Cloud storage: It's not just about the files

Cloud storage: It's not just about the files

Summary: Talk about the cloud and watch some folks' eyes glaze over. They don't want to think about where their files are stored. Ask them if their photos are safe and it's a different story.

(Image: CNET)

As in nature, the cloud is everywhere. Just about every platform and OEM that makes mobile devices have cloud storage available for customers. Odds are one of the first things a tablet, laptop, or phone buyer sees is an offer to provide cloud storage.

Device owners should give some thought about a cloud storage solution. It's not a matter of backing up files to the ether, it's about protecting important information.

Business in the cloud

While businesses used to create tons of paper, and many still do, these days they are also creating gobs of digital information. Documents, spreadsheets, drawings, you name it, they are being created all the time. While this exists in the form of files, it's really information created and received by workers. Whether or not this information will ever be needed in the future, it is vital it be saved just in case. You have to document whatever work process the information deals with.

Large corporations probably have a system in place to save this information, perhaps in the cloud or using local storage. Small businesses are a different matter entirely.

Savvy small business owners will have such a backup system, often using the cloud, to protect their interests. Some of them don't, based on conversations with a few of them. Backup systems consist of emailing important documents to an assistant so they exist on two computers "in case something breaks down". That's not a very good way to make sure everything is not only saved but easily accessible in the future should the need arise.

This is particularly important when it comes to mobile devices used in the workforce. Laptops are used heavily for document creation, as are tablets in increasing numbers. It's vital they are not overlooked when it comes to saving information, and the cloud is a good solution.

It is a good idea to extend the documents saved to notes taken in the course of conducting business. If it's important enough for someone to note it, it's important enough to save for posterity. That's reason enough to encourage taking digital notes in the workplace. Abandon those notes scribbled on paper and use a device to take those notes.

Just saving documents in the cloud is not good enough, they must be readily accessible in the future. It doesn't matter how many files you have stored in the cloud if you can't easily get at them when needed.

As an example, a while back I got a call from a client I did a multi-million dollar project for in my past career. This project took place years ago, and the company was revisiting it for some reason.

My client representative was apologetic as he asked me if I remembered why a certain important decision was made so long ago. He made it clear he would understand if I didn't remember and couldn't help him.

I have been taking digital notes for over a decade, and have religiously backed them up, first to local storage and now to the cloud. I was able to tell my former client not only why that decision was taken years ago, but also who was present at the meeting when agreement was reached. I suspected the latter information was just as vital as the reason the particular decision was made, and it was.

There are lots of cloud storage options for mobile devices, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box to name a few. These are aimed at personal users but might be appropriate for some small businesses. There are quite a few business services, too.

It's not which cloud service is used, it's that something is in place to capture the digital information created on mobile devices. Don't let your small business flounder because no one in the office can get their hands on critical information.

Next: Personal stuff is important, too 

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Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • I love hybrid.

    Dropbox is very much a hybrid: Your files are in the cloud, and on your local machine as well. So if you don't have an internet connection or have a lousy one, you'll still have your data.

    Hybrid is the pinnacle of data availability. Pure cloud is not, because everything gets bricked when you lose the connection or have a really lousy connection. So I'm gonna keep pushing hybrid.
    • One Drive works the same way

      But Dropbox is much easier to use. I keep my pictures up there.
      • OneDrive (aka Skydrive) does both

        You have the option of keeping it local and on the cloud or having it on the cloud only. It is fast and totally transparent on Windows.
        • I would never use "Skydrive"

          As "Skydrive" ("OneDrive",or "to the cloud"), is indexed by Microsoft, for warrantless NSA inspection. Remember they keep an "unencrypted copy of everything for "Law Enforcement". The issue is not today but in the near future, if suddenly speaking out against some Dictator become Illegal.
          I hate trolls also
          • If you want to stop that stuff, ask to have the laws changed.

            Humm, I don't think Microsoft indexes specifically for the NSA - but the NSA does have the authority to ask them (and any cloud provider) for information.

            If you want to stop that stuff, ask your senator to have the laws changed. Griping about Microsoft won't change it.
  • Clouds everywhere!

    As a basic PC consumer, I use all the above mentioned offerings, but it sometimes a hassle trying to remember which 'cloud' to look in. I've used Evernote for many years and it is my number ONE cloud service. My old company recently called me back out of retirement to help them out for a month. All my Evernote files were readily accessible for recall and helped me a bunch. Dropbox also came in very handy for pulling up old files.
  • Let's chuck the lessons of history out the window

    It is funny the way the wealthy mitigate risk, by diversifying their investments, and placing their money all over the place - including locally in safes. Security protocols since the beginning of time, have always counselled essentially the same - distributing your assets, and obfuscating them from the view of would be attackers. But public cloud advocates keep insisting that we disregard history, and the principles which govern our world which we learn from it, and put all our eggs in the public cloud. And this, after Snowden exposed the dangers of doing the same. As far as I'm concerned, the is all madness. This is people caught up with a 'cool' idea, who wantonly disregard the consequences WILL ensue because of it.
    P. Douglas
    • Yup.

      Yup. Agreed. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Which is why I advocate a hybrid approach.
    • In the words of Queen Amidala

      "So this is how democracy dies...with a thunderous applause."

      The Cloud sells convenience and the lack of a requirement for personal responsibility for keeping one's files safe. Clearly, there is a market for things that do this.

  • aws s3

    i run a cron job that backs up my important stuff to AWS s3. Its really good, I like it :)
    Radomir Wojcik
  • BitTorrent Sync - All the benefit, none of the liability

    Cloud storage starts to get expensive after the first few gigs. BitTorrent Sync is only limited by the size of the disk of the machine on which it is installed.

    BitTorrent Sync allows for distributed file synchronization; all machines linked together assist the others in ensuring that the newest copies of the files are available.

    BitTorrent Sync provides the same 'security blanket' of diverse locations for data's existence, assuming that there are multiple computers on which it can exist.

    BitTorrent Sync runs on Windows, OSX, Linux, and BSD. It runs on Synology, FreeNAS, and Western Digital Personal Cloud drives (albeit with a bit of command line fun on the last one). It runs on iOS and Android.

    The software is completely without cost, and your data never resides on a hard disk that isn't yours.

    Its caveats are as follows:
    --Hard drives aren't free.
    --No pretty browser-based UI for messing with your files via a web browser.
    --GPL die-hards would have an issue with it because it's not distributed under an open source license; I don't believe there is source code available for it.

    BT Sync provides every single one of the benefits and advantages you're advocating, and does so at the cost of "A Hard Drive".

    It's well worth not putting your data on a hard disk you don't own or control, but real-time, versioned data replication over the internet is no longer limited to people who trust Amazon/Microsoft/Google/Whoever...and feel like paying for it.