Imagine there’s a valuable photo stored on your laptop. How would you protect it? Would you make a copy to a flash drive, or upload it to FaceBook or Picasa? If you said yes to any of the aforementioned, congratulations, you just ventured into the world of cloud storage.
Cloud storage is similar to an external hard drive, users move files onto the cloud, taking their files with them wherever they go. Instead of carrying a physical object, documents are accessed from a laptop, tablet, smartphone or e-reader when connected to the Internet.
Although cloud storage is very useful for storing and accessing documents, there are downsides. Users are trusting personal documents to a third party’s servers, hoping they keep it secure.
Who uses cloud storage?
The short answer is, just about everyone with a device and a connection to the Internet. Cloud storage has become so integrated into our digital lifestyle you may not even know it. Photos on Instagram, email communications via Gmail, accessing your bank account online and even booking an appointment with your barber via the Internet wouldn’t be possible without cloud storage.
Everyone from CEOs and presidents to stay at home parents use the cloud. Most of us pick an inexpensive or perhaps free option. While these solutions will work for your individual needs, you get what you pay for.
Cheaper options may not be reliable, sharing vacation photos with coworkers won’t happen when the cloud service subscribed to is down.
What happens if someone guesses your password? What if a hacker manages to breach the provider’s servers and make off with your social security or credit card number? Free solutions won’t take this as seriously as paid premium providers that cater towards businesses and professionals.
Focused on making life easy as possible, SugarSync offers cloud storage styled similarly to Microsoft Windows. It’s bright, colorful and intuitive. select folders on your computer and SugarSync will export them to the cloud.
SugarSync offers a level of customization other providers can’t. Example: you use cloud storage for home and office. Folder A is for personal, Folder B is for business. choose what folder syncs to what device. At work have access to Folder B, while Folder A is accessed at home.
There haven’t been any major breaches to SugarSync, but it’s not perfect. With this service, you can’t keep your own private encryption key. If a hacker manages to steal the key or if the authorities want to see what exactly you were doing in Columbia on that vacation, there’s nothing stopping them.
Some users have complained that uploading speeds can be very slow, making syncing painful at times.
SugarSync doesn’t offer any free levels of service, its plans are more expensive per gigabyte than other providers.
Not to be confused with Apple’s iCloud, iDrive offers cloud storage through apps for desktop and mobile devices.
For the security conscious, iDrive checks off all boxes. There haven’t been any breaches to their servers. All documents are encrypted on your computer before being uploaded and iDrive doesn’t store the encryption password.
iDrive offers an above-average 5GB free. Be careful not to go over the limit, overage charges may inflate your bill.
Dropbox is one of the largest and well-known cloud storage providers. They’re not inexpensive, but offer an application for virtually every operating system, providing the opportunity to share files with others, even if they don’t have an account with Dropbox.
Dropbox shows all actions and modifications to files, a useful tool when deleting or modifying a file in error.
Dropbox had a serious security flaw. The flaw didn’t come from hackers. Dropbox incorrectly coded a routine product update, allowing users to access other user’s data without having to provide a password. the team required over four hours to correct the error.
Often confused for it’s flashier, similarly named rival Dropbox, Box has been offering cloud storage solutions longer. Box has focused towards business; it’s also useful for users who require cloud storage for backing up data.
Box offers the best free plan in the industry, a whopping 10GB. They have one of the most extensive web applications in the industry, with no need to install their application on your computer. You can even create new documents right in the cloud.
As a gentle giant supporting tens of millions of users, Box attracts unwanted attention from hackers. in 2014, a security firm discovered Box users were accidentally allowing their private data to be indexed by search engines. if a competitor searched for your company’s fiscal quarter results private documents were returned with the search query.
Part of Google’s offerings, Drive comes with Gmail for free. Drive is more than just cloud storage, it’s a productivity suite offering functionality similar to Microsoft Office. Create documents, edit in real-time with co-workers, and export in PDF or Office formats.
