Cloud storage refers to a form of data storage in which information is kept in data pools across several server locations called “a cloud”. The provision, maintenance, and security of the cloud and its servers are managed by a hosting firm that rents out space to individuals and establishments for a fee that could be paid monthly, quarterly, or yearly.
As a result, physical storage devices are getting less popular as the days go by as more companies and individuals are incorporating a “cloud storage” based system for important files and documents.
Limitations associated with Physical Storage
This is a product of the several limitations that come with using hardware to store data, not to mention the apparent risks associated. They include:
- Physical damage to the drive or any of its components
- The possibility of virus overtaking the contents of the drive
- Misplacing the storage device
- Loss of critical data due to unauthorized personnel viewing the unprotected file
Besides the previously listed risks, storage devices suffer from space limitations, preventing the user from being able to store beyond its capacity. Furthermore, in most cases, the device begins to operate slower once the storage capacity is nearly full, causing efficiency issues.
“Cloud Storage to the Rescue”
On the other hand, cloud storage does not suffer from any of these problems. The space occupied can always be easily increased by increasing monthly payments to the host establishment supplying the space.
Building on the work of Joseph Licklider on ARPANET in the ‘60s, several cloud storage companies have begun to function. They are usually characterized by the seemingly unlimited space they can provide and the security of the data they store.
Most storage providers tend to distribute the information across several servers in different locations, moving them through the servers after some time, securing the integrity of the data, and ensuring its safety.
In addition, the information stored is made durable by creating copies, and the data in each composition is consistent in value and quality.
Regardless, no system is impervious, and cloud storage services are prone to a couple of risks highlighted below.
Security Threats facing Cloud Services
Security Concerns – the distribution and transportation of data through many server locations increases the risk of exposure. This is because an increased number of people have access to the servers and, subsequently, the information contained therein. The larger the firm, the higher the number of employees, and the bigger the risk.
In theory, the procedure of moving information through servers reduces the likelihood of data loss. Still, it also exposes the information to the risk of being intercepted by cyber-criminals during transit.
The likelihood of this is further increased when the information is not adequately encrypted.
In addition, cloud data storages are usually heavily targeted by hackers as the information contained on the servers could be worth millions.
Given that all customers share the same cloud space, an error on the part of the company or one of its workers may leave your data exposed and shared with other customers. This could cause the leakage of sensitive or potentially dangerous information to the public.
Accessibility issues – the access to and usage of outsourced storage is heavily dependent on money flow. A situation where a customer cannot make payment to the company in time may see him/her locked out of or even lose the data stored completely.
Unlike regular storage drives that can be accessed anytime, the ease of access to data stored on the cloud relies on the available network connection concerning the information contained. Therefore, accessing more volume of data would require the user to have a large bandwidth and high network speed to match.
Malware – like every other entity on the internet, the information contained on cloud storage is susceptible to malware. As a result, malware attacks are prevalent, and reports from Statistica confirmed that they totaled over 5.6 billion of all cyberattacks in the last year.
Malware may spread by uploading a corrupted document to the servers or through an error in judgment of a company employee downloading or opening a compromised link/application.
Other Issues – Cloud storage users always run the risk of patronizing an illegitimate hosting company that could trade customers’ information for money. Other times, the services rendered by the hosting company could be shut down due to legal and or financial issues. In any of the above cases, the documents stored could be permanently lost.
In any case, there is always the need for additional security measures on both the individual and the host firm to ensure the integrity of stored data remains uncorrupted.
How Cloud Service Providers Can Better Secure Users’ Information
Employee Training – for better security, the host company has to remind its workers of the threat that cybercrimes pose and teach them the importance of cybersecurity.
The training should also cover what to do and what not to do while using the internet on company devices.
Given that phishing links spam the internet today, with over 3 billion links going out daily, helpful tips on spotting and avoiding phishing links could go a long way to protect customer data.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – VPNs encrypt user connection, protecting you from the activities of hackers trying to spy on your network.
Another sure way to secure your device, as well as your data, is by using a VPN service to secure your access to the cloud, ensuring your stored documents are safe.
It also repels the efforts of cybercriminals trying to access your network and password through malicious means such as a man-in-the-middle attack by encrypting data as they are being sent across a network.
Multi-Factor Authentication – one password to secure a lot of information is risky because it grants the criminal unlimited access if stolen.
Multi-factor authentication at each login level with varying passcodes ensures that a password breach at one level limits the damage incurred to the information.
It should be worthy of note at this juncture that top security priority should be given to sensitive documents.
Restricted Access – it makes no sense for all the employees of the storage-providing establishment to have access to the server rooms.
Restricting access codes to top-level employees and technical engineers reduces the likelihood of data breaches. As an additional bonus, it reduces the pool of suspects in the case of an actual violation.
With every method, there are pitfalls. Some of which you may not be able to account or prepare for. Regardless, cloud-based storage takes the win when selecting a storage medium for important files/documents.
In general, the benefits outweigh the possible disadvantages, making it the top choice for selection. Statistics published show that about 1.93 billion people were using cloud storage systems by 2018, amounting to 200 million over the projected number in 2017.
Statista facts released last year reported 2.33 billion people actively using cloud storage.
Excluding individuals, more than half of all establishments use cloud storage services, with powerhouses like Apple and Box providing storage services to users of their products.
In conclusion, users need to do adequate research on an establishment before trusting them with your information to avoid mishaps.
Individuals should also take necessary precautions to protect their information, like using VPN, Two-Factor Authentication for login purposes, and avoid malware and phishing links when using the internet.
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cybersecurity and privacy tools.