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5 Questions for Choosing a Cloud Storage Service

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When the MP Hon. Ranjan Ramanayake was arrested with a collection of CDs containing private telephone conversations, a friend of mine commented Ranjan should have uploaded the recordings to a Cloud Storage Service instead of copying them to CDs. I do agree with him but is it as easy as it sounds? There are at least a dozen most popular cloud services around the world. How do you know what’s best for you? Usually, we ask only two basic questions when choosing a cloud storage service. Price and capacity. Today I would like to answer five additional questions to help you determine the service that suits you best.

If the term Cloud storage sounds like a mystery to you, it’s like a hard drive on the Internet. Storing, retrieving, and sharing files using this hard drive is a complex, automated process and requires specialized software, but in layman’s terms when using a cloud file storage service, instead of the traditional method of storing documents on your computer (or a USB drive) you save them to one or more hard disks attached to a server on the internet. We call it saving to “the cloud”. If you have used Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox before you have used cloud storage consciously or unconsciously.

Is that Cloud Storage Service here to Stay?

Always ask, will this cloud storage service still be around when I wake up in the morning? Thousands of Cloud Storage Services spring up like mushrooms almost every day. Commit your data to one of them and you can kiss your valuable data goodbye in the blink of an eye! Do you remember Megaupload? The company rebranded and relaunched the service later. However, as far as I know, the customers of the defunct company are still denied access to petabytes of data!

What are the Terms of Service and Usage?

The customers of the previously mentioned Megaupload had given away any chance they could sue the company to have their data returned to them. The company had explicitly mentioned in their terms of service that they are not an archival service and don’t guarantee access to data uploaded to their servers perpetually and constantly. I must confess, I never take time to read all the terms of service and usage, but I know what (key terms) to look for and where. This article titled “How to Quickly Read a Terms of Service?” can show you how?

Should I choose Premium or Freemium?

Most cloud storage services have two basic plans. Premium and Freemium. Freemium is a business model, especially on the internet, whereby basic services are provided free of charge while more advanced features must be paid for. Freemium is good but not good enough. Consider the Google Photos Free and Unlimited storage plan for example. It used to be the best photo backup solution. That was until Google pulled the plug on June 1st, 2021. So, should you choose a premium plan or a freemium plan? My answer is, premium, always!

Is the Service as secure as they say it is?

I recently came across an advertisement by a local Telecommunications Company that used jargon like “128 Bit Military Grade Encryption” to describe the measures they have in place to protect the customer data. However, when I asked whether they encrypt the data at rest (data stored in their cloud) they said the data in transit (data being uploaded to the cloud and downloaded from the cloud) is always encrypted. I asked again about the security of the data at rest, and they were clueless. How can I commit my data to them if they don’t know the difference between encrypting data at rest and encrypting data in transit?

I want to sacrifice another paragraph for security because it is of utmost importance. In addition to encrypting data at rest and transit, your data is comparatively less safe unless, the cloud storage in question supports “Zero-Knowledge Encryption” meaning that no one, except you (not even the service provider) can access your secured data. I don’t think most home users need that level of security. Nevertheless, you should know that security is subjective, and your data might not be as secure as your Cloud Storage Service Provider wants you to believe.

Can the service in question fit my Needs?

Last but not least you need to do ask “Is this service sufficient for me?” because there’s no such thing as “One Size – Fit All” in Cloud Storage Services. While the majority of the services support almost any type of file there are services specialized in storing specific types of files also. Chose the wrong service and if you are living in a country like Sri Lanka where bandwidth costs are high, and the internet is slow migrating will become a nightmare. If you need help choosing a service that suits your needs, here’s an article on Tech Advisor worth a read.

Wrap Up

Even in the golden era of technology, there’s no such thing as perfect Cloud Storage Services. Someone said we are living in an era where data and time are the most valuable commodities. [In an interesting move Microsoft has said we can’t completely rule out the possibility of data loss even with cloud storage! Full Story] Hence, we need to ask questions that go beyond the prices and storage capacities if we want to minimize the annoyances and maximize productivity in the long run. I trust these questions will help you do just that.


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