To Cloud or Not to Cloud?

Do you use the cloud to backup your personal photos, documents, contacts, music and video? Is your data safe?  How does it work?  Is it worth it?

If you’ve ever lost a hard drive, or a phone you know – the pain is real.  Even worse, if you do have a physical backup you count on to restore your data, only to find out it’s been corrupted and you didn’t even know it.  Your precious data is gone and unless you have a small fortune to invest in getting it back, all you have are your memories.

So what is the cloud, exactly? Cloud storage refers to services that question-mark-cloudoperate large physical facilities full of servers.  The data you send to them is encrypted and only accessible by you (they cannot get it) using a password that you set.  You can sync automatically from nearly any electronic device (phone, desktop, etc). Most providers have multiple locations around the world and backup data in more than one physical place.  You can access your stored data from anywhere, by logging in to your cloud account.

You may feel like putting your data backup in someone else’s hands is just a way to have someone to blame if it gets lost.  That really couldn’t be further from the truth.  So what keeps some of us from getting on board with cloud storage?  With a cloud service, you can set up automatic backups of your data.  On your phone, you can even set it to back up every time you take a picture.  So what’s the hold up?

Here are a few common objections:

“I don’t have time.”  A lot of people feel this way.  The bad news is, if you have a TON of data, it will take a long time for that initial back up.  The good news, though, is that subsequent back ups will be very quick, mostly seamless.  You may also take into account how much time would be saved in the event of total data loss.

“I don’t know how to do it.”  Cloud computing has been around for a very long time now.  Before it became mainstream to offer it to the general public, large corporations and even governments were using cloud storage for their data (usually as a back up to a physical copy). Now that Amazon, Apple,Google, Dropbox, Box and many others are offering – even aggressively marketing – their storage services for free and for subscription, the interfaces are incredibly easy to use and setting up your backup schedule is easier than setting your DVR.

“It’s too expensive for the amount of space I need.”  Realistically, most of us need more than what the top companies are offering for free. Most services start off with 5GB for free and go up to 1TB, 2TB or even unlimited for a monthly or yearly subscription.  Depending on what you’re backing up (movies, for example, need a lot more space) you may be able to get by on 5GB.  Prices for subscription range from .99 per month (Apple for 50GB) up to $60 per year (Amazon unlimited).

“It’s not safe.”  Actually, it is safer than locally stored data.  The service where your data is stored cloud-storage-lockdoesn’t have access to your data, they only provide the space (be sure to read the privacy policy no matter what).  The real vulnerability to your data is the security you provide.  Use a rock solid password and change it regularly.  Use physical back up in addition to the cloud and use several cloud services (OneDrive for your documents, iCloud for contacts and photos, for example). The most valuable benefit is that your data is safe from malware and ransomware in the cloud. As the use of cloud storage rises in popularity, you can expect that optimization and security will also improve.

At the end of the day, each person has to decide how important their data is and what’s the best way to protect and preserve it.  The best advice you can take is your own!  Make a list of what’s important to you, what your concerns are and shop for a cloud service that fits the bill.

 

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