Cloud Storage and Alternatives

Ordinarily, every computer has some local memory storage capacity. Apart from the Random Access Memory or RAM, computers have either a magnetic hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state disk (SSD) to store programs and data even when power is shut off—RAM cannot hold information without power. The disk drive primarily stores the Operating System that runs the computer, other application programs, and the data these programs generate. Typically, such memory is limited and tied to a specific computer, meaning other computers cannot share it.

A user has two choices for adding more memory to a computer—he/she can either buy a bigger drive or add to the existing one, or he can use cloud storage. Various service providers offer remote memory storage, and the user has to pay a nominal rental amount for using a specific amount of cloud memory.

There are several advantages of using such remote memory. Most cloud storage services offer desktop folders where users can drag and drop files from their local storage to the cloud and vice versa. As accessing the cloud services requires Internet connection, the user can avail the cloud facilities from anywhere, while sharing it between several computers and users.

The user can use the cloud service as a back up for storing a second copy of their important information. In the event an emergency strikes and the user loses all or part of their data on their computer, accessing the cloud storage through the Internet can help to restore the stored information on the cloud. Therefore, cloud storage can act as a disaster recovery mechanism.

Compared to local memory storage, cloud services are much cheaper. Therefore, users can reduce their annual operating costs by using cloud services. Additionally, the user saves on power expenses, as cloud storage does not require the user to supply power that local memory storage would need.

However, cloud storage has its disadvantages. Dragging and dropping files to and from the cloud storage takes finite time on the Internet. This is because cloud storage services usually limit the bandwidth the user can avail for a specific rental charge. Power interruptions and or bad Internet connection during the transfer process can lead to corruption of data. Moreover, the user cannot access his/her data on the cloud storage unless there is an Internet connection available.

Storing data remotely also brings up the concerns of safety and privacy. As the remote memory is likely to be shared by other organizations, there is a possibility of data comingling.

Therefore, people prefer using private cloud services, which are more expensive, rather than using cheaper public cloud services. Private cloud services may also offer alternative payment plans, and these may be more convenient for users. Usually, the private cloud services have better software for running their services, and offer users greater confidence.

Another option private cloud services often offer is of encrypting the stored data. That means only the actual user can make use of their data, and others, even if they can access it, will see only garbage.