Laptop being used to upload and download to the cloud
Technology & Security

Unlocking the Mysteries of “The Cloud”

Unlocking the Mysteries of “The Cloud”

You’ve likely heard of your information being stored in “The Cloud” ¬¬¬— but what exactly is it? And does it keep your information safe? Cloud computing (AKA online data storage) has been around for a long time. So let’s explore how it works and what it means for you:

When personal computers first came on the scene, we stored all our own data right on the computer. But as the need for storage grew larger than the capacity of individual computers, and the number of devices that needed storage capabilities multiplied, cloud-based storage was introduced.

With cloud-based storage, instead of being stored directly on your device, your data lives on computers inside secure data centers (literally huge buildings with shelf after shelf of super powerful computers). You’ve likely experienced this firsthand, if for example, you use an online email service like Gmail, or you upload photo files to a cloud-based service. The Cloud lets you access those emails and photos from any internet-connected device (desktop, table, smartphone, etc.) – anytime, anywhere.

Is the Cloud Safe?
One New York Times article puts it like this: the same way your money is probably safer mixed up with other people’s in your financial institution than in your dresser drawer, your data may actually be safer in the cloud. Both have more protection from the “bad guys” than you as an individual. If you need further comfort, hackers who steal data are still going after traditional servers—not the big public clouds.

Furthermore, cloud computing companies work with some of the smartest tech scientists in the world to ensure your data remains safe. Not to mention: the actual data centers are incredible fortresses with both physical and high-tech security measures in place to prevent the wrong people from accessing the computers inside.

Is the Cloud Better?
The short answer is yes — because it’s not just about storage, it’s about how the cloud processes information. Because there are so many computers and drivers working to run programs at the same time, computing clouds create efficiencies that allow each of those computers to work at closer to full capacity — something a standalone computer or small grouping of servers in one office building just can’t do as well.  That means you get access to what you want faster and online processes are faster too.

And where your individual computer might experience a disruption with a power outage or other failure, when one of the computers in the cloud goes down for any reason, the process just gets moved to another part of the system and there’s minimal, if any, loss in production (or loss of data, for that matter).

Remember, you have a part to play in the security of your information. Cloud-based services are well protected, but you should always use strong, varied passwords, never download files from unknown sources, and avoid transacting on insecure sites to help prevent data theft. As an additional layer of protection, encrypt data before uploading it to the cloud. This can be as simple as adding a password to your documents or using a software solution that actually encrypts the data.

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