Up until fairly recently, clouds were merely tiny drop of water up in the sky. If you remember your geography lessons, you might know about Nimbus, Cumulus and Cirrus clouds. In recent years, however, there has been a lot of talk about storing data in The Cloud.
Cloud Storage Background
What does it means to store data in The Cloud. To answer that, we need to look at how data is stored and transferred currently, and in the past. For users of desktop computers, storage usually means storing data and files on the computer’s hard drive. For people with smart phones, it means storing data on the phone’s memory device (usually its internal memory, or a memory card). This is all well and good, if you are the only one that want to access your data, and/or you only need access to your data from the one source, e.g. your desktop computer. What happens, however, if you need to access some data (e.g. a report you’ve written, or some photos, etc.) on a different computer in a different location, or share files with other people. Long ago, this used to be accomplished using floppy disks; but these were relatively large, and fragile, not very secure, and couldn’t hold a lot of data. More recently, USB thumb drives have been used. These offer the advantages of having more space, the potential for better security, smaller size and are generally more rugged. While USB drives can be useful, they require that you remember to copy your files to the USB drive, and then to remember to bring the USB drive with you wherever you go. It also requires you to manually keep your files in sync. For example, if you write a report on your computer at work, then copy it to your USB drive so you can bring it home, if you edit it at home, you’ll have to remember to copy your changes to the file you have at work. It is these drawbacks, that cloud storage aims to overcome.
Overview of Cloud Storage
So, again, what is cloud storage? With cloud storage, 3rd party service companies, have set up a large set of storage server space that is accessible over the internet. These service providers, provide users with a certain amount of space on their servers, and allow users to add and remove data from the storage. You can think of it, as a hard drive accessible over the internet. Most of these providers allow for web access of your files, so you can access them from any computer or device that has an internet connection and a web browsers. Most also provide software or apps that can be installed on your computers or mobile devices, so that you can access the files directly from your computer or smart phone. Most storage services also provide file syncing, so if you edit a stored file, all the computers and devices that access the file will automatically get the update. Some of the services also provide a sharing facility, where you can choose one or more folders to make ‘public’ and allow other people to access it.
One of the big concerns with Cloud storage is security. It is critical that the files are stored in an encrypted format, to protect them, in case a malicious hacker breaks into the storage system. This encryption should be done automatically by the cloud storage provider.
Another concern is reliability. With your files on a storage system somewhere, you need to trust that the system is always available, and won’t somehow lose you data.
I have recently started trying out cloud storage using DropBox. DropBox allow for web access, as well as applications for Windows, Mac OS/X, Linux, BlackBerry, iPhone and Android. Access on a desktop computer is pretty easy; DropBox creates a new folder on your computer to represent your DropBox storage, and you can add/remove files and folders, just as you do with any other folder on your computer. When you make a change to any file in this folder, the file gets updated on all of the other computers you have set up.
If you’d like to try DropBox (and earn a bonus 250 MB of space) click on the DropBox Logo below:
Other Cloud Storage Service Providers
|SugarSync||5 GB||Web, Windows, Mac OS/X, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian||www.sugarsync.com|
|Box.net||5 GB||Web, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry||www.box.net|
|UbuntuOne||5 GB||Web, Windows, Linux, Android||one.ubuntu.com|
When deciding on a storage provider, keep the following in mind:
- What platforms you would like to access your files from (Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, etc.)
- Ease of use
- How much free storage
- Price for more storage