Co-Authored by Noah Manders and Emmett Jorgensen

Cloud computing has taken the storage world by storm, providing a platform for many connected mobile devices (iPhone, Android, iPad, Kindle, etc.) to access data without the need to store it locally on the device.  Since these devices don’t require large HDD’s or SSD’s, it allows them to be smaller, more portable and less expensive than they might otherwise be; without sacrificing much in terms of performance.

Despite these benefits, one important consideration regarding Cloud storage is security.  This has also been one of the major obstacles to a larger adoption of Cloud storage.

Cloud security issues generally fall into two categories; Provider security and Customer security.

Provider Security – (Security issues faced by the Cloud provider)

Users don’t often delve too deeply into the security of their Cloud Storage provider, but recent data breaches like the one recently experienced by Dropbox have called into question the security measures being taken by Cloud Storage providers and how data is stored.

Most cloud storage offerings store all user data on their servers. So unlike a single external hard drive or even RAID setup that only contains your own data, a cloud server that contains your data likely also has other users’ data on the same machine. The only thing separating access is user credentials and various permissions.  This also makes Cloud storage a more attractive target for hackers as they can potentially score access to hundreds or thousands of accounts if they can find vulnerability.

Another consideration to take into account is data availability.  Since your data is stored in a remote location, availability should be a concern.  What is your Cloud provider’s track record in terms of uptime?  Are outages an issue?   Make sure to ask a lot of questions of a potential Cloud provider.

Customer or User Security – (Issues faced by the end user or customer)

It doesn’t really matter how secure your cloud provider’s system is if you aren’t holding up your end of the security bargain.  Customer or user security really boils down to due diligence. Do your homework and look into a potential cloud provider to see what their security track record looks like.  The next step is setting up and using secure password and login credentials.  Don’t fall into the trap of using easy passwords, or worse yet, writing your password down in a location that is easy to see.  It’s also important to use trusted machines when accessing data in the Cloud.

Despite these concerns, Cloud storage offers some great features that make it an attractive option.  Cloud storage offers great disaster recovery considering cloud storage is usually stored on redundant servers whereas if a single external hard dive or flash drive fails, your data may also be lost forever.

Additionally, users should be mindful of what type of data they choose to store in the Cloud.  Data that is highly sensitive might be better suited to a more secure, local storage device.  Meanwhile, less sensitive data can be stored on a Cloud server.

Local Storage

Local storage (hard drives, flash drives, RAID, etc.) has been around for many years and offers plenty of core features that appeal to the masses. Local storage options are available in many different form factors such as external hard drives or flash drives with USB connections. Many systems offer additional connections such as eSATA, USB 3.0, or Thunderbolt for even faster transfer speeds. The primary benefits of local storage are cost, speed and security.

Many times, cost is king and in the price wars, local storage is almost always cheaper than cloud-based storage. Local storage has the benefit of requiring a one-time purchase and does not require subscription or bandwidth fees that such cloud services require.

Accessibility is very important these days with more and more individuals accessing data on a variety of devices. Local storage requires the connected device has the appropriate connection in order to transfer data to and from the storage medium.

Security of local storage is often more secure than alternatives in the Cloud storage sector. In order to access data on a local storage device, an individual will likely need direct physical access to the storage medium. If the device is encrypted, the individual will also require proper authentication.

In the end, each storage medium offers its own benefits for different scenarios. It’s up to the user to choose the option that best fits their requirements. Security is a major difference in these two types of storage. Until cloud storage becomes more secure, many will prefer local storage alternatives.

Written by Kanguru — October 31, 2012

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