Cloud storage ahead: Proceed at your own risk

Cloud data storage has advantages, but recent events illustrate that trusting all of your data to the cloud could be foolish.

The IT mantra for the past few years has been all about the cloud, and the myriad benefits of cloud-based servers and storage. While there are some advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks that you should consider carefully before entrusting your valuable and sensitive data to the cloud.

Just this week there have been two significant events that call the virtues of cloud storage into question. First, Mozy dropped its unlimited storage option -- signaling an end to infinite online storage. Second, online photo service Flickr accidentally deleted a user's account -- and along with it 4,000 photos and years of effort uploading, cataloging, organizing, and linking to them.

These events each have an impact on the value and reliability of cloud-based storage. As far as Mozy, or any other online storage provider, giving users unlimited storage space -- well, that party had to end sometime. Even average consumers have massive megapixel photos, and HD video recordings to upload. The gargantuan file sizes eat up a lot of hard drive real estate, and we can't expect a company like Mozy to simply keep expanding its storage capacity and support infrastructure to accommodate that kind of exponential growth without getting compensated.

A report on storage trends published by Coughlin Associates predicts that the average home will have more than 12TB of data by 2014. Even if Mozy, or other cloud storage providers, continued to offer unlimited online storage, 12TB is far too much data to conveniently or consistently backup online.

Then, consider the fate of the Flickr account -- and the 4,000 plus photos that were irrevocably deleted in the blink of an eye because of human error by Flickr support. Oops. Now, imagine that years' worth of proprietary information, customer accounts, processed transactions, or other irreplaceable business data met a similar demise.

To borrow a cloud-based pun, I am not suggesting that the sky is falling. However, I am saying that there are benefits and advantages to local data storage and backup as well, and that cloud-based storage should be considered as a complement to local storage rather than an alternative for it.

Small and medium businesses can store data in the cloud to facilitate collaboration, and simplify access to data while on the go, but should also have that data stored and backed up locally. External drives like the ioSafe SOLO series provide fast USB 3.0 or eSATA data transfers, and can protect data from virtually any disaster.

The cloud is great, and it gives businesses flexibility, performance, and cost-savings they might not otherwise have. But, trusting all of your data to the cloud is a gamble that can keep you up at night.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)

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