Drive isn’t lacking in syncing options, download the application and sync over entire folders. Start a document in the office and finish it on the go or at home.
Navigating Drive may prove difficult at times. When deciding to adopt this solution factor in time for a learning curve.
You might be suspicious that Google will spy on all of your documents but rest easy. The terms of service are clear, files stored in Drive won’t be used for marketing purposes.
Google isn’t too big to encounter problems, in 2015 nearly 5 million Gmail accounts were hacked and dumped into a Russian security forum. With Gmail and Drive tied together, all documents stored in Drive were compromised.
Mozy is an ace at what it does, its key function is to backup your desktop or mobile device in case something unfortunate happens. Get complete control over your backups, from when and how often.
Included are features other providers don’t offer like bandwidth control so you don’t need to slow down Netflix while it’s running.
Security on Mozy is tight, they encrypt all data before uploading it, with the ability to save the encryption key yourself or allow them to generate it.
The software is lacking when it comes to collaboration and sharing documents. There’s no sharing of any kind.
Mega has the tightest security of any service we reviewed.They offer an unprecedented 50GB in their free tier.
Mega is easy to navigate, it’s similar to the Microsoft Windows file browser.
Mega doesn’t store any passwords or encryption keys, once you setup your account record the master key selected. Keep this in a safe place, Mega can’t help if the master key is lost.
The collaboration of files is complex compared to similar providers. To share a document, the recipient must have a Mega account. There is a free option, but it won’t be helpful to organizations with lots of employees.
Mega is one of the newest cloud storage providers, having launched their solution in 2013. it has experienced growing pains in regards to speed hiccups when uploading files and sharing a folder link. the encryption key is built into the links, possibly compromising security.
Another contender that puts security first, SpiderOak has a famous ‘Zero-Knowledge’ philosophy. SpiderOak employees have no access to any of your data.
The interface is easy to navigate; buried within it are tons of settings you can play around with and customize. Power users enjoy SpiderOak’s detailed dashboard, displaying how backups are progressing and the state of your network.
Want to backup business data daily and personal data monthly? No problem, there’s a function allowing users to specify folders.
SpiderOak is too complicated for users that don’t adapt well to new technology or are budget conscious.The security is excellent with no reported breaches; the tradeoff is speed, this service being one of the slowest.
Focused on business professionals, OpenDrive offers a variety of tools and unlimited storage for it’s higher paid tiers.
The installed application’s interface may scare off the less tech-savvy, but if you dig in there are benefits. The web-interface is a simple drag and drop for most functions, there are custom storage options and with a business plan there are management features to keep track of who is storing what.
OpenDrive utilizes what they call ‘Secure File Folders’, designated folders that require a password to access without even OpenDrive having access.
The downsides to OpenDrive, no local backup for files, everything is in the cloud. There aren’t any real-time files or watched folders. When downloading and modifying a file users need to remember to re-upload and replace.
A recent entry into the cloud storage market, Livedrive is a secure cloud storage solution but can be hard to access at times because it’s not the most user-friendly.
Livedrive made a splash when it debuted due to unlimited storage offerings. Even on the most inexpensive tier users may store as much as they require, when they require. Other providers limit how much bandwidth per day can be used; there are no such limitations with Livedrive.
The user-interface is fragmented, instead of one clean window the user navigates via pop-ups. It makes it extremely difficult to determine where you are in the system.
Other pain points to keep in mind, the cheapest tier only allows users to sync to a single computer. Users can’t set their own private encryption key if hackers breach the system or a court order arrives files are at their mercy.
Livedrive is more expensive than then other providers
Cloud storage is still someone else’s computer
Storing data in the cloud is never going to go away. Society has become accustomed to the speed and convenience of life in the cloud. When deciding to utilize cloud storage, be cautious of which provider you partner with. Not all services are created equal.
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