What Is Cloud Storage?

Cloud storage is a way for businesses and consumers to save data securely online so that it can be accessed anytime from any location and easily shared with those who are granted permission. Cloud storage also offers a way to back up data to facilitate recovery off-site.

Today, individuals have access to several free cloud computing services such as Google drive, Dropbox, and Box, which all come with upgraded subscription packages that offer larger storage sizes and additional cloud services.

Key Takeaways

  • Cloud storage allows individuals and businesses to store and retrieve computer files via an internet-connected device.
  • Cloud storage has grown increasingly popular among individuals who need larger storage space and for businesses seeking an efficient off-site data back-up solution.
  • Because of cloud storage's increasing popularity and use, cloud security has become a major concern to protect data integrity, prevent hacking attempts, and avoid file or identity theft.

Cloud Storage Explained

Cloud storage offers a simple way to store and/or move data in a secure and safe manner. It allows individuals and businesses to keep their files stored with the cloud services provider for on-demand access on any of their devices. Cloud storage can also be used to archive data that requires long-term storage but does not need to be accessed frequently, such as certain financial records. Increasingly, files stored "in the cloud" are utilized for group collaboration.

Cloud storage works by allowing a client computer, tablet, or smartphone to send and retrieve files online to and from a remote data server. The same data is usually stored on more than one server simultaneously so that clients can always access their data even if one server is down or loses data. For example, a laptop computer owner might store personal photos both on her hard drive and in the cloud in case the laptop is stolen. 

A cloud storage system can specialize in storing a particular type of data such as digital photos or music files, or can provide for general storage of any type of data such as photos, audio files, text documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. 

Cloud storage is believed to have been invented by computer scientist Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider in the 1960s. About two decades later, CompuServe began to offer its customers small amounts of disk space in order to store some of their files. In the mid-1990s, AT&T launched the first all web-based storage service for personal and business communication. Since then, a number of different services have become gained traction. Some of the most popular cloud storage providers are Apple (iCloud), Amazon (Amazon Web Services ), Dropbox, and Google.

How Cloud Storage Benefits Businesses

Cloud storage helps businesses with major data storage needs to save a significant amount of space and money by eliminating the need for data storage infrastructure on the business premises. The cloud storage provider owns and maintains all the necessary hardware and software so the cloud users don’t have to. Purchasing ongoing cloud storage may cost more in the long run, but it can be significantly less expensive upfront. Further, businesses can almost instantly scale up or down how much cloud storage they have access to as their storage needs change.

The cloud also enables employees to collaborate with colleagues—and work remotely and outside of regular business hours—while facilitating smooth document collaboration by allowing authorized employees easy access to the most updated version of a file. At the personal level, cloud storage allows mobile data and enables digital life in the holistic way we live it today. Without the cloud, smart phones would not be able to be the interface of so much data ( photos, documents, information on the go). Using the cloud to store files can also have a positive effect on the environment since it cuts down energy consumption

Cloud Storage Security

There is so much attention on cloud storage today in the digital era because so much of our sensitive personal data is stored in the cloud whether we voluntarily store it there or whether a company we do business with decides to store it there. As a result, cloud security has become a major concern. Users wonder whether their information is safe, and increasing data breaches have demonstrated that sometimes it isn’t. Users are also concerned about whether the data they have stored on the cloud will be accessible when they need it.

While cloud storage may seem vulnerable due to the prevalence of hacking, the alternatives, such as onsite storage, have security vulnerabilities, too. Company-provided cloud storage can actually improve security by giving employees an alternative to using their personal accounts to back up and transfer files that they need to access outside the office.

A good cloud storage provider will have data redundancy, storing the same files in multiple physical locations so that it survives any human errors, equipment failures, or natural disasters. A reputable provider will also store and transmit data securely so that no one can access it without permission. Some users might also require that data be stored in such a way that it can only be read but not changed; this feature, too, is available through cloud storage.