One of the best and easiest ways to store data is to use cloud storage. Big corporations like Microsoft, Apple, and even Google, not to mention dozens of smaller providers, let you store files off-site for a monthly fee. But what exactly is cloud storage and how does it work?
What is cloud storage?
In short, cloud storage is when you store your files and data over the Internet instead of on your own computer. Instead of filling up his own hard drive, he signs up for a paid service ( drop box is probably the best known example) and places your files on their servers.
This means that your files are kept on the Internet and accessible from anywhere and from any device: just log in to the service with your password and there they are. Most cloud storage services will allow you to view your files online, and some, like Google Workspace They will even let you work on documents and spreadsheets.
Benefits of cloud storage
There are very good reasons to use cloud storage. You can use it to free up space on your own computer or use it as a backup, all while being able to access files from anywhere. Let’s take a look at some of the main advantages.
Space saving and file backup
If you download files to the cloud instead of storing them locally, your hard drive won’t fill up as quickly, which generally translates to better performance, especially for solid state drives . However, even if your hard drive is of the spinning variety, it’s always nice to be able to free up some space. For example, if your photo collection takes up space that you’d rather use for a new video game.
Alternatively, instead of moving files from your hard drive to the cloud, you can also duplicate and create a backup. There are dedicated companies that offer this service, I Drive and backblaze to name just two, but you can also configure it yourself using no-code automation software like Zapper . Either way, if something happens to your computer, your files will be safe.
There’s also a financial incentive: the other way to get more storage is to get a new hard drive, either plug it into your computer or getting an external one .
While there are definitely some benefits to using additional hard drives over cloud storage (more on that later), one downside is that they come with a large upfront cost. Cloud storage services, on the other hand, are paid per year or per month, which means you can better spread out what you spend.
On top of that, many cloud storage services have free plans – smart use of offers free cloud storage it can mean you never have to spend a dime on storage, especially if your needs are modest.
However, as useful as it is to save space and money, the two main benefits of cloud storage are the fact that it is accessible everywhere and that files are continuously synced. The first of these is the simplest: no matter where you are or what device you have with you, you can access your cloud storage account, as long as you have Internet access and the password.
If you shoot a cool video on your smartphone, you can edit it on your desktop PC by simply uploading it to the cloud. If you need to quickly edit a work document on your smartphone during your commute, you can do it without opening your laptop on a crowded train. Having files available to you no matter where you are is helpful more often than you think.
In fact, it’s what fueled the creation of Dropbox, the first widely available cloud storage provider. The story tells that Drew Houston, one of the company’s founders, had a habit of forgetting his USB sticks exactly when he needed them. Existing ways of storing and retrieving data from the web at the time were slow and buggy, so he created his own service.
Dropbox is also responsible for the last great benefit of cloud storage, continuous syncing. As great as it is to have files available everywhere, it can get annoying if changes aren’t reflected across all your devices, especially if you’re using a single storage account with multiple people, usually in a work environment.
As such, most services will offer some sort of continuous sync, and you may want to avoid the ones that don’t. As intimidating as it may sound, continuous syncing, or usually just “synchronizing,” just means that files are constantly updated, regardless of whether they’re just in the cloud or also duplicated on a physical hard drive.
The result is that no matter what device you access a file from, you’re always using the latest version. It’s a great innovation and probably the final piece of the cloud storage puzzle.
Disadvantages of cloud storage
I could fill a book on the benefits of cloud storage, but to be fair, there are also some drawbacks. The main problem is that, as good as all of the above sounds, you must have an Internet connection to use it.
Plus, it should also be a decent connection, unless you really like your syncs to take minutes and minutes. If you are in a place where internet connection is spotty, then cloud storage is not a great option.
Is cloud storage safe?
The second most important question is whether cloud storage is safe. The answer here is that it very much depends on the service you are with. Dropbox, for example, has a breach history some of them quite serious. Since many people store many files with cloud storage services, these providers become juicy targets for hackers.
Anything online can be accessed by anyone, so yes, there is a chance for online criminals to access your files. As such, you really shouldn’t keep sensitive files stored online, whether they’re nude photos or company secrets, keep those things on your hard drive.
The other reason is that not all cloud storage services have strict privacy policies. Many leave room for interpretation, so it could be that company employees could, perhaps, have access to the files it stores. There is no evidence that this happens, but there is also no evidence that it doesn’t.
All that said, though, the benefits of cloud storage outweigh the drawbacks, especially if you’re not using it for anything too sensitive. If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, check out our guide to choosing the best cloud storage service for you.