What is the ‘Cloud’ – and Should I be Using it?
Prior to writing this post, my initial assumptions about 'cloud', apart from the weather formation, were that it referred to the average (from my personal experience) wi-fi service which can be found throughout the UK, or a piece of software, such as HootSuite which combines various platforms and marketing techniques into a single package. However, the term 'cloud' is also used to describe a method of online data storage which can act as an alternative to Microsoft Office, Windows, or losing your flash memory stick.
There are numerous cloud storage solutions, including ones that have been developed by those huge organisations Adobe and Google, which enable professionals and members of the public to access files from any computer in the world with an internet connection. In addition, Apple's iCloud platform also allows users to access items including photographs, calendars, word documents, spreadsheets and databases from your mobile phone. No doubt this is a useful addition, especially if you want to analyse those monthly sales reports whilst waiting for your lunch.
For the purposes of balance, other cloud storage services are available, including DropBox, CloudMe and Mega, thus clearly showing that there is a market for this concept. However, should this type of program be used for all types of data, including credit card and bank account numbers? Personally, if I were a business owner, I wouldn't be comfortable with exposing other persons data, unless 128 bit encryption were implemented, although I appreciate that some information about me may already be held in this manner without me knowing or with significant security.
Another problem that could arise with cloud storage is the situation which inflicted Mega's predecessor in early 2012. In this case, the US Department for Justice closed down the New Zealand based servers of MegaUpload alleging widespread copyright infringement. But there was significant criticism from law abiding citizens around the world, who had lost personal memories and data, plus questions, which continue to this very day, as to whether or not the US government had gone beyond its jurisdiction.
There are good points to cloud storage though, in addition to easy mobility, provided you don't share an item to the wrong person, specifically on Google Docs. First, it's probably cheaper, given that you don't have to think about servers, local area networks and other hardware. Second, you have the option to frequently update the amount of disk space at the click of a button. Finally, there are fewer environmental considerations, and most importantly, you have the chance to concentrate on your core business. (Yes, the one you're supposed to be making money on.)
It's a tough choice, but with the right security, I might be tempted to shift away from the status quo.