When accessing the internet meant using a slow, dial-up connection, the idea of storing your data remotely rather than on a local disk was unthinkable. However, the modern availability of affordable, high-speed broadband connections has changed all that.
Online or cloud storage is cheap and widely available, and we’re reaching the point where you may not need to have local storage on your computer at all. It’s worth noting though that even with a fast connection, most internet links are asynchronous, which means that uploading data is slower than downloading it. This is something to take into account if you’ll be moving large volumes of data.
Although the terms cloud storage and online storage are used interchangeably, they’re not quite the same. In order to be classed as “cloud” storage, it has to be supplied on demand, be self-service and be flexible so that it can grow as the amount of data you commit to it increases. Wider online storage may mean a contract of a defined amount of storage for a specific purpose.
The benefits of storing online
Many different companies offer online data storage, and this brings some key advantages. First, you can access it from anywhere. Many of us now use multiple connected devices, from desktop and laptop PCs to smartphones and tablets. Having your data stored online means it’s available to you wherever you are and whatever device you’re using. You can also easily synchronise files between your machines and share it with friends without the hassle of needing to use flash drives or burning things onto discs.
These benefits are good for business users, but they’re also increasingly popular with individual consumers for sharing photos, videos and other material with friends and family. It also means that your data is safe and available even if your computer is not, making it an increasingly popular choice for making backups and storing data for disaster recovery.
Using online data storage does raise some questions surrounding the security and protection of data. It’s important to be sure that your information is being stored securely and that you’re able to access it without worrying about downtime and outages. Therefore, you need to weigh up potential suppliers carefully and choose someone reliable.
The flipside to this is that online storage often provides better security than a local alternative. There is little of the physical media being lost, stolen or damaged. It’s also likely that the storage provider will have fallback procedures in place – a shadow data centre, for example – to ensure that your information is still available even if there is a problem.
It’s common for users to employ a mix of local and online storage. For example, they might store data that they need frequently and fast locally and use online storage for backups or for archiving data that isn’t needed as often but must still be kept.
Implementing online storage
In the case of consumer-oriented cloud storage, the implementation is very easy. You simply need to set up an account, then perhaps download and install a piece of software, and you’re ready to go. Copying files to the storage is a simple matter of drag and drop.
Businesses need to take things a bit more seriously. They need to think about how the storage will be used and what measures they need to put in place to protect it from unauthorised access or prevent ultra-sensitive data from being stored unencrypted.
Business storage providers will have mechanisms in place to provide more options for configuration, management and security than consumer services offer. Nonetheless, the services are generally easy to use and configure, appealing to a range of customers.