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All your photos, documents, videos and files in one place and accessible from anywhere in the world via an internet connection, all safe and secure and ready only for you. That is what some cloud services claim to offer to their clients.
Prices have fallen as cloud storage has gained popularity. Google Drive now offers 15 GB data storage for free, 100GB for $1.99 monthly or $9.99 monthly for 1 TB. For software developers Google also offers Google Cloud Storage. Amazon claims to offer unlimited data storage for $60 a year.
The cloud has existed in basic form for decades, it is really no more than a metaphor used to refer to a network of remote servers which store, manage and process data. Yahoo, Hotmail and Flickr, for example therefore technically make up some of the most popular early providers of cloud data storage.
When email started to become widely used, some users opted to not only save their important emails in their inbox but also to print them. Some of us saved them in word processor formats which later were saved to a data CD, USB or external hard disc.
Now it seems somewhat old fashioned to try to save our files such as emails or photos in printed copies not only due to the extra cost, physical space and weight of storage, but also because of the increasing number of files and photos we produce in our everyday lives, and increasing accessibility of online storage.
But is it better to use the cloud than saving our files using our own data storage devices?
Many people still do not believe so. Saving our data on the cloud has its own risks. To some it feels like giving your safe deposit box to someone, a third party to look after it. That someone runs a database located somewhere else in the world, probably using hundreds of data servers. Your data is seemingly vulnerable to a host of issues which might afflict the servers, from damage or fire to hacking.
Also, let’s bear in mind that internet legislation is still blurry. If the server owner decides to change its policies, your data might be affected by such changes.
In theory, we should be aware of the existing policies regarding the storage of data. How many of us actually read the small print when signing up to such a service? The rights and freedoms with respect to the processing of your personal data may vary, and it is up to us to keep tabs on these.
The rules regarding the privacy of your data might vary depending on the country where that data is kept and/or your cloud storage provider and their own policies and regulation.
However, in practice, it is doubtable whether most users of cloud services would even be aware of the continent where their data is located.
The main issues afflicting cloud storage clearly relate to reliability and security. While keeping our data in the cloud might have many advantages, it is always advisable to keep a backup of our precious files on a personal storage device, just in case.
Wang, Cong. (2010-03–1) Privacy-Preserving Public Auditing for Data Storage Security in Cloud Computing. , 1-9. DOI: 10.1109/INFCOM.2010.5462173
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