Caching Out – A Guide to Cloud Storage

The trusty Google Dictionary defines a cache (read: cash) as a “collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place”.

Computer Hope explains the technical side of things well: a cache is a “high-speed access area that can be a reserved section of main memory or on a storage device”. Caching is commonly used to free up disk space and to allow files to be accessed remotely – you may be more familiar with this concept under a different name: the cloud.

Many companies have been adopting the use of the cloud recently in an attempt to improve their work performance. They are sold by promoting the many benefits of using the cloud such as the aforementioned remote access, as well as access to backups of work.

With a lot of people switching to cloud-based services, we can see the popularity of data caching is rising quickly, but why? As we know from our Emotional vs. Rational Marketing blog post (link), a key way to sell a product or a service is to highlight and promote the benefits of whatever it may be. In this post, we are looking to breakdown and explain the features of cloud-based storage, how it works and the problems and concerns people have with it to allow you to construct a well-informed decision if you are thinking of making the switch yourself.

So, what is the cloud?

Essentially, the cloud is a third party, off-site storage system that clients can access provided they have an internet connection. Any information saved to the database is stored on a number of servers within a secure (and often overseas) data centre...like this one >>>

How does it work?

The data centres house a vast number of machines (the servers). Once you set up an account with your provider, you will be allocated a server and your connection will be set up. You can then start to save your files to the database - these files are transferred to and from the server when access is required. It is also possible to make changes to the files on the server directly.

Each file saved on the database will have at least 3 copies which can serve as backups in case a file were to be corrupted on a client’s machine, ensuring the file survives off-site. It also means that if there were a technical difficulty within the data centre, it would be accessible on another machine.

Types of cloud storage:

The practice of data caching is not a new concept and many popular web platforms have been successfully using it for many years now. Online email programmes like Gmail and Hotmail use remote-access storage, as well as image sharing sites and other media platforms like YouTube. Most of these platforms are free to use but more recently companies have been selling more general cloud storage that can store all sorts of data.

Advantages of data caching:

Accessibility

One perk is that it can allow employees to work remotely, which reduces the need for a large office and the cost of rent simultaneously. It also means that files can be easily downloaded to any device provided they have internet access and the required login details.

Collaborative Work

Cloud sharing allows a number of people to access and work on files at the same time making for a more collaborative work environment. It also allows you to send a colleague a link to the location of your file on the server, meaning you can both save time when you need something edited or proof-read.

Takes Up Less Space

Physically. Having your data stored on remote servers means that the need for physical storage devices is removed entirely.

Instant Backups

Another benefit of using a cloud service is that there are several backup files created. This means that if a machine was corrupted, no data would be lost, saving both time and money.

Despite all these advantages, people still have their concerns. Reliability and security are the main worries people have when debating whether to make the switch to cloud storage. They want to make sure they can access their files whenever they want/need to and they want to ensure that their files remain private.

Fortunately, saving things into the cloud is very secure - almost like putting a big padlock on your data. The servers can only be accessed remotely so you know there won't be anyone near the machines that might accidentally knock a wire out of place, sending your office into shut down. Also, the data that is transferred between your devices and the server is encrypted and requires authentication (a password) for it to be viewed, edited or downloaded. So, as long as you have secure passwords that you update regularly, and you only give access to trusted employees, your data will remain safe.

Another concern people have is that the servers will crash. Data centres take lots of precautions to avoid technical difficulties such as multiple power supplies to their servers and at least 3 file copies saved on different machines to ensure there is no downtime. Any data that is lost can usually always be recovered also, which provides even more reassurance. It is important to remember that reputation really matters to these data caching services so they will always be doing what they can to provide the best service they can in an increasingly competitive market.