To Recap: In our last Entry we defined the cloud as “an arrangement allowing users to save data in an alternate location via their Internet connection, remote from their own computer disks or systems.” We discussed just a few of the free and commercial cloud offerings, how they work, and the fact that most people are actually making at least some minor use of the cloud, whether or not they realize it.
Jurisdiction is a concern mentioned often in the context of the cloud. Canadians, for example, expect to be regulated in their activities by Canadian governments, but if the cloud storage service you use has servers in other countries, then it might be possible that the foreign government might exercise its jurisdiction by demanding access to your data and applying different laws and interpretations. Frankly, the implications are usually scarce, but people who are concerned with tax matters, politics or citizenship, to name a few, might wish to download a Canadian perspective on the subject from https://info.cloud.ca/jurisdiction-matters
Security is a subject that worries a lot of people but we think that this nervousness usually points in the wrong direction. The companies that offer cloud data storage these days have such huge investments in redundancy and safety measures that risk to your data is very low. We think that the misunderstandings about the use of social media – another form of cloud usage – should be of much greater concern and that this is an alternate form of data that has much greater potential for harm if it is used in the wrong ways.
The convenience of the cloud must not be overlooked. First is the security of knowing that your data is being saved automatically in an additional location, so that equipment failure or loss becomes less a disaster than it might have been. Some cloud backup services allow you to designate a folder on your hard disk to serve double-duty and anything saved there is automatically copied to an identical remote folder. If another computer, tablet or smartphone is appropriately configured that same folder appears there also and so documents, photos, music, messages, calendars and addresses are always available.
Sharing of data among family members, friends or in a business context is another significant convenience. The old days of clogging up someone’s inbox with a bunch of email attachment photos can be a thing of the past, if you post them to a cloud folder and then allow your friends access to that folder. They can simply view them or download them and, if you allow it, they can add their own photos to that folder. In another example, people all over the world can make edits and additions to a joint document, with the various versions saved for reference, if you have given them access. Some cloud services, Google Docs being just one, even allow you to post your data and assign a URL (web address) to it so that anyone who has that link can click on it and see it instantly. Anyone with Gmail has automatic access to this service and a pretty decent amount of storage space is free!
Do your own research about using the cloud – but be careful. When we were doing our background reading to prepare for these columns, we found a great number, perhaps the majority, of articles online that were VERY out of date. Cloud computing, especially for business, has been around for more than a decade but there have been so many updates recently that we are suspicious of information older than a year or so.