Until now there has been one iron rule when it comes to information: data belongs on devices. Phone numbers are stored in the phone, text and photos on your computer. The “cloud” changes everything. After Google (Android phones) and Amazon, Apple has also joined the cloud services bandwagon. Now, the data from phone and computer moves to the “data cloud”.
What does the “cloud” mean?
Essentially, “clouds” are huge data centers that store your data. Your phone or computer connects to them via the Internet (cable or wireless), and can store data or bring it to you. Because the data center is invisible to you, the term “cloud” has been used.
What type of data can be stored?
Anything from your photos, videos, music and texts (self-written, even whole books) can be stored on a “cloud”. Even your personal user settings, contacts and phone numbers, and apps have their place there. Most vendors specialize in certain types of data and manage those comfortably.
Where are the data centers?
For security purposes (espionage, sabotage), vendors keep the exact location of their centers secret. Most often however, they are in the U.S., Israel and Ireland for Europe.
What are the benefits of the “cloud”?
- Your data is stored centrally in a datacenter, not on a specific device. If the device (for instance a mobile phone) gets lost or damaged, your data is still intact.
- A data center usually makes multiple copies. If your computer crashes, you would still have a copy in the “cloud”.
- You save yourself the trouble of complicated setups. For example, when you buy a new cell phone, all you need to do is log on to the “cloud” and immediately have all your phone numbers, appointments, etc. on your new device.
- There are several ways to access your data. For example, you can view an electronic book on your phone, but also on your laptop at home and on office computers.
- You do not need large memory on your device, because the data is stored externally and accessed only when needed. Also, software is often hardly necessary.
- The “cloud” opens up new opportunities for collaboration. A group of people working together on a text can access it centrally in the datacenter.
What are the disadvantages?
- You need an Internet connection to access your data. If the connection is bad or unavailable (i.e. in the train), you might not be able to access your data.
- You are dependent on data center operators, because they have your data. Weak companies that risk bankruptcy or have technical problems are very risky, both financially and personally!
- Even a well-managed data center may have problems (i.e. lightning). If the data center is out of service, you’re out of luck; there’s nothing you can do.
- You don’t know where your data is located (which country). For corporate users that can be a problem, because of data protection law: for instance in Germany, all data needs to be in Germany.
- Major suppliers can be attacked by criminals seeking to steal or destroy data, but other agencies may also be interested in the data (i.e. FBI, CIA)…
What are typical “cloud” applications?
You can load your entire music collection or favorite e-books in the “cloud” and then listen to or read them from anywhere. All devices (mobile phone, computer) and operating systems (Windows, Mac) work.
Which are the largest providers?
Google, Amazon and Apple are the largest “cloud” providers. But smaller, local providers are also offering “cloud” services, like Telekom in Germany. Check out an overview of the Amazon data center here.
What does the future look like?
Until now, data centers have only been used for storage of simple data such as texts or presentations. With the “cloud,” storage expands to contacts, photos, music and more, paving the way for a new outlook on information storage and communication.
How do I find a good provider?
Surf the Internet for local providers! Prefer large, well-known vendors to small firms, as they have better funding and will likely stick around. Smaller, less known companies risk losing your data should they have to shut down.