Saving to the Cloud

October 1, 2013, Department, by Tatiana Chalkidou, Michael Bradley

Cloud data storage allows you to access your data from anywhere, but you'll need to do some research to determine the best service or program for your agency's needs.Never before have we been so attached to our data than we are today. The task of collecting files is now so easy that we can easily keep personal data, work data, photos and songs, and anything else that need to be stored in one place! While the size of the stored data can increase tremendously, with technological advances we can now carry these files with us anywhere we go. The options are nearly endless, as we can take our laptop with us, use a flash drive or an external hard drive, or even store them online and access them wherever we find a device (tablet, laptop, smartphone) with an Internet connection. All these options offer different advantages and disadvantages. While the merits of each may change depending on your preferences and needs, online storage (the cloud) may be an option that warrants further investigation and possible implementation. Here, we will try to provide you more information, clarification and help regarding online file storage selection and use.

Let’s hypothesize that we want access to a huge amount of data that may not fit on a flash drive, yet we do not want to carry our laptop with us. The next viable option will be to keep this data (files) on an external hard drive or store them online. With the first option, external hard drives, we have access to our data only if these are physically available, meaning that we have the external hard drive with us and it is attached to a computer. In contrast, with online storage we do not need the physical presence of our data; we have no need to carry the external hard drive. Therefore, the possibility of forgetting the hard drive or even losing it should not bother us. Additionally, we do not need to worry that our data may be compromised. With online storage, your files are more accessible to you and safer from others. Should you lose an external hard drive, laptop or flash drive, any person who finds it or has it may extract all your data. An option that may safeguard this is storing your data online, as only a person with your username and password has access to your files, period. 

Accessibility and safety are two main advantages for keeping files online. However, there may be some disadvantages to this alternative as well. For example, you will always depend on the speed of your Internet connection. If the Internet is down, you will have no access to your files at all. This issue may be changing with the proliferation of Internet connectivity through various devices and both wi-fi and mobile broadband. There may also be an element of security involved as you will be sending files to a server hosted by a company. For agencies wanting to store super-sensitive or valuable data online, this element may be challenging. Overall, online data storage makes you consider so many issues. There are practical reasons to embrace or avoid the online storage option.

To begin with, if you have ever experienced a crashed computer or lost a disk or jump drive that had important files, you already know the benefit of having a backup of your files. Online storage services allow you to keep a backup of your files on the Internet where they are safe and are easily accessible. You may also wonder, “How will I know which online storage provider is the best fit for me?”

Depending on your storage needs and the quality of service you want, you can choose among many service providers. Certain providers are easier to use, offer more storage space, are accessible on various devices and have varying rate structures. You should evaluate your needs regarding your file storage first, and then research which online service best fits those needs. After evaluating your needs, you can easily create an account. Furthermore, some service providers even offer a free trial or limited memberships with no account setup fees, so you have the option to test the service before purchasing an account. Remember, accounts that are fee-based usually include additional features and more storage capacity.

The features provided with online storage services are similar; the majority of service providers make uploading, storing, accessing and sharing your files relatively easy. Additionally, they offer remote access, as well as public and private file sharing, scheduled backup and a drag-and-drop window. All of these options are issues to consider when selecting your online storage service.

You want your files and data to be secure, so be sure to look for a service provider that offers encrypted file transfer and password protection. Especially with the password protection feature, you can control who sees what, allowing specific access only to the files that you select. This feature can be very handy when you are working on a project as part of a team and can keep your team or project in sync. With certain services, all group members are automatically notified when new or updated files are available.

When you are researching online storage options, you should look for services that are user-friendly and do not require a lot of instruction in order to upload and access files. Additionally, look for features like downloading in “bulk” or desktop applications and/or apps for mobile devices that make storage management easier and more accessible. Furthermore, you should look for online storage services that allow for file downloading with one click. You should be able to upload any type of file (PDFs, spreadsheets, documents, audio and video files), organize your files into folders and download entire folders of files.

Last but not least, good help and support are necessary with any service. Online storage services should provide self-help through FAQs, user manuals and tutorials. Customer support through email, phone or online chat should also be an option. After all, being able to resolve any issue when it comes to your stored files is essential. While there are many options for storage and security of your files, online options are increasing in popularity and will continue to be used more extensively in the future. There are pros and cons to any service, and it is up to your agency to decide what is best for all your files and data.

Tatiana Chalkidou, Ph.D., is an adjunct faculty member for the American College of Greece in the Department of International Business and European Affairs. Michael J. Bradley, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation and Parks Administration at Eastern Kentucky University.