What is “the Cloud” and is security really a problem?
Recent events surrounding the hacking of Apple’s iCloud storage have brought into question the security of such services and how people can better protect their information against theft and misuse. But, before one can understand how to properly secure a information on a Cloud system, it’s important to know a little about what it is and where it came from.
In order to be completely mobile data files need to be just as portable as the devices on which they are used. Over time, users have graduated through a laundry list of changes in technology that promised their data would be close at hand whenever they needed it.
Heavy reel-to-reel tapes, a technology that would never lend itself to portability, eventually evolved into the floppy disk, followed by CD-Roms and USB flash drive sticks. Even hard drives have been adapted to be carried around, independent of their host computer; effective, but still inconvenient.
Eventually it became necessary to have unlimited data storage that could be easily accessed anytime, from anywhere, minus the bulk. Direct access through a web-based network was the obvious answer, but most computers and modems at the time could not handle the data stream and security was still a problem.
As high speed, broadband internet and public wireless access became more common, it became practical to make data readily available from remote servers anywhere in the world. Users could now store information on a computer in New York and access it quickly and easily from another in Los Angeles, without going through complicated virtual network software.
VIDEO: Gery L. Deer discusses “Cloud security” on WDTN-TV2, Living Dayton…
Commonly used by big business in the 1990’s to provide workers off-site access, virtual networks held the origins of what has now become known as the Cloud. The term might conjure up pleasant images of a fluffy, white nebula hanging in the sky, but it has changed the way mobile computer users handle data on a global scale.
Cloud computing refers simply to the remote storage of data that does not require the end user to know the physical location of the hosting computer. It allows information to be easily accessed through a web-based, user-friendly interface on a wide range of devices from desktop computers to smart phones.
Originally, most utilized Cloud technology to manipulate documents but now just about every kind of data is stored and accessed over this platform. Users can store and share nearly every sort of information from documents and photos to movies and music, all accessible through Cloud-based services.
Development of Cloud-based technology has transformed the distribution of information (computing) from a product to a service, with delivery conducted through shared software over an Internet connection. Over the last couple of years, Cloud computing has become big business for companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and many others, who offer data management and storage services.
Many providers, like Apple, Amazon and Xbox, offer the user a prompted choice between storing downloaded information locally and keeping it on the Cloud. Often the choice is made based on two pieces of criteria: ease of access and available storage capacity.
Movies, music and games, for example, can take up a great deal of local memory and would be better left on a Cloud server. Streaming entertainment like Netflix is what could be called a “one-way” Cloud service, meaning the data is accessible by the user but they have no ability to alter it.
In 1998, GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. owner, Gery L. Deer, founded Deer Computer Consulting, Ltd., which provided highly specialized, on-site technical support for an exclusive roster of residential and commercial customers in southwest-central Ohio. Deer Computer is now part of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. but has remained a specialist in helping clients to establish and utilize a variety of Cloud-based data management resources.
“Understanding Cloud computing is not as difficult as most techies make it sound,” says Deer, whose technical capabilities date back more than 40 years from computer programming skills he taught himself as a child. “It’s simply the management of digital information off-site from the user. In other words, your computer is on your desk in Cincinnati, while the one storing your data is in, say, San Francisco.”
All of these services allow the user to backup, store and synchronize data between many different devices, and an expense that varies widely according to the application. Some are free, while others charge a premium.
“A free account generally provides the user with a limited amount of storage space, while a paid account on the same service might buy you extended space,” Deer says. “Many also offer limited free trial accounts so the user can get their feet wet, so to speak, before diving into the deep end.”
Video Above: Trailer for the romantic comedy,”Sex Tape,” about a couple whose adult home movie is accidentally uploaded to a Cloud system and made public.(Adult language: Viewer discretion is advised)
Another feature of the Cloud is that it makes transferring and synchronizing data automatic. Users can be certain they are working with the latest version of a file without having to keep track of new file names each time a file is moved. Of course, with all of that data being moved around the Internet, many still worry about security.
Most Cloud services have all data password protected – even the company employees do not have access to those passwords – but it is still recommended to work with high profile providers. “The recent security breach in Apple’s iCloud system has prompted people to take notice of their passwords and activities when using the system, and rightly so,” Deer says. “The best advice is never to store sensitive or greatly personal information on any computers other than your own and even then it should be well secured from outside eyes.”
In addition to conveniently sharing and syncing information, Cloud services can also help prevent catastrophic data loss through online backup services. Several companies provide regularly scheduled, automatic data backup to the Cloud.
With so many practical applications of Cloud technology, getting started might seem overwhelming. Our suggestion is first to identify your specific needs and then research the service that offers a secure, affordable solution.
“Our clients use Cloud services because they want to have access to their data anywhere in the world, from any device,” Deer notes. “But security should still be the number one priority, particularly where financial or proprietary information is concerned.”
New applications for the Cloud are being developed daily, some of which may not even be recognizable. As Cloud technologies become more robust, the demand for better, smarter and faster services will continue to grow. The Cloud provides what always seems to be in demand – the ability to increase capacity and availability in order to meet an immediate need; all without having to invest in new infrastructure. *
For more information on setting up your Cloud system or to have someone evaluate the security of your service, contact GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. at 937-902-4857.