What is Cloud Storage and Why Would You Want It?

Recently a lot of hype has hit the airwaves about cloud storage and how beneficial it is.  Now, how would I know if I can benefit from it if I have no clue what you are talking about?

That seems to be the case with cloud storage, where all the companies involved are so busy hyping their buzzword du jour that they've totally missed the fact that people have no clue what they're talking about.

Here is a [relatively] simply explanation of what the term cloud storage means:

Cloud storage is a model of networked online storage where data is stored on multiple virtual servers, generally hosted by third parties, rather than being hosted on dedicated servers.

I say "relatively" because this definition almost creates more questions than it answers.  What's a virtual server, for example?  Should I even care?

Thankfully, the answer to that last question is "No, you shouldn't."

That said, in its simplest form cloud storage refers to a place on the internet where you can securely store your files and be reasonably secure in the knowledge nobody else will be able to access them.

There are all kinds of reasons why you'd want to store files online or, more importantly, away from your physical location.  Backing up your data is always a tricky concept, because while you can back up your entire hard drive quite easily, if your house burns down with your laptop and the backup drive inside, does it really matter that you've made a backup?


That's just one scenario where making a backup of important data and storing it somewhere other than where you normally work or reside can make sense, but there are lots of other reasons for storing data online. Others include file and music sharing, accessibility when you are away from your own computer and that dreaded term "Disaster Recovery".

It's also a lot cheaper or even free in many cases whereas backup hard drives cost money.  Why spend it if you don't need to?

This website, for example, makes use of Amazon's Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3 for short) to store files served by this website.  That includes all the pdf documents, audio and video files that are linked here. The reason for doing this is simple: speed.  By using Amazon S3 to serve these files it allows the web server to run faster and more efficiently if for no other reason than it's serving fewer files.

One of the beauties of Amazon S3 is it allows you to make your files secure as well, so that no unauthorized users can access them.  While that's not a vital concern here at Christopher di Armani.com, it can be for many other websites who have digital products they sell online.

It also costs only about a buck and a half a month for all the storage and bandwidth I use, so it's dirt cheap.

Here then, is a list of cheap and free cloud storage services in case you want to check them out.

[unordered_list style="star"]

  • Amazon Simple Storage (Amazon S3) - probably the best service out there, but not the simplest to use "out of the box".  Tools like Cloudberry Explorer make S3 a lot easier to use.
  • Dropbox - 2 gigs free storage to start, and you can earn up to 18 gigs by referring your friends.
  • Ubuntu One - 5 gigs free to start, and you can earn 500MB for each friend you refer to the service.
  • MediaFire - offers a whopping 50 gigs free, but there are restrictions, such as limits on storage time for free accounts.
  • Apple iCloud- MAC Computers and Devices Only
  • Microsoft SkyDrive - 7 gigs free storage
  • Google Drive - 5 GB of free storage

[/unordered_list]

 

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