By Paul O’Reilly
While numerous large and medium-sized businesses have eagerly turned to the cloud for data backup and even handling day-to-day transactions, smaller businesses and individuals have been much more reticent. High profile security breaches involving household names such as Target and Home Depot have undermined what little trust many people had in the cloud, and confusion over privacy, reliability and costs have added to the uncertainty.
But however much we try to ignore it, the cloud is not going away. In fact, most of us are already using the cloud on a daily basis, often without realizing it. Whenever we check our Facebook accounts or read our Gmail, we are interacting with the cloud. When we buy something from Amazon, or stream a movie from Netflix, or seek out turn-by-turn directions on our smartphones, we are taking advantage of cloud services, transmitting various amounts of data each time we log on.
So rather than fight against a rising tide, it’s time to allay those fears and embrace everything the cloud has to offer. Here are a few reasons why:
Despite the occasional headlines, cloud computing services have a growing reputation for reliability and security. Think about how much data is handled by cloud services and how few outages and other problems are reported. Even if you are not taking advantage of cloud-based applications like Google Docs, Office 365 or GoToMeeting, cloud storage solutions provide a safe way to make sure all your precious data is backed up and available when you need it. Compare this with your existing arrangements for backup and storage. (Exactly!)
The real benefit of cloud storage is that your data is available wherever and whenever you need it. No more waiting until you get home or back to the office before you can access a file. No more carrying a not-so-portable laptop with you wherever you go. Data stored in the cloud is available wherever there is access to the Internet, and with most people carrying personal hotspots in the form of their smartphones, that means virtually everywhere.
The price for online storage is cheap and getting cheaper. With Google Drive, the first 15GB of online storage is free, which will almost certainly take care of most individual’s needs. If you are a small business owner or store a lot of movies or other large files, then 100GB costs just $1.99 a month. Even more impressively, a terabyte of storage (that’s 1000GB) costs just $9.99 a month. At these prices, you don’t really have to look anywhere else, but there are still dozens of options to choose from, including Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, iCloud and Amazon Cloud Drive. All of them offer a certain amount of free storage, with additional paid options if you need more.
As Edward Snowden and certain Sony Entertainment executives will tell you, privacy is one of the biggest problems of the digital age. But again, stop and think about the personal data that we already store in the cloud, mostly because we put it there. Facebook and Instagram accounts, Gmail, banking apps, messaging, Apple Pay – the list of cloud-based computer programs and smartphone apps containing sensitive information is almost endless and each of them probably holds significantly more personal data than we store in the majority of our PC-based Word and Excel files.
That’s not to minimize the risk associated with uploading large amounts of personal data to the cloud but to emphasize that we have already passed the point of no return. The cloud is already a big part of our lives and to not acknowledge that fact is to close the door to myriad opportunities for improved security and efficiency.
Follow Paul on Twitter.