External hard drives are receiving increasing competition from cloud based storage because unless you have the external drive with you all the time, the ability to access the information can be debilitating. Storing everything in the cloud gives you access via your mobile, laptop and any other device that’s connected to the Internet.
However, due to cloud storage’s popularity the market is littered with good and bad options with some incredibly expensive compared to others, which on the surfaces do the same thing for less. The important factor is to be able to read through the jargon and choose the best for your personal needs. If you need help choosing or feel like changing your cloud storage provider, here are some of the main focal points you need to consider ensuring your data is protected.
Large Data Issues
In 2015, a Forbes article released data stating that roughly 47% of marketing departments stored 60% or more of their information on cloud platforms. The next question you may ask is what happens if your cloud service provider suddenly closed down overnight or filed for bankruptcy? If you use your provider’s desktop folder such as Google Drive’s or Dropbox’s for example, then you will have a local copy of everything on that device. This paired with the large scale that Google Drive, Amazon Drive or Dropbox operate at, there is technical support provided by the company in the event of failure, plus legal requirements for them to notify users in advance. Amazon for example offer Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that guarantee a certain amount of uptime, however these must be reviewed carefully because platforms like Amazon require specific configurations for multiple availability zones to be in place within their cloud for an SLA to be active.
If you have decided to use a smaller, less known company the affects can be slightly different. An Australian based company called Xerox wrote in an article that smaller platforms should encourage you to base more importance on the ability to make regular local backups in either Excel or CSV files. There are too many smaller platforms to cover, but if you have found a great deal on some cheap cloud storage and have decided to roll the dice, try testing the software before you completely migrate. For example, make sure you can get your data out easily enough in both a usable form and in compressed file forms before and during its usage. In 2013, Nirvanix, a US-based cloud service provider gave customers a two week notice period before they shut down after filing for bankruptcy, however other platforms might behave differently.
Always read the ´Terms of Service´ in your contract specifically around worst-case scenarios like bankruptcy. In the case of Nirvanix, they made an agreement with IBM to assist customers during transition by providing higher speed connection to increase data transfer rates during the two-week notice period.
Cloud companies like to limit bandwidth for uploads to protect their services, so if you find yourself in the situation of having to migrate data either because you need a new service or think that your provider may be closing down / doesn’t meet your requirements, here are a few handy services to make the transfer simple:
- Mover.io – allows users to transfer data between providers without having to download and re-upload.
- Otixo – enables users to transfer data, similar to mover (above) but also it gives an overview of your data across all of your cloud storage services from within one platform. Other similar services and their reviews can be found here.
Free or Subscription
The next big question is do you need to be paying for cloud-based storage? The good news is that most providers offer a certain amount of free space within their plans for you to trial them out before committing to payment. Most options give roughly 5 – 10GB of free storage and begin charging if you go beyond that point. There are the odd exceptions which go up to 15GB such as Google Drive for example, who even offer free 1GB bolt-ons every now and again for completing surveys, and as a result my personal Google Drive is now 19GB of free storage.
If you choose to buy cloud storage, you need to consider what data limits your ISP provider allows you per month. For example if you need 250GB of cloud storage and make multiple edits per month to numerous files, then your ISP service (e.g. 100GB data limit) may restrict the syncing of all changes or generate additional charges.
Check the Following in your Providers Terms of Service:
- Check restrictions on file sizes as most services have a limit of 2GB max to upload at one time.
- Hot folders: a folder that acts like a desktop folder so you can drag files into it, view files in offline mode and it syncs automatically. Does your provider offer this?
- Streaming media: certain providers consider streaming music and videos from your cloud storage as copyright unless you own said media, this is an important factor to check.
- Folder sharing: all services I checked allow you to share files, but only some enable you to share an entire folder.
- Transfer protection: ensure your chosen provider uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol or Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, to prevent hackers from stealing files during transfer.
- Storage protection: there are two types of protection, encryption and two-step verification.
It’s impossible for you to be completely sure that your data remains 100% private when it’s in the cloud, which is why reading articles such as the ‘Terms of Service’, ‘End-user License Agreements’ and recent allegations of data collection from the National Security Agency (NSA) can give you a broader picture of what happens to your data when you upload it. Consider checking the following:
- Most providers will only ever access your data when requested by law, but they all state that they have the right to access your files.
- Certain cloud storage companies state that only a few employees who work with the authorities have permission to access your files.
- Certain providers do exist who offer User Controlled Encryption (USE), meaning authorities will be able to access your folders, but won’t be able to decrypt the content.
The growing amount of data we generate makes finding the right solution increasingly important, but as with anything there is always a risk when “putting your eggs all in one basket”. The best solution that I can recommend to anyone from what I’ve read about this subject is to always have a copy of everything that is important to you.