Is my Data Safe in the Cloud, For Real?
When you were a kid, any reference to “the cloud” usually involved some neat shape that a mass of water and air was forming up in the sky. Today, people are talking about the Cloud as an Internet-based cluster of computing and data storage services. Frankly, if you’re not used to the idea of the Cloud, or are unsure of how it exactly works, the whole concept seems suspect. Backing up all of your important data over the Internet might feel like building a foundation in the sand: Where are the “real” files? Who’s looking out for my security?
The reality is that it’s getting increasingly difficult to avoid it. If you use a Gmail account, you probably have documents stored in Google Drive – a cloud-based document storage service. If you own Apple devices, iCloud comes as a built-in feature. You might also have heard of SpeedyBackup, DropBox and Microsoft OneDrive. The best way to deal with the Cloud is to know how it works and how to use it responsibly.
So, what is the Cloud?
The Cloud works by hosting programs and storing your files and data out on an external server that you access via the Internet so that you don’t have to host and run everything on your own hard drive.
Here are some reasons why people use the Cloud:
- Cost-Effective: When you’re working in the Cloud, the actual computing isn’t happening on your computer. This means that you might not need the top-of-the-line device because you don’t need to run large, demanding software. You might find you don’t need as much IT support either, because your machine is running cleaner and lighter without so much memory taken up for storage. Cloud services like Google Drive and DropBox are free, and others like iCloud are included with the cost of your device.
- Convenient: You can get into the programs and files you need whenever, wherever. You can back up, sync, and access your data across multiple devices. And since you can program Cloud storage to automatically update things like photos from your smartphone, you’ll have one less worry if you accidentally lose or break your hardware.
- Shareable: You can work remotely, share large amounts of data without having the physical capacity, and collaborate in real time with people all over the world on documents and projects.
Is my data safe in the Cloud?
Many people are still skeptical about using the Cloud – and their concerns are completely valid. The Cloud is only as good as the security measures put in place to keep your data accessible and secure. Before jumping into using one program or another, always make sure to do a full review of available options and pay special attention to their security measures, which should include encryption “at rest” (while it is in cloud storage) and “in transit” (when it is being transferred in and out). It might be boring, but read the program’s user agreement to know your information privacy rights when storing your personal property on their cloud service.
Then, there are the measures you can take to protect your Cloud storage account. Consider keeping your most sensitive data, like banking and tax records, off of the Cloud (but still make sure they are safely kept). Most importantly, make sure your Cloud account is protected by a strong password. If you have trouble remembering your password, be sure to keep it in a safe place, like a password manager.
Keeping your head out of the clouds…
Losing all your files and photos because you don’t have proper back up is an avoidable tragedy. You might be fine with your current back up system – but you might also discover that new technologies like the Cloud make your data storage simpler and more accessible!
Data security in the Cloud is a balance between the provider you choose and your own efforts. Reduce human error with good password practices, an encrypted password manager, and a solid plan for how and where your important data is stored. And remember to look up at the sky once and a while and take a look at the real clouds floating on by!
August 20, 2015 / By: Leah