RISE OF THE PERSONAL CLOUD
How devices like the WD My Cloud are changing the way you manage your data from your home.
THE CASE FOR CLOUD
Online storage services or cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive are becomingly increasing popular in recent times and this can be attributed to two key trends.
First and foremost, we are creating more digital content than ever. According to a study conducted by the International Data Corporation, by 2020, mankind would have created 40 zettabytes worth of content. That is 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or to put it in a more comprehensible form, 43 trillion gigabytes or 43 billion 1TB portable hard disk drives. If you were to line these hard drives up, it would be enough to go around the world 14 times.
If you are skeptical, just consider these statistics that were shared by today’s key social media services. Every day, close to 150,000 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube, over 55 million photos are shared on Instagram, over 400 million Tweets are sent and about 400 million photos are uploaded onto Facebook. That is a lot of user-generated data.
The second trend that has contributed to the rise of cloud storage services is the exponential growth of mobile computing. Thanks to smartphones and tablets as well as thinner than ever notebooks and improving data network performance and coverage, user habits and patterns have changed. Now, users are accustomed to computing on the go and they demand that their data and content be readily accessible at the swipe of the finger.
What better way to accomplish this than to store your data and content in the cloud - on an online server - so that it be easily accessed wherever you are as long as you have a working data connection. These services are easy to sign up for and also to setup, making them extremely convenient to use. On top of that, they usually also offer a small but sizable amount of storage free, which makes them even more enticing. As for users who require more storage, additional storage capacity can be easily purchased for a monthly fee.
The alternative solution to this is much less glamorous, at the least in the past, as it involves setting up your own network-attached storage system at home and configuring it in such a way that it can be accessed remotely. This was notoriously difficult and complex to do, and required very expensive equipment. One would need to effectively know how to run and manage their own server, which further explains the lure of cloud storage services. However, a new wave of personal cloud storage devices is trying to change that mindset by promising to be easy to setup and configure. Plus, with many users becoming aware about the dangers of using online services, personal cloud storage are being regarded as the next big thing in the storage industry.
”EVERY DAY, CLOSE TO 150,000 HOURS OF VIDEO IS UPLOADED TO YOUTUBE, OVER 55 MILLION PHOTOS ARE SHARED ON INSTAGRAM, OVER 400 MILLION TWEETS ARE SENT AND ABOUT 400 MILLION PHOTOS ARE UPLOADED ONTO FACEBOOK.”
SECURITY ISSUES & DATA SOVEREIGNTY
While cloud storage services are easy and convenient to sign up for and use, they do pose a couple of issues that are worth considering. One of the greatest risks in using such services is security. In the past few years, there have been a couple of significant and high profile lapses.
In 2011 Sony’s PlayStation Network was compromised, which forced Sony to disable the service for 24 days. In the process, it found about 77 million accounts had their information, including passwords and email addresses, stolen, making it one of the biggest data security breaches in recent history. During Black Friday last year, over 40 million Target customer accounts were hacked, and in October last year, Adobe was also hacked with around 38 million accounts compromised. These breaches resulted in customer IDs, data and credit information stolen.
Although there has yet to be reports of cloud storage services being maliciously hacked or compromised, that does not mean it cannot happen. The recent revelation of the existence of the Heartbleed bug that could be affecting up to 500,000 websites has been a wake up call that web vulnerabilities are very real. Heartbleed is a flaw in the OpenSSL encryption software, and may have gone undetected since December 2011.
The fact is, by using cloud services, users are handing their data over to someone else to look after. So while users need not fuss over things such as maintenance, backup and security, they also do not have control over where and how their data is managed.
This is perhaps summed up best by Steve Santorelli, Manager of Outreach at Team Cymru, an internet security research group, who said, “No business is ever going to be as rabid about looking after your data as you would or should be. They are in the business of making money from you, after all. Securing your data sometimes becomes a marketing mantra more than a way of life.”
The threat does not only come from the outside too, following the whole National Security Agency debacle, which saw Edward Snowden leak classified documents that detailed the extent of global surveillance programs that are being run by the NSA and other governments, it is clear that security breaches can come from within. But more than that, there is a genuine concern that whatever we do online is being monitored by authorities.
Clearly, the thought that security breaches are as likely to come from within as well externally has raised alarm bells and has had some users of cloud storage services worried and thinking twice about handing their data over to someone else for safekeeping.
TAKING COMMAND WITH PERSONAL CLOUD
As a result of these recent spate of high profile security breaches, many users are now looking at alternative solutions for safekeeping their data but also making sure that they can be readily accessed whenever and wherever.
Enabling this is a new wave of personal cloud storage systems such as WD’s My Cloud series of external hard disk drives. While they might be called personal cloud storage systems, they are really just network-attached storage devices. Although the thought of setting up your own cloud might seem daunting at first, these new
WD’s new personal cloud storage devices come with accompanying apps that lets you easily access your data from anywhere in the world. The app also features close integration with cloud storage service providers such as Dropbox and Google Drive should you still use them for extended storage.