Is Cloud Storage safe? How safe is Cloud Storage compared to external drives? This are some of the most popular questions that the Cloud Storage 101 team has received over comments and personal messages since our first articles. Before answering with a definite “Yes!” or “No.” we will be looking into how far cloud technology has made it in 2016.
It will then be up to the readers and users to decide if it safe enough for them.
The Almighty Backup
Is Data Backup Still Important?
If users are working with sensitive, private, or unique data then the answer will always be yes.
Documents, Chat History, E-mails, Pictures, Videos, Audio, or Save Files for different programs and applications can all be labeled as sensitive or private information. Losing any such data due to hardware failure could cost thousands of dollars to restore. And even with such a hefty price tag, there is no restoration process which can ensure full data retrieval.
Nevertheless, as the cost of lost data retrieval continues to slowly increase, backup technologies also continue to be more and more available and affordable to the average user. Depending on the size of the average backup, users can utilize DVDs, Flash Drives, external Hard Drives, or Cloud Storage.
The Cloud Storage 101 team considers data backups to be of critical importance. Depending on the amount of information intake, monthly, weekly, or daily backups are a very healthy user behavior.
The Best Backup
Is It Better To Backup Data On A Physical Device Or Virtually?
While the winner is cloud storage it is safe to say that the best answer is simply both.
Physical backups like external hard drives currently serve the purpose of both centralizing all the saved data onto one medium for easy accessibility and as a last resort in case anything unpredictable happens to data stored on the PC or on the cloud.
- Very large storage space at a low cost via external hard drives;
- Physically reliable;
- Security can be increased with passwords, encryption, and being kept offline;
- Great for creating and managing data archives;
- Accessible and mobile via flash drives and memory cards.
Virtual backups have the added benefits of being accessible over multiple devices and, while being mobile, having at least one layer of protection via encryption, as well as being out of the government’s reach by being stored on servers in other countries.
- Affordable storage space via monthly or yearly subscription; each cloud service also offers several GB of free data storage which can prove to be sufficient for the average user. For example, Google Drive offers its users 15GB for free.
- Out-of-country storage ensures privacy even against the government;
- Security ensured by password, encryption, and multi-server storage;
- Great for managing recent data that requires multi-user access over numerous networks, as well as archives;
- Easily accessible from any PCs and most smart devices connected to the Internet; several cloud storage services now allow for audio and video streaming without requiring download.
Presently, the Best Backup is to initially store data from the PC to the cloud and then from the PC to an external device. Copying data from the cloud to the external device or vice-versa is less reliable. There is always the possibility of the data suffering any form of corruption during transfer.
Finally, in regards to actually using archiving software, only do so for long-term storage data and only in cases in which archiving proves to save considerable space.
The Cloud Storage 101 team recommendation is for users to backup the same data both physically and virtually. Dual backups offer the best reliability-to-cost ratio.
If You Suggest Both Backups, How Is Cloud Storage Safe?
No matter how safe cloud storage currently is, we also recommend a physical storage backup because the latter will always be under the user’s control and access.
The former requires entrusting a company with private and sensitive data. That trusted data is then still saved on servers and hardware always has the possibility of experiencing malfunctions.
Presently, many cloud storage companies, such as pCloud, save copies of the same user data over multiple locations in order to account for any potential hardware issues, as well as the user accidentally deleting parts of their backup. The measure has yet to be adopted by all cloud storage companies, however.
One such example is Bitcasa. The company started out offering unlimited storage to its users. However, several years later it changed its policy to a very steep monthly or yearly subscription service. Users who did not wish to pay had a limited time window to migrate or download their data.
By the end of the time window, Bitcasa deleted hundreds of petabytes (hundreds of thousands of terabytes) of private data. Bitcasa’s change of policy currently stands as both a rare example and a worse case scenario.
The truth is that the cost of physical backup storage continues to decrease. A flash drive or external hard drive is a very affordable better-safe-than-sorry secondary backup alternative.
How is Cloud Storage Safe More Exactly?
In the article, we have already mentioned the amazing benefits granted by multiple-server storage data safety, as well as international server data privacy.
The other main feature which guarantees the safety of cloud storage is data encryption. Each cloud storage company uses its own encryption ciphers. Companies also constantly research new algorithms in order to ensure consumers of their reliability and protect all the data from hackers.
Probably one of the best features of cloud storage is the fact that users do not need to do all the research, implementation, and upgrades of their encryption and decryption as the companies handle that part of account and data security.
But is Cloud Storage safe with only one layer of encryption?
Apart from customized and always up-to-date encryption and decryption, a few cloud storage companies offer an additional secondary even stronger layer of encryption. For example, pCloud offers a secondary level of data encryption for an added cost of less than $4 to their monthly fee.
The First And The Last Line Of Defense
The security of cloud storage as a service varies from company to company. However, there is always one prevailing common element in determining the safest online storage possible – the user password. Even if your answer to our main question ‘Is cloud storage safe?’ is ‘Yes’, you still need to make sure that your password is bullet proof.
The best encryption cannot fully protect data if the user’s password is compromised. The Cloud Storage 101 team strongly advises users to consider elaborate passwords consisting of the following:
- Over 12 characters in length;
- Avoiding personal information, common phrases or dictionary words;
- At least one upper-case letter;
- At least one lower-case letter;
- At least one number;
- At least one symbol;
- Unique password for each major service in order to avoid identity compromise in the case of account leaks;
- Changing passwords three or four times a year either every 120 or 90 days.
It is very bothersome for the average user to come up with elaborate and easy to remember passwords only to have to permanently change them and remove them from memory a season or trimester later.
However, the requirement for strong passwords in the world of today continues to increase so it is best users develop their own system of password design and stay ahead of the curve.
Cloud Storage 101 will feature an article on password creation and management in the near future.
Is Cloud Storage safe? Yes. Is it the safest storage alternative? When it comes to authentic security, there is no “one best way” to hold information. Two lockboxes are better than one. And if both options are accessible and affordable, which is currently the case then users should consider both.
How do you feel about the current state of encryption? Is Cloud Storage safe enough for you? Feel free to let us know.