Cloud storage: It's not just about the files

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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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Personal stuff is important, too

The need to keep information safe extends to personal stuff, too. I still run into folks who when asked, tell me the thousands of photos of the kids are just on their smartphone. They take the photos and videos on the phone and then forget about them.

When I press them about what they'd do if their smartphone was lost or stolen, they panic. It finally occurs to them that they'd lose all of those memories in a flash.

See related: The top 10 personal cloud-storage services

Just as in the business case, this personal stuff is not just files. It is photos, videos, music, music recitals — it is memories that cannot be replaced if catastrophe strikes. The cloud is the perfect solution to prevent that from happening, and everyone's phone and tablet should be backed up to the cloud.

Again, it's not enough to just back up to the cloud, it should be done in a way that makes it accessible in the future. When you need to find that video of Junior's first steps, you don't want to wade through thousands of files. You want to get right to that precious memory.

Most devices and the platforms they run on have a method for doing just that. Device owners should familarize themselves with that method and make sure they can take advantage of it should the need arise.

The cloud has your back

Having your important stuff, business and personal, safely stored in the cloud can give peace of mind. No worries of losing that photo and the memories it invokes. No catastrophe when that business document eludes you, throwing you in a panic. It's all in the cloud, which has your back.

Don't overlook mobile devices when it comes to backing up. The cloud is often the easiest and most automatic way to do that.

You can use a local hard drive to back your stuff up. That's a good piece of a good backup solution. But what if that big, honking drive that has all of your files, no, your information, dies? All of your stuff is gone in a flash. That won't happen if it's all in the cloud, too.

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