solid reputation. Also, if files aren’t stored on more than one server, it may be possible for data to be lost if there is a power surge or if work is being done to a server.
Just as you want to make sure that your computer is backed up on a regular basis, files should be backed up to a few different servers just in case something happens and a server quits. If the cloud service you have chosen doesn’t do this, then you may lose the information you have uploaded to the cloud for security.
What can I store on the cloud?
Cloud storage has become popular because it works for almost everyone and is compatible with almost all types of files.
Most individuals typically choose to place their largest files, such as video and music, on the cloud for access when needed rather than having it take up space on a device. You will need to choose which service you think will work best for the types of data you have to store. Some services require that you pay a little extra for bigger files, while others charge you a monthly subscription service based on how much you are sending to them.
Many people also commonly store backups of their computer systems in the cloud. Even if they choose to keep documents, photos, and music on their actual devices, these backups can take up a large amount of space. By having your computer backups in the cloud, you can easily access them if your computer crashes.
For individuals, cloud photos storage is a good idea. We have all heard stories of people losing irreplaceable family photos when their hard drive crashes or their computer is lost or stolen. To avoid this, uploading a copy of those photos to the cloud can save heartache down the road.
For small businesses, old client files and information can be kept and accessed if needed, but they don’t need to take up the physical space required by file cabinets. An employee can also share files with colleagues located anywhere in the world, which you may already be doing with Google Drive.
Almost any type of file can be sent to the cloud and stored for future use. Much of what you choose to store online will probably be determined by how much space you have signed up for and the agreement you have with the company who owns the cloud server.
How do I choose a cloud server?
You may not know it, but you are probably already using cloud storage for a number of tasks online.
For instance, Google Docs saves your documents on its server, allowing you to access them and share them whenever you are logged in. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps allow you to upload photos onto their servers and store them there as well. Email has been offering users cloud storage for years through services like Gmail and Outlook.
When choosing your paid subscription service, though, price will of course play a major part in which storage system you choose. Some of the best options are familiar names like Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive, but as new players like New Zealand-based Mega come onto the market, it may make sense to do some research to find the best fit for your needs .
If you only have documents and photos that you plan on accessing privately, then you might not even need to purchase storage because many cloud services have a free storage option. However, if you have a large amount of data to store and your email or free Dropbox account isn’t enough, then you might want to consider a service that offers more storage space.
Online storage is relatively cheap nowadays as it becomes more and more common for individual users and small businesses. Many charge an initial fee to join and a small amount each month, which increases the more storage you need. If you own a website, you will also need to take into consideration whether you need hosting and if you will need to store larger files.
Security is another important factor to consider. If a company has a history of problems with hackers, server issues, or losing information, then it might be a good idea to consider other options.
Make sure that the service has strong encryption in place and a guarantee for reimbursement if any files happen to be lost. While you may not be able to visit the actual location where a server is stored, you can still get an idea of whether it’s in a secure location and if the company has taken measures to ensure that your data is safe.
Who should use cloud storage?
Almost everyone uses cloud storage in some capacity, and it is becoming more and more common as users start to realize the benefits.
For individuals, you can free up a lot of space on your typical PC or laptop by storing old photos, music, and videos on the cloud. In addition to clearing out your hard drive, it will increase your computer’s speeds thanks to the smaller amount of clutter.
Plans for individuals and families are usually quite affordable and offer plenty of space for the types of files that they would want to store.
Businesses owners may also want to think about investing in a cloud storage system for their needs.
Depending on how many files need to be stored and the type of file, it can potentially lead to cost savings. It can also help streamline certain workflows, because your data can be accessed by your employees or colleagues anywhere they have an internet connection.
Cloud storage is the way of the future. As we look to have our information readily available on a number of devices and in different places, cloud technology will only continue to grow and influence the way we store data.
Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.
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