Cloud storage has a lot going for it, as any professional should be aware of. The freedom to outsource file hosting and more critically file protection has been changing the way business works for over a decade now, and this technology has trickled down to the consumer in the form of a litany of file hosting services with names like Dropbox, MediaFire, and RapidShare.
And that’s all fine and good. The security of delegating your data protection to professionals whose job it is to take care of that data is great. The problem comes when that data is put at risk from the closing of sites, whether voluntarily due to things like budget concerns, as was the case with EMC’s Atmos Online storage service, or involuntarily, as countless horrified end users found out last January, when filesharing giant MegaUpload was strung up by the feds for what they have described as its alleged laissez-faire attitude towards 'mountains of pirated content'.
What happens to your data, then, is more about the details of the service as well as the shutdown itself. Knowing where your data is stored as well as what’s stored alongside it is critical to proper protection of your content. Below is a list of some of the major types of cloud storage systems, the clientele they cater to, and the potential solutions one has in the face of an impending or shutdown shutdown of services.
At the top of the list comes the typical filesharing services like the aforementioned few, individual-oriented hosting solutions mostly intended for the backing up of personal data, or more likely the peer-to-peer sharing of files. The upside of course is that these services are either free or increasingly cheap, due to healthy competition for faster speeds and better service. The downside is that your beloved vacation videos are often sharing space with a thousand and one ‘vacation videos’, thinly veiled pirated material that makes these websites a common target for government takedowns.
When websites like this freeze, as they often do, there’s simply nothing you can do. Individual end-users petitioning the government for access to disparate files, often with poor documentation of what those files are, rarely meet with success. Furthermore, the example of Megaupload provides a stark reminder that the larger of service is, the shorter it can last outside of full-fledged operations. Carpathia Hosting, the web host of Mega's servers chose to dump most of the data in a shockingly short period after the fall of the company.
Consumer oriented hosting (Carbonite, Mozy, Backblaze) offer a better alternative to sharing services at an increased price. There’s some value to the added expense, of course. It’s not just the added security, rather, it’s the hope that if something does go wrong there will be at least a brief period of time for users to migrate their data elsewhere. Of course, there’s no true guarantee of safety.
As users saw with the shutdown of Atmos Online, the decision to shutter the cloud can be pretty sudden, and whether the result is your data vanishing from the face of the earth or simply floating off into cyberspace, encrypted for all time, you might want to have a backup plan in case of catastrophe. For your most critical data, data that you positively cannot afford to lose, consider an added layer of protection. Most consumer hosting solutions cost somewhere between $5 and $15 a month, with pretty reasonable caps (if any) on data from single computers. Double up- one cloud evaporating could happen, two at the same time is pretty much out of the realm of possibility.
Of course, there’s always the big leagues.
For the most security and the most space, the solution is enterprise-level hosting- Windows SkyDrive, Egnyte, etc. The security provided by these hosts isn't just the price, rather, it’s that the fundamental nature of their services means they can’t expect their clients to grab their things and leave in a short period of time. As you might expect, corporate entities depend on these clients for their entire business model to function, which means you as a business owner or end user can reliably trust them to take care of your data regardless of their outcomes. Perhaps overkill, perhaps the smart solution for someone who can’t afford to lose their data.
The bottom line
The reality is that cloud storage is just a different form of web hosting and the same rules apply:
- You get what you pay for
- Backups, backups, backups!
There’s very little in the way of guarantees when it comes to the integrity of data, but redundancy is the best fail safe. In the end, it’s your data- you decide what to do with it.
The short list of file sharing companies
Hostjury has put together a list of file sharing companies, linked to their profile and review pages. While comprehensive, it is by no means a complete listing. As is the HostJury custom, the list is presented in no particular order and we makes no recommendation or endorsement of any web hosting providers... or in this case, file sharing companies.
- Hightail (formerly YouSendIt)
- Google Drive (only lasts till we use it.. then Google takes it away)
- SkyDrive (predeceased by Windows Mesh)
Think we missed one. We are sure we missed many. Let us know and we'll add it to the list!