Like many computing innovations, the origin of cloud storage is somewhat ambiguous. Some people believe it stemmed from the 1960s’ ARPANET packet-switching network, while others point to a file storage service offered by Compuserve in the early 1980s. The term ‘cloud’ was coined by AT&T in 1994, though Amazon Web Services brought the concept of cloud-hosted file storage to public prominence in the mid-2000s.
Today, storing and accessing documents online is the norm, and local file storage on hard drives seems almost quaint. From Dropbox to AWS, specialized cloud hosting services exist for individuals and businesses alike. However, there are concerns that society’s enthusiastic adoption of cloud-hosted storage services may not be the panacea it initially appears. Those temptingly low monthly prices quickly spiral when additional storage is required over a number of years, while national security agencies may be able to spy on supposedly confidential information without the client even realizing.
Nonetheless, cloud storage offers some compelling advantages:
1. Universal accessibility.
Documents can be viewed and edited using any internet-enabled device capable of navigating login screens: phones, laptops, and even smart TVs. This is particularly convenient for home workers and regular travelers.
Remember the days of buying a large external hard drive or USB data key and hoping you wouldn’t fill it? There are no issues with multiple storage devices online since cloud storage is endlessly scalable via a single user login.
Some cloud services charge by the terabyte, though others offer storage thresholds according to likely user demand. One or two companies claim to offer lifetime storage, though obviously, this depends on their own corporate stability.
There’s no need to be concerned about server updates, DDoS protection or other technical processes. Everything is outsourced to multinational specialists, whose other responsibilities include backing up data to ensure it won’t be lost…
5. Peace of mind.
Having data saved in the cloud means it won’t be wiped in the event of a malware breach, device failure or hardware replacement. Most companies experiencing major data losses subsequently fail, so secure file backups are critical.
We don’t want to diminish the many positives of online file storage, but it would be remiss not to mention a few drawbacks of cloud storage. After all, this isn’t necessarily the optimal solution for everyone:
High-profile data thefts have occurred from Equifax to Facebook, and from Yahoo to Marriott. Despite impressive security, it’s naïve to think that hacking won’t ever happen in the cloud. Uploading and downloading files offers criminals another point of attack.
You have to place your trust – and your business’s reputation – in the hands of an offsite (potentially offshore) company with limited accountability and typically few ways to contact them. That won’t sit easy with more cautious consumers.
Uploading data onto a cloud server requires accepting the host’s terms and conditions. Since we tend to scroll through these jargon-filled documents, few people know whether the host has the right to examine files, report content to the police, etc.
4. Internet access.
Uploading data to the cloud is laborious if your connection is slow, as available bandwidth is usually biased in favor of downloads. Stable connections are essential for cloud services to be feasible – outages could be ruinous for productivity.
Cloud hosting depends on a company’s long-term profitability and dedication to client safety. If the company goes bust or gets taken over, services might be affected, while security flaws will always be a clear and present danger.