How secure is cloud storage? This is how your files are protected
We explain how storage in the cloud works and what measures are taken to ensure the security of your files.
The cloud is very convenient because it allows you to save files in one place that you can access from anywhere with any device. This is a huge advantage over backing up to your computer’s hard drive or removable media. In addition, the risk of losing the files is higher. For example due to a lost USB stick or if the drive on which they are stored is lost, stolen or damaged.
When you upload files to the cloud, they are not only secure but also very accessible, and you can easily share certain files with others. All you need for cloud backup is an internet connection and a web browser.
Is the cloud storage safe?
To understand, the cloud is a network of servers on the Internet that have large amounts of storage space. For example Amazon Drive and Google Drive and even Apple’s iCloud service stores some data on Amazon and Google servers.
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These servers are housed in data centers that were built with security in mind. Employees have very limited access to the servers (and their hard drives). But there are many other things you can do to keep your photos, videos, and other files safe from prying eyes – including hackers – and even physical damage from fire.
In many data centers, the amount of oxygen in the air is reduced to minimize the risk of fire. Most cloud providers keep multiple copies of each file. Usually in different data centers so that even in the worst case scenario, a backup copy is kept in a different physical location.
For example, Google distributes its data to many servers in different locations. And if there is a fire or other disruption at one location, data access is automatically relocated to another location. Here is one of Google’s data centers:
Google’s data center in The Dalles, Oregon
Encrypted data to protect against unauthorized persons
Another factor in the security of your files is of course that they must be protected from unauthorized access. As a result, almost all cloud storage, regardless of the provider, offer some form of encryption. This usually only happens when the files arrive in the data center. But it is also common for files to be encrypted as they are being transferred from your device. This protects your content from so-called man-in-the-middle attacks, in which someone could try to intercept the files on their way from your device to the cloud.
End-to-end encryption offers the best security. The files on your device are encrypted before they are sent. Some cloud storage providers use this as a selling point and may charge additional fees for it. For example, “Crypto” client-side encryption can be added to any pCloud plan.
Not all data has to be end-to-end encrypted, but if you want to store sensitive data like financial or health documents (or even a photo of your passport) it is a good idea to use a cloud service that supports this level of encryption supports. No cloud storage can claim to be 100 percent secure, but neither are the files stored on your computer’s hard drive.
File recovery is an important security issue
There is another method that cloud storage service providers use to protect your valuable files: restoring data. Because unfortunately it happens that files are accidentally deleted. Many cloud providers have a safety net that prevents them from actually deleting the files when you click “Delete”. Instead, they’re put in a Windows-like recycle bin and kept for a while in case you change your mind.
Versioning is also relatively common. This means that a new copy of the file will be saved whenever you make changes. This is a great way to revert to an old version if you don’t like the changes you made.
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Can I decide where the data is stored in the cloud?
The laws are different around the world, especially when it comes to protecting privacy and data protection.
The good news is that there are services out there where you can choose where your data is stored (or let you know). For example, if you live in Europe, you might want your data to be protected by GDPR laws. Then you would choose a cloud storage provider that uses data centers in Europe.
How can I make cloud storage more secure?
As mentioned earlier, you can opt for storage that offers end-to-end encryption and keeps multiple copies in different locations, but you can also make your own local backups of important files. If there are certain photos or files that you can’t do without, consider backing them up to removable storage like a pen drive or hard drive.
As an additional backup, it can make sense to use a removable storage medium, as the files are then saved offline and are therefore not dependent on the Internet. These are then also protected against ransomware and other risks.
However, there is another option: a NAS drive. This is a hard drive that you connect to your home router and that can be used to store any files that you would normally upload to the cloud. The best models have good companion apps and allow you to access these files even when you are away from home. Basically, it’s your own personal cloud storage. But there are also disadvantages. A NAS drive is quite expensive to purchase, and you will still need to back up the files on it in case the drive is damaged or stolen.
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Given that, cloud storage is one of the most convenient options. And if you don’t want to pay a monthly or annual subscription for cloud storage, some providers like pCloud offer a lifetime plan where you pay once and then have permanent access to that storage.
Each type of storage has its advantages and disadvantages, but for most cloud users, the advantages outweigh the advantages.
This article was originally published by our English-speaking colleagues at Techadvisor and has been translated into German.