Don’t fear the cloud

Just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend over “cloud” computing, and her expressed fear of the technology surprised me. After we talked a bit, it became evident her biggest concern was simply not understanding what the “cloud” was, or how it functioned. After all, the news is quick to point out any instances of data breaches at large companies, all the while using the words “cloud computing” with no real explanation of what that means. So, let’s spend a few moments and discuss a few reasons why you don’t have to be afraid of the cloud.

First, you’re probably already using it! Do you have a Hotmail, Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, or other online e-mail account? Well, then your information is being stored in the cloud. By that I mean, your information is being stored somewhere other than under your own direct control. But cloud computing is more than that. Basically, the term “cloud” has come to mean the sum total of the hardware and software used to store, manage and process data at a distance. 

And, there are actually two distinct varieties of clouds. One is a private cloud, meaning that it is a closed system utilized by, and for, a specific company. The other is a public cloud, meaning that it is usually offered as a service by a specific company for use by other companies or individuals. Most of the time, when someone talks about the “cloud” they are referring to a public cloud, like the ones mentioned above. Of course, when that information is no longer under your direct control, some concerns are bound to arise, bringing us to my second point.

Cloud systems are inherently more reliable than anything you at home, or in a small business, are likely to be able to afford. You can think about it in this way: Microsoft and Google have tons of assets tied up in ensuring the reliability of their data centers. And, more than that, companies running a cloud computing resource co-locate data. That means your data is stored across multiple sites to ensure it’s not lost. If you’re truly worried about losing files such as photos, e-mails and other important documents, then are you spending the money to be sure that data is located in more than one place, both physically and digitally? If not, then storing that information in the cloud may be the way to go. Of course, there is always the issue of security.

Finally, we are constantly hearing about breaches in security at large companies these days. Just do a quick search for “cyber-attacks on large companies” and you’re bound to see enough material to keep you reading the rest of your days. Alternatively, if you were to count the number of times a home computer has been compromised, the number isn’t even calculable. The chances of your home computer being “hacked” are exponentially greater than the chances of your cloud data being compromised. Except in extreme cases, for a security breach involving a cloud resource, most of the time you will probably just end up having to change your password.

And, periodically changing your password is something you should be doing anyway!