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To the cloud?

Since the beginning of the computer age people have been striving for a more cost effective, safe way to save their respective bits to some medium for use later. At the start of my computing career, we used reel to reel tapes, which would eventually become cassette tapes when home computers came out. Then came the floppy disk. Starting at a whopping 8 inches then shrinking to 5 1/2 inches, before finally ending up at 3 1/2 inches. Which were nice and convenient to carry around in your pocket all the while being able to store an amazing amount of data, 1.44 MB’s and at that time could house multiple applications. However most cameras today don’t even take a single picture that small. So as always we bean to seek bigger and better as we always do. The next medium was the Compact Disc (CD for short). The CD could hold an earth shattering (at that time) amount of data 700 MB. So it took roughly 700 3 1/2 floppy disks to equal a single CD. Then came the DVD’s, coming in a single layer that held 4.3 GB to a Duel layer, that held roughly 8.6 GB. Meaning one Duel layer DVD held as many as 5,970 3 1/2 in floppy disks. Then along came Blu-Ray, with the duel layer capable of storing 50 GB of data, that would be about 23 hours of standard definition movies. 

Now I told you that story to highlight the idea behind the next one. The Cloud. It is almost as if this “cloud” is some magical place you can put all of your stuff. (Even though it kinda is). When people talk about the cloud, what they are talking about is internet connected servers. (Cloud sounds cooler now right?). Many things can be done in the cloud. For example Google uses Cloud computing to write and store documents on the internet. Another use is for storage and security purposes. There are some apps out there like Carbonite and Mozy that for a free will allow you to back up your entire computer to the internet. Which in a case of something catastrophic happening, you would be able to restore your system albeit on new hardware.

The next type of cloud storage is something I am sure you have heard of before. That is using cloud storage to share large files and folders with friends. These applications like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google Drive, DropBox and so on. These solutions are great for keeping a backup of all of your pictures, or to share the 1 hour video you took of your child's first steps with grandma across the country. That is exactly what the reason for these sites. 

Now that all being said, there are some considerations you want to make sure are in place before you load data up to one of these services. The first being, how is your data being handled once it leaves your computer? Usually the communication between your computer and the server on the internet is encrypted. The key word is usually. Before you sign up for any of these services, verify that not only the communication is encrypted, but once the file is on their system it is also encrypted. You will also want to find out what the Terms of Service say about your date, for example, what is the data retention policy? If you delete a file is it gone forever? Is there a possibility of recovery? Research to determine if the service has ever had any previous security problems. 

Another good practice, if you are using one of these services to transport sensitive data, encrypt it on your computer first, then upload it, and CALL the intended recipient and give them the recovery password. NEVER send ANY passwords through email. That is security 101 and will be a topic for later. 

Develop a strategy, like the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The one I employ currently is to use Skydrive fro documents, DropBox for video and Google drive for photos. But that may be lending itself to my paranoia, or it makes it easier for me to find things. I would like to think it is because of my organizational skills rather than any paranoia, but I make no promises. 

Do you use any cloud services? If so, what is your strategy? Sound off in the comments.  


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