A Simple Explanation of Cloud Storage

A client recently asked me to explain cloud storage to him. He knew that cloud storage exists on computers in locations other than your own computer and that your files can be saved and accessed in cloud storage via the internet. But, due to the growing number of different cloud storage options, it has become a confusing concept for many of us. I will do my best to explain what it is and how you can make use of it.

What is cloud storage?

My very basic definition is a place where your computer files (photos, music, documents, spreadsheets, etc.) can be securely saved on unknown computers (servers) and accessed via the internet.

Who offers it?

From internet providers to shopping sites, all kinds of online companies are offering free cloud storage to their customers. And they hope that when you run out of the free cloud storage, you will find that you cannot live without it and will purchase more. The best-known services include Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.

Where is it located?

Well-run cloud storage companies have data centers, sometimes called server farms, in multiple locations around the world. Optimally, they store all of your files across many computers in different locations with additional backup and security measures rigorously maintained. If a disaster occurred and completely destroyed a companies’ data center, then a backup or duplicate set of your files would still be on computers at a data center in another part of the world.

How is it used?

Cloud storage is used just like the hard drive on your computer, except that the files are saved on some other computer in a data center and you must have an internet connection to access them. The popular cloud storage services I mentioned earlier easily function as an additional hard drive for your files.

Why use it?

I use cloud storage for four reasons:

  1. To save space on my own computer. There are some documents I don’t have to keep but I want to keep them for a while. Therefore, I upload them to one of my cloud storage accounts and delete them from my computer.
  2. To share certain files with others. Sharing files eliminates the need for emailing attachments back and forth! Any changes made to a shared file are immediately visible to everyone in the sharing group.
  3. To backup my computer files. I use an online backup service that automatically backs up my photos, documents and music in its private cloud storage.
  4. To have my files easily accessible from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. This is my main reason for using cloud storage – synchronized, immediate access to my data, wherever I am.

Is it secure?

There is no computer or cloud storage service that is 100% secure, even your own home computer. But, you can do your best to select the services that state their security practices and are successful enough to be able to fund the expense of a top-notch digital defense. Once you’ve selected a cloud storage service, you must do your part in protecting your data with a strong password to your account.

I understand that cloud storage is a technical concept that makes some people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Next time, I will compare some of the best-known cloud storage services and why you might choose one over another.