In years gone by, corporations and small businesses were required to purchase large servers to store its software applications and all the associated data.
The capital expenditure requirements were capable of putting a major dent in any company’s cash-flow.
If the employee related and maintenance costs were tacked on, some companies ended up looking more like IT organizations than companies that provide goods and/or services.
In the late 20th century/early 21st century, a new revolution in data storage changed everything when cloud storage was introduced to the world.
What is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage refers to the ability to store data and software packages on servers that are located in remote facilities instead of locally.
The internet becomes the primary conduit between the remote servers and the end users (customers), using the cloud storage provider’s online file backup services. The cloud storage company leases out virtual storage space to its customers on an as needed basis for a monthly/annual fee.
In exchange, the cloud storage company is required to provide 24/7/365 access to the data/software, assure data security and maintain the servers, including routine data backup services and redundancy.
How Does Cloud Storage Work?
An individual or company will contract with a cloud backup company for the right to store data and software on the cloud company’s farm of servers.
The customers can contract directly with the cloud storage provider, or contract with a third-party provider who has already established a relationship with the cloud storage facility.
The customer will start sending digital information through an internet interface provided by the cloud service provider or third-party.
Any kind of digital data can be stored including software packages, music, pictures, emails and input data.
While the data is stored, clients have access to the data 24/7 through a secure internet connection. The cloud service company often allows customers to use, review or edit the digital data without having to download it.
How is the Data Protected?
There are two security issues that need to be considered. The first issue has to do with protection of the digital data from theft.
The second issue relates to assuring the data is never loss. Here is a look at both issues.
Protection of Data From Theft
Cloud storage providers are a favorite target for hackers.
With so many users transmitting so much data, including personal data, over the internet for storage, security is the number one priority and responsibility of the cloud storage provider.
Most, if not all, providers use encryption technology to protect the digital data.
Some providers use up to a 448 bit encryption level, which is higher than most banks use.
As a secondary measure, the customer might also choose to send the data through to the cloud servers already encrypted. In order to access stored data, the customer is required to set up an authorization grid. This grid assigns user names and passwords to individuals who are legally permitted to access data.
Protection of Data From Loss
Cloud backup solutions are worth very little if the cloud storage provider is unable to protect the data from being lost.
In order to assure that never happens, most cloud backup companies take extraordinary measures.
They create redundancy by backing up all data on multiple servers, while those servers may or may not be located in separate facilities.
Also, the cloud storage company might use several different energy sources to protect against blackouts.
Finally, these data server farms are usually protected by state-of-the-art security and fire prevention systems. At all costs, it is vital for a cloud storage company to be responsible and reliable.
Paying for the Service
In the early days of cloud storage, the cost was high and the storage space was restricted.
As servers got more powerful and server facilities got larger, cloud storage providers were able to start lowering the costs and allowing for unlimited storage space.
Currently, the large number of available cloud storage companies have made the industry very competitive.
The prices can range from $3.99 per month up to hundreds per month, depending on the size of the company and the kind of data being stored. For individuals, the price is relatively cheap since most individuals are only looking to store videos, music and pictures.
The most prominent providers offer low monthly costs for unlimited storage.
If the company or an individual are willing to contract for a year or even several years, most providers are willing to offer deep discounts. Of course, extra services can always be contracted for an additional fee.