With “cloud” technology becoming cheaper and more accessible each day, new start-ups are coming out with clever ways of using these tools to provide value to customers.
Within the “cloud storage” space, 3 leading technologies have emerged which – although they might seem similar – are quite different in their mechanics and the value they provide to customers.
These are: online archiving, online backup and online file storage. (Do check out online backup reviews)
Knowing the difference is important, because it will assist you in deciding which solution is right for you.
Online File Storage
This is probably one of the more common uses for cloud storage. Online file storage is similar to having a hard drive on the Internet. This allows you to store files remotely, and securely access them from any machine, anywhere in the world.
Another attractive feature of online file storage is that this “Internet hard drive” can be shared with other people.
Before online file storage became popular, people commonly used NAS devices. Although these devices are still very popular, online file storage is simply more convenient.
Some people use their web hosting account as an online file storage device, but this is insecure and usually against the “terms of service”. So beware.
Online backup is very specific in the way it works.
Of course, it’s designed to copy your data over to another location to protect you from a disaster. But what REALLY makes an online backup service different is the fact that it retains “versions” of your data files.
This allows you to “roll back” if you ever upload a corrupted file.
You can use both an online backup AND an online file storage service together without being redundant, since they both serve different purposes. One is for storing/sharing data, and the other is for protecting data.
This last one is poorly understood because fewer people use it. It’s generally sold to larger companies that need to manage huge amounts of fast-growing data. (Email servers are perfect examples)
If you’re into digital photography or video production, you probably produce a lot of large data files. And as a result, you’ll probably find that your hard drive fills up quickly and you have to move older pictures and videos to another storage device in order to free up space of your main computer.
For a photographer, this type of maintenance might only be required on a monthly basis. But for a large company that produces several terabytes of business data per month, this can become a full-time job.
In addition to taking inactive data off of production equipment, companies are also bound by special laws that force them to retain this data for several years, and ensure that it can be quickly searched at a moment’s notice. (Imagine what would be like to search for a single Word document amongst 400 backup tapes)
For this reason, automating the process can offer a huge cost-savings. And storing the data in “the cloud” means that massive archives can be quickly searched using the online archiving provider’s powerful server infrastructure.
Having said that, online archiving isn’t something that you’re likely to start using on your home machine any time soon. But it’s still good to know how it’s different from online file storage and online backup.
There are other variations on the idea of storing data in the cloud, and new concepts are being introduced every day by ambitious tech start-ups. (Server replication, virtualization, etc…) But these 3 categories continue to be dominant when it comes to managing data through online storage devices.