Is the cloud always better? Probably not.

There has been a great deal of discussion about cloud-based computing and storage in the past half-decade or so: is it going to last? Is it the future of file storage, or is it already the past? Is the cloud right for me? These are valid questions that anyone should ask; after all, there’s something discomfiting about putting your stuff…well, wherever it goes. There’s an entire Hollywood movie coming out about a misunderstanding of cloud storage.

Even though the majority of us tech sites are shouting their thanks to the heavens (read “clouds”) for the paradigm shift to cloud computing, that’s no reason to forego a good cross-examination. Maybe cloud isn’t right for you and your needs.

The cloud has its drawbacks.

Some have forgotten that not too long ago, on-site file storage was the only option; you know, you kept your files on your computer or another hard disk that was accessible to anyone that could network to it.  Just because it’s older doesn’t mean it’s worse. On-site backup methods are still being improved every day and are a staple of good personal file security. You can save your documents to a hard drive or a solid state drive, and they will be available whenever you need them. Local servers are also an available option if your needs are bigger, like if you run a business.

Hard drives are cost-effective, even for larger sizes. Backing up to the cloud is not only more expensive, you would be hard-pressed to find a cloud service with a one-time payment. Recurring bills can stack up over time. Plus, some charge you more for additional data usage or uploads.

Paying for “cloud storage” is really renting an external hard drive that is connected to the public Internet. Just like renting isn’t always better than buying, using the cloud isn’t always better than controlling the physical resources yourself.

Nobody understands the cloud! It’s a mystery!

Jay in Sex Tape

The main way businesses maintain their data and host their website is through a dedicated server, whether local or remote (you know, in the cloud). For internal use, it’s often not the best use of resources. Google (or DuckDuckGo) “dedicated server hosting” and get back to me with your reaction to those prices. That’s not to say that owning a server is a small investment, but it’s probably a better deal in the long run for organizations with those kinds of needs.

What’s more, having your own servers means not sharing space with other people. Many cloud services put you in a multi-tenancy. In other words, your content has to bump elbows with that of other people, creating a potential privacy problem and possibly leaving you vulnerable if the provider prioritizes other customers.

Keeping your content in a private location is safer, and it allows for more storage capacity of your own content without having to worry about anyone else’s. Cloud-based servers are not meant for large quantities of information, and as I said before, that can get expensive.

Speed matters.

Having backups on-site is faster than cloud storage as well. Your content may be available at any time, but the longer the pipeline, the more chances of data getting blocked along the way. What do I mean by that? Suppose your Internet goes out. Sorry, your group project is inaccessible. The family photos you were going to look at are lost out in Internet land. Your customer’s records are out in the cloud while you sit on your hands watching your business operate at the whims of your ISP.

what we like about the cloud is actually software, not anything innate to cloud computing.
When files are in your own home or office, viewing them is a snap. You can store your archived files in your office, or you can make backups at other locations. When you forego the cloud-based storage, where your files end up, and the level of the security they receive, is your call.

That’s right – what we like about the cloud is actually software, not anything innate to cloud computing. We like the ease of moving documents from one device to another, we like collaboration, sharing, controlling access to files. The cloud is associated with ease-of-use, but that’s not quite right.

Likewise, some argue that cloud computing is safer for individuals and businesses’ data than on-site. Although security is a valid concern, some companies may choose to keep their files close to the chest. Perhaps your information is sensitive, and you don’t see the need to have it sent over channels at all.You can keep that info in your own personal or corporate network where it never has to be subject to forces beyond your control.

Further, this is often a software concern too: we’re looking for assurance that data is encrypted and invulnerable to physical theft, which is something you can do locally with the right software. Maybe you know it’s possible, but you haven’t run into the right service that makes this sort of security fast and simple.

Though some professionals trust cloud services to create an environment for your stuff free of viruses and snoopers, you also have the power to protect yourself from digital intruders. Who is to say that the security precautions a cloud provider takes are not also options for you? And they may cost you a premium going through a third party rather than directly to the source. You can probably do better yourself, as a matter of fact, especially if you’re thinking about bigger jobs than just organizing personal files.

This isn’t to say that cloud-based services are a fool’s answer to a problem we’ve been trying to solve since the invention of the computer. Cloud servers may be exactly what you or your organization needs. Not everybody has to get on board, though, and it is important to consider the choices available. Programs like Contentverse, offering an option for organizing and securing your documents stored on-site, give the added incentive of having a worry-free system should you find this option appealing.

Taking the time to come to an educated decision could make the difference between a company that goes with the flow and one that marches proudly in its own direction.

Featured image by Dennis van Zuijlekom (Flickr).