KNOWHOW guide to cloud storage

KNOWHOW guide to cloud storage

If you need access to your data anytime and anywhere, cloud computing could be the answer

Backing up online is the latest way to store your personal files and folders without copying the data to a disc. Files saved to the internet are more secure as there's less risk of losing your data. Backups to CD/DVD -ROM and USB drives can't offer the same level of protection because the back-up hardware carries the same risk of damage as your computer. This guide explains more about how cloud works.

What is cloud storage?

In basic terms, cloud storage is a way to save information to the web. Cloud computing services store your data in a safe and secure online location and offer a quicker and safer backup than traditional data storage methods.

There’s also a great deal of flexibility, as you can access your files and programs from any computer, anywhere in the world – as long as you have an internet connection.

If you use services such as Flickr, YouTube, Google Docs or Yahoo Mail then you're already using cloud computing. These all allow you to store data online and to access web services from any location. Even social networking sites such as Facebook can be classed as cloud computing, because they allow you to store and share information online.

Online security

As with everything related to the internet, it's important to keep security in mind when using cloud products. If your cloud password falls into the wrong hands, the password holder may be able to access, change, download or delete your stored files.

It is therefore very important that your computer is virus -free. If your PC or laptop is infected with malware there is a risk that your cloud logon details will be revealed. Make sure your virus scanner and anti-malware software is up to date, and that you run your anti-virus scanner on a regular basis.

The security checks aren’t just down to you: your cloud service provider must keep your data as safe and secure as they can. This means they need to have adequate protection from hackers and other online threats. They also need to have a disaster recovery plan should anything happen to the physical location where the main servers are kept. A good provider will be able to reassure you that they have a number of secure backups of your files, all stored in different locations.

You should be wary if the service provider only has one storage location, or if they reveal to you the exact physical whereabouts of their servers. This can indicate their security is not as thorough as it should be.

The advantages of cloud storage

There are plenty of advantages to using cloud storage. We have already mentioned the flexibility and ease of saving your data, and the ability to be able to access your files from any computer or location with internet access.

However, another benefit is that you don’t need to purchase any extra storage capabilities for your home – it’s all done online. You can also schedule regular updates to run automatically, which means you don’t have to worry about data being lost. Updates can run in the background so you can keep using your computer while your files are being saved.

The disadvantages

Whilst cloud offers the ideal solution for most data storage dilemmas, there are a couple of things that are worth taking into account before you do ahead and ditch all your discs. If you have a lot of data to store then the first backup might take a while, even if you have a fast internet connection. It’s also worth checking if your internet provider charges for heavy bandwidth usage, as more data will mean more costs.

You should also be aware that your online data could potentially be lost if the service provider goes out of business, or they have issues with their modem and backup . Although this is highly unlikely, it is still a consideration when you are thinking about going online for your data storage.

Uploading and retrieving data

Different cloud services will have different upload methods but they generally involve a web-based interface. Alternatively, you might need to download an application in order to use the service.
Whichever method you use, the basic process involves the following steps:

  • Firstly, you need to select the folders that you want to store.
  • Next, let your cloud provider know that you want to start uploading the data.
  • Schedule automatic uploads – these ensure your stored data is kept up-to-date.
  • The interface will let you know which folders have backed up and which are waiting. For example, they may place a tick on completed sections and a cross where there is still data to upload ; this helps you find out whether you have overlooked anything important.
  • Set your privacy and encryption options. It's important to make a note of any encrypted passwords you use; without them, you won't be able to access your data.
  • To retrieve your files, download them through the interface provided. You can access individual files and folders this way, and even download them onto other computers. Certain services also have apps for smartphones and tablet computers so that you can view and manage your stored data.