Cloud hosting services have been a major industry buzz for a few years now. Ultimately, cloud services represent the future of file and website hosting. In the present, though, cloud services continue to present a number of problems for the average user. These issues can range from mere annoyances to major security breaches, so users should beware what they decide to host on cloud servers.
Perhaps the greatest issue with cloud hosting services is security. We’ve seen many instances in the last year where online services have been hacked and sensitive information posted in public forums. Placing sensitive information on cloud servers, then, can put you at risk.
Even the popular cloud hosting service Dropbox was hacked earlier this year. It has since changed its authentication guidelines, but that didn’t help customers who were affected by this hack. If you host your files with a cloud service and a similar breach occurs, your files could be at risk — even if the cloud host changes its security protocol afterwards.
Proper server maintenance is another issue that can affect your cloud experience. Cloud hosts typically reach out to dozens of different server hosts for storage space. These server hosts are then responsible for maintaining the space on which your data is stored. While they are typically reliable companies, it still means you are a few degrees separated from your data.
What to look for
If you want to avoid potential security and other issues, what should you look for? The first is reliability of name. Going with a reputable cloud hosting company will typically provide you with a fast, easy, and safe experience. For instance, personal users might be better off with Google Drive than even Dropbox, because of Google’s security protocols.
Those in need of a more serious cloud hosting solution should look for companies such as IBM that offer enterprise level cloud infrastructure. This will cost considerably more than personal cloud hosting services, but will also provide a far higher level of security for sensitive files. For any kind of confidential file storing, a personal service simply will not be secure enough.
What to avoid uploading
If an enterprise solution is too expensive, you shouldn’t simply upload those same files to a personal service such as Dropbox. The security threat, even after updating protocols, is still too great. Here’s a short list of files to avoid uploading:
1. Coded music files. If you download music from stores such as iTunes, the files contain a code linking them back to you. If your account gets hacked and people steal your music and then upload it for others to steal, it gets traced back to you. That can put you in some serious legal heat.
2. Anything relating to an NDA. Companies typically take non-disclosure agreements seriously. If you upload an NDA-protected document to a cloud server and someone steals it and then shares it, you will have broken your NDA through no action of your own. Yet you are still liable, since it is your information that was leaked.
3. Documents with personal information. When you want to dispose of documents with information such as your social security number and bank account information, you don’t just toss it in the waste bin. You shred the documents. In the same way, don’t upload files with any of that information to a server that could get hacked.
The golden rule: More than one copy
Even with safe uploads, it’s best not to leave the cloud copy as your only backup. Hard drive storage is cheap these days. It’s better to buy a 1TB external hard drive and make an additional copy that you store locally. That way if you lose the information in the cloud you still have a backup. Again, losing these files on cloud storage isn’t common, but it’s still possible. Using it as a primary backup is a mistake that could cost you.
Cloud services are undoubtedly the future. Computers are becoming smaller and more portable, and that gives us a great opportunity to reduce local storage space. The always-on connections of smartphones and tablets work perfectly with a cloud upload service. But there are many downfalls that users can still experience. For now it’s best to avoid personal cloud storage for sensitive or copyrighted files. There’s just too much risk.