Should you store your data in a cloud?

Since the summer of 2013 cloud storage has become a buzz word. The media keep talking about it and the spammers are like flies trying to get you to sign up with their system.

This article explains the main features in simple terms, and discusses the pros and cons of you using it.

Load the slides in a separate window, for reference while you are reading this article.

Slide 1 - What is a cloud?

A Data Cloud, in reality, is a huge computer Server, or a number of servers with huge memories linked together, in which data is stored. Within the server there are many separate folders in which data is stored in digital format, each folder for a different type of data or for a different account. The data is encrypted and access is controlled by the computer, each folder having a different name and access password. Several servers of the same company may be geographically separated, perhaps in different countries, but they are all linked together electronically.

Slide 2 - Your email is in a cloud

Did you realize that all your emails with their attachments reside in a "Cloud"? All the major email services, like Google's Gmail, Yahoo.mail, AOL, store all your emails in folders on their servers. Each folder is identified with your ID name. Theoretically, only you can access it by typing in your password. When you read or write an email, you are actually reading or typing in this folder. The text is not downloaded to your computer unless you deliberately download it! All the emails stay forever in this "cloud" unless you specifically delete one, or all of them.
Warning! Should you decide to change email providers, all your old emails will be lost! Unless you make the effort to transfer the contents of your folder to the new provider.

Slide 3 -Emails the old way

It wasn't like that a few years ago. In the old days of AOL or Compuserve, when you logged onto your email, it was automatically downloaded to your computer and deleted from the server. You composed a new email on your computer, and through the program provided to you, uploaded it to the server. From there it was transmitted over telephone cicuits to your addressee, who repeated the download process.
In the old days the memories of the email servers were limited. So, if you didn't read your email within 30 days, it was automatically deleted and lost forever!

Slide 4 - How S.S. checks were delivered

Many people still receive their Social Security checks the old-fashioned way - by U.S. mail. Then they carry them to their bank to deposit to their account. The cancelled check must be returned to S.S. headquarters by the bank.

Slide 5 - How S.S. checks are delivered now

For several years the Administration has been trying to cut costs by sending S.S. checks electronically to the recipient's bank account, which resides in the bank's "cloud". The recipient can get cash anywhere in the world, at any convenient time, from his account, at an ATM (or Bank Machine in UK, GAB in France, Geldautomat in Germany, Bancomat in Italy).
This not only saves money, but for the recipient it is more convenient and also safer. Checks can no longer be stolen from mail boxes, or when you are carrying them to the bank.

Slide 6 - Personal Data Clouds

For several months, "clouds" have become available to anyone, for the storage of all files. Programs are being offered for you to install on your computer, which will automatically upload anything you type on your computer to your account on some remote server, just like your emails. Or to to upload backup copies of files from your computer hard-drive to a server "cloud".

    What is the advantage?
  • You don't have to worry about losing everything if your computer crashes.
  • If you travel, you don't have to carry your laptop with you. You can access your files from any computer, anywhere.
  • You can allow a trusted friend, your accountant or your lawyer, to access your files easily. You just have to give them your ID and password.

Slide 7 - Pros and Cons

The slide lists the most important advantages and disadvantages of storing your files on a Cloud.
One disadvantage must be emphasized. Hackers have been able to break into the most secure web-sites of the Pentagon. So what is to stop them from breaking into your files on a Cloud? If they break into your account on the bank's cloud, the bank is responsible. If they steal your personal data, passwords, etc. from a file in your Cloud and then download money from your bank account, it is your loss.
Always keep back-ups of any important data, personal photographs, financial data, address book. Keep a copy of any important data in more than one place, your hard drive, a CD, a second hard drive. Do not trust everything to a Cloud!

Slide 8 - Best Cloud providers

At the end of 2013, there are several dozen companies selling their Cloud. Most of them cater to small businesses, but several want your business. Beware of offers of "free" service. They take your creditcard number, and after 30 days start charging you. The slide lists the best (as of October 2013) based on

The economic effects of Internet trade and Cloud storage.

It is noteworthy that the U.S. Post Office has lost over $1billion in annual revenue because of on-line banking by private individuals like you and me, particularly the on-line payment of Social Security checks and of credit cards. On the plus side the planet is greener because over a billion fewer envelopes and sheets of paper for statements are used each year. And the numbers are even greater for business users.
While tens of thousands file and envelope stuffing clerks have lost their jobs, thousands of high paying computer programming and service jobs have been created.

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