A cloud storage service is a business that maintains and manages its customers’ data and makes that data accessible over a network, usually the internet. Most of these types of services are based on a utility storage model. Several types of cloud storage systems have been developed supporting both personal and business uses.
Personal File Hosting
The most basic form of a cloud storage service allows its customers to upload individual files to a folder as if this folder is in their own PC, tablet or phone. However, these files are stored in an Internet server. Therefore, in case their originals are lost, backup copies of files are easy to recover. Users can also download their files from the cloud to other devices, and sometimes also enable remote access to the files for other people to share.
You can find a large number of different providers offering online file hosting services. File transfers work over standard Internet protocols like HTTP and FTP. These services also vary in:
- Disk Space and Network Bandwidth Quotas
- Network Transfer Speed
- The Software Interface
These service work as an alternative to home network storage systems (such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices) or email archives.
Businesses can benefit from cloud storage systems as a commercially-supported remote backup solution. Either continuously or at regular intervals, software agents running inside the company network can securely transfer copies of files and database data to third-party cloud servers.
Larger companies can also use these systems to replicate large amounts of data between branch offices. Employees working at one site may create new files and have them automatically shared with colleagues in other sites (either locally or in other countries). Enterprise cloud storage systems typically include configurable policies for “pushing” or caching data efficiently across sites.
Advantages of Using a Cloud Service
1. Saving Costs
When you need a server, you can always get a physical one on premise, keep it running all the time, deal with its possible issues and delegate someone to work on it. Cloud storage providers buy a lot of storage and pass those savings onto customers. But it’s more than a low per-GB cost that provides savings. Moving to the cloud reduces the need to purchase hard disks, the enclosures that contain them, the RAID cards that power the data redundancy, the electricity that powers them, and the hardware warranty services that protect them. But it also lowers management costs by reducing on premise hardware and software management, simplifying monitoring, and reducing the need for extensive capacity planning. Instead, administrators can focus on other, more important, tasks.
2. Data Redundancy and Replication
Most cloud storage dealers keep numerous copies of your data even within a single “data center” and offer necessary amount of backups to reduce any probability of data loss. However, if your files are really valuable to you, try to find some well-known vendor. Therefore, your files will be protected from cyber-attacks and you can access to them anytime and anywhere you want.
3. Regulatory Compliance
Keeping your backups in the same region as where the data originates may be best for regulatory compliance. Many cloud vendors offer data centers options all around the globe. If you have a need to store your EU customer data in an EU data center, look for a cloud storage vendor that can accommodate. An added benefit is that moving data to cloud storage in the same region is best for performance. Even if you’re not bound by regulation, you may find the improved performance worthwhile.
4. Ransomware/Malware Protection
Ransomware is just bad. Unfortunately, it’s also in the news with great frequency. One of the more sinister ransomware attributes is that the malware will look beyond the locally infected computer to the network for shares that have documents and files to encrypt. If you’re hit by ransomware or some other malware that is encrypting or destroying files, you might be happy that your cloud storage can help to protect against ransomware by offering some backup security advantages as it’s more difficult to access without proper authentication.
Drawbacks of the Cloud Storage
1. Backups May Be Slower
If you are going for documents and such, this is not likely to be a big issue. However, cloud systems are not P2P. You will have to upload a file so that another party can download it. These actions cannot be done simultaneously.
2. Restores May Be Slower
It’s all about internet bandwidth and rated cloud storage speed. Restoring an entire server may take longer. But you might find file-level restores are just as fast. If you can’t restore what’s needed in the committed time, then consider performing hybrid backups on those critical servers and send your backups to both local and cloud storage. It’s true that the cloud storage is not going to be faster than LAN.
3. Higher Internet Utilization
If backups are running during business hours or times of heavy internet use, you may happen to experience a slow internet speed. Internet bandwidth may need to be controlled. Set up bandwidth utilization rules in your backup software (or limit via your router) to make sure you don’t soak your internet connection during times when access to the internet is needed for other critical business activity.
How secure is your data when it’s stored in the cloud?
As cloud storage becomes more common, data security is an increasing concern. Companies and schools have been increasing their use of services like Google Drive for some time, and lots of individual users also store files on Dropbox, Box, Amazon Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and the like. They’re no doubt concerned about keeping their information private – and millions more users might store data online if they were more certain of its security.
Since security is the first issue among the cloud users, let’s take a detailed look on this parameter:
Letting users keep control
A few less popular cloud services such as Mega and SpiderOak, ask users to upload and download files through service-specific client applications that include encryption functions. That extra step lets users keep the encryption keys themselves. For that additional security, users forgo some functions, such as being able to search among their cloud-stored files.
These services aren’t perfect – there’s still a possibility that their own apps might be compromised or hacked, allowing an intruder to read your files either before they’re encrypted for uploading or after being downloaded and decrypted. An encrypted cloud service provider could even embed functions in its specific app that could leave data vulnerable. And, of course, if a user loses the password, the data is irretrievable.
To maximize cloud storage security, it’s best to combine the features of these various approaches. Before uploading data to the cloud, first encrypt it using your own encryption software. Then upload the encoded file to the cloud. To get access to the file again, log in to the service, download it and decrypt it yourself.
The best way to protect against that is to use authenticated encryption. This method stores not only an encrypted file, but additional metadata that lets a user detect whether the file has been modified since it was created.