Storing your data ‘ in the cloud’ has many benefits for individuals and firms, but it also presents risks
Fear of large clouds
BACKING up computers is such a chore that most of us have experienced the pain of losing a hard drive containing digital photos or the work we had prepared for this week.
That’s the fear holding a lot of people back from trusting cloud storage online.
But cloud storage is omnipresent these days and you’re probably reliant on it in ways unrealised.
Many of us rely on sites like Gmail and other webmail servers, music storage sites such as Spotify, iTunes, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, YouSendIt and other data sharing sites, and video and photo sites like YouTube and Instagram.
There are so many benefits to the cloud for our data, our entertainment and everything else that can be stored on a service that we can access on any device with an online connection from any location. The benefits are many, but the dangers are real.
Cloud storage is an increasingly popular method of outsourcing computing power and storage to remote servers over the web and each time there is an outage, we are reminded of the risks of relying on the cloud.
The cloud is not always dependable, as an Amazon service glitch proved last year when several major sites, including Foursquare, Reddit and HootSuite, were down.
An electrical storm in the US recently disrupted numerous web companies reliant on Amazon’s virtual data servers, including photo- sharing network Instagram, social photo site Pinterest and on- demand TV and movie site Netflix.
Cloud services, even Dropbox by their own admission, do not often back up their data with a disaster recovery plan because it would double infrastructure costs and make operations more complicated.
Some services, including Dropbox, use different remote facilities, however, so that even if their servers are down, they are not wiped out and can return to normal service sooner or later.
As you can imagine, three days without Instagram operational prompted users around the world to worry that they may never access their photos again.
There is always a risk. Even if you store everything in the cloud to save space on your devices, backing up your data yourself is advised.
When the cloud breaks, data will fall and it’s not only personal computer, tablet and smartphone users who will be affected, either.
Unforseen disruptions to cloud storage will increasingly affect the larger economy, with big- business customers including entertainment networks, hotel chains, communications companies, navigation, appliances, utilities and surveillance systems reliant on cloud systems.
BE SAFE IN THE CLOUD
Use different passwords: It’s easy to get in the habit of using the same password across different sites, but if one is compromised ( like Sony PlayStation network earlier this year), you may regret it. Back it up: If you care about your data, files, documents and media, back it all up on external hard drives. The investment will be worth it, particularly for irreplaceable data like family photos and videos. Know the cloud you’re with: Make sure you understand the site’s terms of service and back- up plans. Read all the fine print to be aware and prepared.