The Pros & Cons of Life in the Cloud

When you put yourself out there as someone who writes about technology, you really have to be a good example of best practices, especially when it comes to backing things up. In an effort to diversify my backups and also provide for a more seamless experience when working from multiple locations on multiple devices, I have been pushing more and more to the cloud. The super cloudified life definitely has its pros, but like anything, there are also a few cons…

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The Pros & Cons of Cloud-ing it Up:

Pros
Relatively Inexpensive: For smaller amounts (under 5GB) you can find many options for free cloud storage, and you really do have your pick of who you want to go with — Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, just to name a few. If you're looking to get your feet wet with cloud storage and only use it as a flash drive replacement, 2 or so GB could be plenty. For my purposes, which are mainly photo and video backup, as well as file transfer, I have over 75 GB to use. What does that this cost me? Not a cent. 50 GB came free with a new Samsung phone thanks to a Dropbox promotion, which was added to my free 5GB Dropbox account (half of which was earned through referrals and photo upload promos), 10 GB free from CX, and the rest came free from Google Drive, SkyDrive, and a few other providers... not a bad deal at all.

Convenient: One of the awesome things about cloud storage is that you can really access it from anywhere. With the wide variety of app clients as well as web accessibility, as long as you are connected to the internet, you pretty much have a way to access what you're storing in the cloud. This is ideal when you don't want to think about which computer or phone you have those spreadsheets saved on, or whether or not you left the flash drive at home.

Collaboration Friendly: When working with a team, cloud storage is an absolute must. I love using the Workspace feature from Otixo, a cloud storage aggregator, with my team, as it gives us a cloud based folder that we all have access to which pulls from multiple cloud sources. It's great for someone like me who has a variety of cloud service providers and needs to be able to grab and share from them without having to go into the permissions of each file and cloud provider.

Redundant Backups: Remember what I said about being a good example? Well, I've learned my data loss lesson and have backups for my backups for my backups. Cloud storage is my third level of backup, and I devote a section of it to the things I really can't replace if lost. Because large amounts of cloud storage are not all that cheap and my photo and video library are rather large, I have two external hard drives to back up media locally, and then I use Bitcasa to back up these backups. Bitcasa is perfect for archiving large amounts of media in the cloud, as it's all you can eat for $10 a month. Is Bitcasa as fast as Dropbox for viewing, downloading, and uploading files? No, but it's much much less expensive and is a great solution for those hundreds of GBs of raw image files that I want redundant backups for.

Cons
No Internet, No Cloud: Internet troubles? Well, this means you've got cloud storage troubles. Without internet connectivity, cloud storage is pretty much dead to you. Your stuff is out there and accessible, but you can't get to it without internet, and the better your internet the faster you're able to access it. At my apartment in NYC, there is no shortage of internet woes, and it's been incredibly frustrating to watch Time Warner Cable struggle to download edited image files that were uploaded hours prior from another location. It's times like these where I am sitting staring waiting for a file to upload or download to a cloud based drive that I curse myself for not just using a flash drive.

Lost in the Cloud: While using a variety of cloud storage providers is great for review purposes, it's not all that practical. Some cloud storage options are better suited for certain tasks than others and it can make sense to have more than one, but it does get rather confusing the more that you add. Unless you have the same data in each cloud drive you can have the problem that you used to have with flash drives, where you wonder where you stored that document. You can alleviate this by only using specific drives for certain types of media or work and by using a cloud drive aggregator which lets you connect and access the various cloud drive services that you use with one login and dashboard.

Hacking: With the recent sad news of the hacking that happened to Mat Honan and the loss of the images of his baby daughter, it is important not to forget that cloud doesn't mean 100% safe. Not all cloud storage providers have equal security practices, and it's important to make a solid choice, as well as follow best practices in regards to online security, to do your best to keep everything safe. Even if you do everything right in regards to online security there is still a risk, so don't have the only copies that exist of irreplaceable data stored only in the cloud. Think redundant backups!

What do you think are some of the pros and cons of going cloud? How do you use cloud storage?

(Image: Ben Partridge)

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Joelle loves technology and making things and is in an almost perpetual state of problem solving. She's quite fond of airplanes and coffee and is pretty sure she will eventually read all of the books in her library.

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