Stor­ing your data ‘ in the cloud’ has many ben­e­fits for in­di­vid­u­als and firms, but it also presents risks

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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.


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.

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