I am all in on moving network storage to cloud storage, and you should be too. Thanks for reading.
Oh wait, you need more? OK. Cloud storage is often viewed as an easy solution to on-premise storage crunches, and it can be a tremendous solution, but it must be understood before any organization charges into the clouds. Some clouds are good to charge into, others contain a lot of lightning and the last thing you want to do is get fried.
Cloud storage is a bit of a different paradigm which makes some uneasy. Cloud storage has been around since 1983 when CompuServe (remember them) started offering customers small amounts of space for storage. Large amounts of storage were limited to on-premise deployments until OneDrive started in 2007 and Dropbox in 2008.
Storing data in the cloud takes the hardware and infrastructure requirements off the organization but it also changes the security and data access policies as data is no longer physically in the organizations control. While the benefits of as much space as you’re willing to pay for make the cloud attractive the change in security has made some nervous. Another cause for concern has been who owns your data in the cloud and what is the cloud provider doing with it.
As cloud storage technology has evolved so have the number of players in the space. Microsoft, Google, Dropbox, and more all offer very affordable solutions for storing virtually unlimited amounts of your data and making it securely accessible from anywhere you can get on the internet, without the need for a cumbersome VPN.
So, what’s the big deal? One of the key aspects to consider when choosing a cloud provider is what their business model is. Do they make their money from selling storage space or from mining your data? You will find companies that started offering super cheap storage solution as the bulk of their income came from mining your data also have the weakest security. Companies which make their money on selling storage and could care less about your data often have much better security. Do you want a data company handling your data or a service company that has no interest in your data?
No cloud storage solution or company is perfect but consider the importance of your data before you decide where to store it. Microsoft is a services company, they provide O365 which for most non-profits includes unlimited OneDrive storage as part of the free solution. Google is a data company. They started making their money manipulating data from their search engines. They’ve entered the services realm with G Suite to compete with O365. Dropbox is another data company that started with an easy interface and application providing very affordable cloud storage. They could do that because they made their money on your data.
It is important to read the Terms of Service agreements with any of these providers. While today they all say what you want them to say they didn’t all start that way. Dropbox in the early days was clear they had access to your data, they mined your data, and even when you deleted your data it was gone from you, but they could still use it for their purposes. This is the difference between cloud storage from a services company vs. a data company.
Again, no solution is perfect, and my cloud storage accounts are probably being hacked while I write this. I’m all for cloud storage, but it is important to understand who has your data, what they are doing with it, and how much control you have over it. When you delete it is it gone or do they keep it? Can they access your data? How do they use your data, if at all? You probably don’t care if someone at Dropbox is reading your Children’s Sunday School lessons, but you might care if they are reading your business plans, budgets, and salary information, or discipleship records. What about HR situations?
Run, don’t walk to cloud storage. You may already have built in cloud storage included in your productivity suite if you are using O365 or G Suite. If O365 is providing you storage, why are you also paying for Dropbox? Just make sure you understand how your provider uses and protects your data and make sure you are OK with those policies.
Jonathan Smith is an author, conference speaker, and the Director of Technology at Faith Ministries in Lafayette, IN. You can reach Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JonathanESmith.