Data storage is one of the simplest and longstanding cloud functions and usage (and the number of apps/providers) is still rising thanks to a number of factors: various legislation encourages keeping emails for longer and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires the backing up of certain financial data; viruses and other malware means more rigorous backups (needing more storage); in an increasingly varied and creative working world leveraging of video, audio and other media files is skyrocketing which requires more storage; and finally, there just seems to be more data to back up!
The chances are you already have a personal account with one of the big four. Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft’s One Drive, or Box. But before your leverage the same app (or apps) for your business, what do you need to know?
The benefits of cloud storage and backup seem clear:
Should you utilize the cloud for storing your precious data? The answer is probably yes, if only because of the reasons above, however, do so with your eyes open; cloud data storage carries the following potential risks and drawbacks to balance the benefits…
Outages and data losses.
No system is perfect and the cloud is no exception. Cloud servers experience outages and downtime when your data will be out of reach; and data may even be lost – it’s far from unknown (although it generally isn’t reported widely). It may be small but there’s always a risk you’ll lose data permanently.
You’re dependent on internet access.
By definition, you access your cloud-based data via the internet. If the internet is down or, more accurately, your access to it is down then you’re out of luck if you need that data.
You’re at the mercy of the service providers. Check the service agreements and terms and conditions before you sign up; some clauses can be complicated, especially around usage and if you’re in breach, your access can be revoked and your account closed or suspended temporarily.
It can be expensive.
The famous pay-as-you-go monthly fee model of charging is highly beneficial to you, the user… in the short-term. Stay with that provider long enough though and sooner or later, the accumulated payments begin to overtake and outstrip the hardware costs and license and maintenance fees associated with more traditional software solutions.
It can be slow.
The internet operates at light speed compared to only a few years ago (remember 56Kb dial-up modems?) but still there are limits to bandwidth and the more customers a data center has, the smaller your share of the pipe, and the longer it will take to upload and download that data you needed five minutes ago..
You’re not in control.
If you have a problem with the data or hardware in your office or store, you can do something. Maybe you shouldn’t (it depends on your technical expertise) but you can. When there’s a problem with accessing the data center where your information is stored then it’s out of your hands; all you can do is wait for someone else – i.e. your storage provider’s contingency team – to fix things. And unless you’re a large, high-paying customer, they’re not going to get to your data first.