3. Back up methods
3.2 The Cloud
What is the Cloud? The Cloud is an online storage option where files can be stored and accessed without being available to everyone on the Internet. Think of it as a personal hard drive that can only be accessed online.
The cloud is an inexpensive option for backing up and storing data. It is generally easy to use and free of complication. One of its benefits is the ability to access data wherever you are (depending on which option you go for). This means that you don’t have any physical hardware to worry about. If there is a fire at your work place or home you won’t lose your files, you can’t forget it on a train, and it won’t break down in the same way that a hard drive or USB drive might. However, this does not mean that it is entirely safe. Most Cloud storage does not promise data security, thus your files can be lost on the Cloud just as easily as it could be on your own drive.
There are of course options which preserve data better by making copies on multiple servers but these generally cost a little more.
There are two main types of cloud storage:
- Dedicated back-up service – these services do act like a proper back up of your files. Generally a copy is made of your files and then – at scheduled times – an automatic check is made which compares the status of your files currently to what is held on the Cloud. Any changes are then updated. This is useful to ensure a good back-up of your files is maintained, but often is more involved in getting hold of that data again. Thus this is a good preservation strategy but not useful if you wish to access those files quickly.
- Cloud sync services – these work very differently. A sync-service usually allows you to create a folder on multiple devices (and to access it via web browsers). This folder is magically shared between those devices so updating or adding a file on one device will automatically update it everywhere that the folder is contained.
When choosing a Cloud service you should consider the fact that many start-up companies offer competitive rates but don’t necessarily survive for long – there is generally no guarantee that your files would be accessible if the firm went bust. Also find out if there are any guarantees that you won’t lose data. Obviously no one can guarantee this 100% but there are various different levels of safety to consider. As your data will be stored elsewhere and possibly in many locations there is a higher chance that your data will be erroneously accessed by unauthorised persons. If your data is sensitive this could be a significant concern.
Another thing that you will need to consider is the size of your files (now and in the future). How big is the data set? Costs increase with the more space that you require.
Examples of Cloud storage include: