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Cloud storage is becoming quite popular because it’s a powerful tool that allows businesses to meet their computing and storage needs while keeping business and customer data safe. For companies looking to get in on the online storage bandwagon, this guide will help them decide on the best storage option for them. It also discusses online storage, how it works, how safe it is, the different types of storage options available, and the advantages and disadvantages.
It refers to file storage online. Instead of using local storage options (think flash drive, hard disk, or external hard disk) to store your files, you save them online. This cloud computing model allows the storage of data on remote servers and accesses them over the Internet (cloud). It is managed, maintained, and operated by a service provider on storage servers built on virtualisation techniques.
The primary premise of the online storage service is user convenience. In today’s dynamic business world, your customers and employees need instant access to information and data. Ergo, online storage bridges this gap allowing you to access a file or app on your device (PC, tablet, phone or desktop). It also offers you enhanced performance, extra storage space and a secure platform to store a vital file, app or data log if you do not wish to use your on-premises storage.
There are numerous different online storage systems in existence. Some have a specific focus, such as storing digital pictures or web email messages, while others store various forms of digital data. Some systems are small operations that use only one data server, while others (enterprise storage solutions) are so large that their physical equipment fills up a warehouse.
An online storage system only needs one data server that is connected to the Internet to work. Here, you (the client) send a copy of your file to the data centre over the Internet, which then records the information. When you wish to retrieve the file, you can access the data server via a web-based interface. The server then allows you access to the file or sends it back to you.
Cloud-based storage systems usually rely on many data servers because, since computers occasionally require repair or maintenance, it is essential to back up the data on multiple machines running on different power supplies. Without this redundancy, the online storage systems could not ensure clients instant access to their data at any given time.
Cloud backup is essential to your business because it allows you to recover your information if something happens to your on-premises storage.
Reputable online storage services protect your data behind encryption and require a password to gain access. Other times, your file can be stored behind multiple-factor authentication that requires a password plus another code generated independently upon the login request to gain access.
There are different methods of uploading a file or app to your online account. Some online storage services support in-browser uploads only, which means that you have to log in to the service’s website to upload data. Others provide you with a desktop app that makes it easier to drag-and-drop a file into the service’s dedicated folder.
Once your files and data are stored online, the features you receive include the ability to: access a file or app from your mobile device, stream music and videos, share files with others via a special link, encrypt your files to prevent others from accessing them, download files back to your computer, delete files to free up space and more.
With the multitude of CSPs on the market, you need to be wise about choosing a provider who will offer you the maximum amount of bandwidth and low-cost storage while keeping your data safe. While there are several reliable public CSPs on the market, you need to select the best option that meets all your needs.
Many companies are turning to a hybrid type of cloud computing and storage or integrated information-management platforms. The hybrid model combines the advantages of both public and private cloud infrastructure to come up with better flexibility and security at a lower cost. This model bridges the gap between the low-security public cloud and the high-security private cloud. You should note that an arbitrary server that is connected to a public CSP is not a hybrid network. To be considered a hybrid, the private cloud infrastructure must run on a cloud service.
The best online storage system must do the following:
The safety of your data stored on the cloud is relative to the online storage solution you use. Cloud providers store their backups in multiple locations across different power supplies to prevent data loss. These data centres use sophisticated systems that provide emergency power, detect smoke and suppress fires. Furthermore, they are heavily guarded, reinforced and internally protected to prevent intrusion, theft of the storage software, or physical destruction by disgruntled employees.
Cloud systems use authentication processes such as passwords and usernames to limit access, hence safeguarding your data and preventing unauthorised access. Data encryption and multiple-factor authentication are also used to protect data that is intercepted en route or stolen from the server. However, passwords can be hacked, and a rogue employee can gain access to your data’s encryption keys. Also, your data is not immune to government search and seizure.
So is your data safe on the cloud? Well, the truth is that no cloud service provider can assure you of 100 percent data security. In any case, since most online storage companies operate in a cut-throat market, they rely heavily on their reputation, and you can rest assured that they will take great pains to ensure that they have the most advanced security measures available to protect clients’ data.
This is an age where governments have been exposed for unwarranted tapping into of otherwise private cloud data. You would be wise not to store sensitive personal or company information on the cloud. CSPs, however, use more complex security methods to protect data than most local storage options.
While all online storage systems keep data secure from loss caused by fires, hurricanes, floods, and computer meltdowns, your information is still vulnerable because it is with a third party. Therefore, before selecting a provider, do your research.
What’s more, online storage is more reliable when it is used together with another storage system; for example, Google Drive. Since the biggest concern with cloud services is lost data and not hacked data, the issue is eliminated if you use the cloud as more of a sharing platform rather than a storage one.
Although online storage services may not be 100 percent secure, their benefits far outweigh the potential risk. This is evidenced by a large number of companies that use these services extensively.
This cloud service allows you to have your cloud in a shared infrastructure. Here, the provider owns and manages all the cloud infrastructure (hardware and software) and delivers it over the Internet as a cloud service. Imagine the public cloud as a large apartment complex. The CSP is the landlord while individual and enterprise clients using the service are the tenants. The principle of shared resources allows the CSP to offer lower prices.
You benefit a lot from sharing these resources, since industry regulation compliance is high and infrastructure investments are a top quality to attract customers. The other benefits of the public cloud are:
Unlike the public cloud that relies on sharing of resources, the private cloud is used by one organisation alone. It is a preferred solution for larger enterprises with mission-critical data that requires additional security. Financial institutions, government agencies and healthcare organisations are likely to prefer a private cloud solution.
The infrastructure can reside either with a third-party vendor or on-premises. Regardless, the hardware and services remain dedicated. Its advantages include:
The private cloud model is costly compared to a public one because it requires you to own and manage your data centre and IT team. Outsourcing from a third party vendor is also expensive.
The hybrid system employs both private and public clouds, meaning that while your IT team manages a section of the cloud in-house, the rest is managed off-site. This cloud solution is discussed in detail in a section below.
This cloud infrastructure allows data access from different organisations or departments. This collaborative effort allows the sharing of infrastructure between several entities from a specific community that has common concerns (compliance, security, jurisdiction, etc.) whether managed by a third party or internally. For instance, different branches of the same company that are located in different towns. Different government functionalities can also access government data via the community cloud infrastructure.
Mobile online storage allows you to store and manage your files, photos, videos and music from your mobile devices (tablets, laptops and smartphones). Today, many new mobile devices are outfitted with preloaded and configured online storage that can be used to back up your files. Android OS devices use Google Drive, Apple iOS devices use iCloud, while Samsung Galaxy has partnered with Dropbox.
Your company is more likely to cut back on operating costs by using cloud-based services compared to using external hard drives or in-house hosting solutions. It also eliminates the cost of time taken to complete routine backups manually. You do not need to spend more money on additional servers, which are expensive to maintain. Online storage gives you plenty of space to store your data, often for low, affordable prices.
Local storage only allows you to access your files or data from a particular location. However, with online storage, the devices that you use daily become access points. Thus, you can access all your files, photos, apps, videos and folders in the cloud from any place across the world. Of course, you must have Internet access and the necessary credentials. This eliminates the stress of transferring files between devices every time you want to access them, which is, frankly, annoying and complicated.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of using online storage is that you are assured of a back-up solution should something go wrong and your data is lost or corrupted. If something happens to the files stored on your computer, you can always access and retrieve them from the cloud with minimal downtime.
You can sync all your files in the cloud; therefore, if you make any changes to one file, the cloud will automatically sync your changes across all affiliated devices. This means that your files are similar across all devices and you will have the latest version of your file irrespective of how you chose to retrieve it.
Most CSPs add extra security layers to their servers and protocols to protect all data stored therein from outside hacking or physical attacks. To gain a competitive edge, CSPs employ the latest enterprise-grade security measures that businesses would not usually apply. Data is encrypted at rest and in flight, making unauthorised users unable to access the data.
Sending dozens of emails to share files is cumbersome. The cloud makes it simple to sync and share one or more files with several recipients. Additionally, storage services enable you to collaborate with peers and make editing capabilities available to authorised users. Furthermore, such changes are saved automatically and shared easily with all collaborators.
Once you move your data into the cloud, you free up space on your local devices and hardware. It no longer takes up valuable space on your premises, since it is stored virtually on your CSP’s servers.
You must have an Internet connection to gain access to the cloud. Since online storage solutions are dependent on your Internet upload and download speed, low latency can seriously impede you from accessing your app or data in real time.
Online storage and internet bandwidth max ingest speeds may be more limited than your local network or disk. This may not be an issue for file servers and workstation backups, since they can run in the background as work continues. Once the initial full backup is complete, incremental backups reduce the backup size and times while deduplication and compression help, too.
However, specialised applications such as databases (for instance Microsoft SQL Server) can be affected by long backup times. In this case, you want these applications backed up within your maintenance windows or during low activity periods.
Here, it is all about rated online storage speed and Internet bandwidth. Restoring the entire server after a crash or damage may take longer, but file-level restore is equally as fast. The takeaway is to ensure that you meet your recovery time objectives. If this is not possible, you may consider performing hybrid backups on your critical servers and sending the backups to both cloud and local storage. Two backup copies allow fast local restores (with no reliance on cloud vendor and Internet availability) as well as the benefit of off-site storage protection for disaster recovery.
If your backups run during peak business hours, the heavy Internet use affects all Internet-related activity performance. You need to control your Internet bandwidth by setting up utilisation rules to make sure that your Internet connection is not saturated during times when it is required for other critical business activity.
For enterprises and corporations, online storage devices are sound solutions; however, private solutions can be quite costly for small businesses.
Beware of improper handling of your login credentials, since if you misplace them and someone gains access to your user ID and password they can gain access to your account. You must use complex passwords that no one else can guess and avoid keeping them in your devices such as HDDs or pen drives. Finally, if you forget your credentials, recovering them can be a cumbersome process.
Customer support has not been one of the strongest suits of many CSPs, which is why you should take a closer look at the company’s terms and agreements as well as its online forums and FAQ section.
Even the best CSP relationships suffer from one issue; a third party manages your data. This means that you have limited control over the data if you opt for a public CSP. There is also the issue of ownership, since after migrating your data to your CSP’s servers, it may be difficult to determine who, between you and the company, owns the information.
Just like its name suggests, the hybrid cloud converges the private and public cloud solutions into a unique and customisable type of online storage, which offers you the advantages of both. Here, applications and data can move freely between private and public clouds when needed, providing increased flexibility.
Most enterprises can use the public cloud for some aspects of their work that are not sensitive such as webmail. However, these businesses still need a private cloud service to store their data logs, hence the hybrid cloud solution. Its advantages include:
For instance, banks could adopt the hybrid cloud system and have their client communication accounts stored in a public cloud but their confidential account details stored in a private cloud service.
Enterprise cloud storage has become the leading and preferred method of digital data storage, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. It is safer than local storage because it utilises industry-grade safety measures to secure data. It is also space and cost-efficient, accessible across the globe, allows you to sync and share files quickly, and prevents loss of data.
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