Most people have heard of the “cloud” but many are not really sure what it is.  The name gives more mystery than it actually deserves.  The cloud is just a bunch of servers.  These servers can have different functions, for example most new software packages such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel are no longer purchased at a onetime fee and downloaded to your desktop computer, but are rented with the software residing on a server (the cloud).  Google drive is another common example of the cloud where you have access to digital storage space.   Many store and manage their emails on the cloud.

Storing your digitized data on the cloud is an option that may be worth considering, but there are also some issues to consider.  What are the advantages:

Cost:  Prices for renting space on the cloud is typically far cheaper than purchasing your own server or even storing data on passive devices like CD ROMS or thumb drives.  Huge digital storage space that at one time could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars is available today at literally pennies on the dollar.

Scalability:  There is no limit on the amount of digital space you can use.  The cloud is flexible enough to accommodate any amount of storage space large or small.  When you use the cloud, you don’t have to worry that you might outgrow your service.

Accessibility:  When you store your digital documents on the cloud, you can access them from anywhere and allow anyone you desire to access it.  Conversely if you used an in house computer or other physical device, you would need to either transmit data or store it on a CD or DVD and mail it.

Redundancy:  When you store your files on the cloud, you are actually storing copies of the files in multiple locations.  The short term risk of losing data is minimal because your files are backed up to multiple servers.

The advantages of storing data on the cloud are significant but one should also consider some downsides:

Security: The ease of access also means that there is a risk of being hacked.   While there are lots of security features on the cloud with data transfer being encrypted, the possibility of getting hacked will never drop to zero.   Many are hesitant about storing highly sensitive information on the cloud.  It is not only hackers that one may need to worry about, but the potential of government access have some users concerned. Source.

Connectivity:  While the cloud will rarely go down and there is adequate redundancy, there have been instances where users have had trouble connecting to the cloud for a number of technical reasons that includes issues with the cloud server itself or probably more likely the users internet connection.  If your internet goes down for a couple of days, access to data may be an issue.

Longevity: No one doubts the viability of Google or Amazon, but with some document archiving the expectation is for 25 to 100 years of viable storage.   The engine behind these cloud servers are businesses.  Consider this: according to an article in AEI.org, 88% of the fortune 500 companies in 1955 no longer exist.  source.   From a document storage standpoint, long term viability is yet to be proven because quite frankly, the cloud hasn’t really been around that long.   No one is predicting the demise of the internet, but no one is guaranteeing that cloud storage will be here forever or at least in the form that it is in today.

Each business needs to determine its digital storage method.  The sensitivity of the data needs to be a critical consideration.  If your data includes social security numbers, credit card info, or personal medical information it may not be worth the risk for the convenience of using the cloud.   On the other hand if your data is essentially public information that anyone should be able to  access anyway, then the cloud may be a good fit for your needs.

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