Intro (what is the "cloud" in data management)
Data in the cloud - it is probably a term you have heard before - but do you know what it means or its function? The cloud can be a confusing concept for those used to older technological practices like storing data on USB sticks and hard drives or printing and storing documents in a filing cabinet. While old-school forms of data management might work for you and your organization, the truth is, the world has moved on. According to data collected by Hosting Tribunal, 94% of enterprises already use a cloud service of some kind today, with that number only expected to continue growing.
The cloud is the way of the present and the future. Storing data in the cloud is both more efficient and more secure. With so many individuals and enterprises already using some form of this technology, it is likely just a matter of time until you will need to ditch that USB stick or external hard drive for good.
Whether you own cloud technology and want to expand your knowledge or are looking to dive into it for the very first time, we want to answer some frequently asked questions. So, continue reading as we explore the basics of cloud technology.
What does "Cloud Storage" Really Mean?
Simply put, cloud storage is the action of storing data on the internet. This service, otherwise known as the internet cloud, is purchased from a provider. The provider will manage capacity and security so the end-user can access, upload and download with the utmost peace of mind at any time of the day.
Does a Particular Person or Organization "Own" the Cloud?
There is not one single person who owns the cloud. You are the owner of the data you create (in most cases), and the cloud service provider is responsible for the storage and security of that data.
If you really want to put a name to a concept, then you need to look back into the early 1960s. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider, an American psychologist and computer scientist, is said to be the inventor of cloud storage, thanks to his work on developing the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the first wide-area packet-switched network. This precursor to the internet further defined the idea of connecting people to data, no matter where they were, and no matter what time of day it was, all by using computers of course. Although it was not necessarily called cloud computing at that time, it is strongly believed that this was the starting point for the concept as it has developed today.
Is Cloud Storage As Safe (or Safer Than) Physical Servers?
How secure are cloud services? Let us first take a look at physical servers. On-premise tech can include flash drives, hard drives, and local file servers, among other tech. They make mobility difficult or nearly impossible. Maintaining them is expensive, and replacing equipment when it has reached its end of life can be even more costly than that. When it comes to security, individuals and organizations must consider the manual aspects of physical tech. Remembering to conduct back-ups and software updates can sometimes fall by the wayside, while physical threats, such as theft, are sometimes completely out of anyone's control.
Turning our attention to the cloud, we can confidently say that security is greatly improved. Much of that has to do with eliminating physical infrastructure and automating tedious processes. Some important benefits include:
- Back-ups - They are automated and conducted on a regular basis by the service provider (with your consultation, of course). This means there is less emphasis placed on hardware failure and power-outages
- Encryption Algorithm - Ensures that only authorized personnel can access your data in the cloud
- Geo-independent Storage - Data is not just stored in one data center. Data is spread across several locations to ensure that if hardware at one location fails, your data remains safe and accessible
- Network Segmentation - Many people receive security threats via malicious email. If an end-user falls for the scheme, it can unlock a host of opportunities for the attacker to access contents of a physical workstation. Since data is not stored on individual workstations in the cloud, it is inherently more secure, even if a computer is attacked via phishing or other scheme
- 24/7 Monitoring - Your IT team may go home at 5:00 PM, but cloud security teams are monitoring their equipment around the clock
Where are Cloud Servers Located?
Many who have purchased Apple products will notice the familiar slogan - "Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in China." This message does not signify that Apple could not afford to build a factory in the United States. It does show that they have found ways to reduce costs through existing facilities and cheaper labor abroad.
Turning our attention back to cloud computing, you might wonder - where is the "cloud" located? And where is data stored? These are good questions. However, just because a provider's office might be in the United States does not mean your data is in the same country. It could be somewhere in Europe, Asia, South America - just about anywhere. This is done for many reasons including security and cost-cutting, but is rarely a concern for an end-user. Much like Apple, a cloud service provider will look at their options abroad when it comes to building a large and secure facility where data is stored. You may ask your provider where their data farms are - they could be across several countries and continents, however, they may not be able to tell you for security purposes.
Depending on the industry you are in, it is best to check local regulations as they relate to off-shore data storage.
What are the Key Features to Look for in a Cloud Software?
We understand you had questions - what exactly is data storage in cloud computing? How does cloud storage work? We hope that you have a better understanding at this point. Perhaps you might even be ready to dive into a cloud computing system of your own - if you have not already! Still not convinced? Let us take a brief look at some of the key elements of a cloud computing system.
- Self-service - Customers should be able to maintain a good level of control over their system. In addition to mobile access, being able to see network allotment and uptime rates are also helpful
- Maintenance - There should be little to no maintenance involved on the customer end considering you would not be housing any physical equipment related to its operation
- Scalability - One of the best parts of cloud computing is that you only pay for the services you need. Therefore, if you need to remove or add storage, it can be as simple as logging into your account or calling customer service
- Automation - When configured correctly, the cloud can do a lot of things without manual intervention. Back-ups, software updates, auto-responses, and more
- Remote Access - Need to access a file while waiting in line at the coffee shop? No problem. If your physical workstations fail, you may still access your data on a mobile device. Cloud has enhanced the ability to work from just about anywhere
- Detailed Service - Service Level Agreements (SLA) will offer you great detail about the service you will receive. It will include guarantees on performance, availability, bandwidth and more
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