Paper is well on its way to becoming obsolete. More and more of us are moving away from paper documents, folders, and binders in order to store our personal documents, photos, and correspondence on our computers or smartphones. But what happens if these get stolen, or break?
This is where cloud storage comes into play: it allows users to store files in a secure online location, where they’ll remain safe even in the event of a computer crash, theft, or loss. Basically, as long as you’re able to access the Internet and remember your password, you’re able to access your personal documents.
Update: Dropbox app gets new features
Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, or Mega – these are only some of the most well-known cloud storage services offered on the web. Most of them are free to use up to a certain memory capacity, and offer unlimited storage for a monthly subscription fee; whether or not it’s worth paying depends on the amount and type of files you want to store. We’re storing quite a lot of Word and Excel documents on our Google Drive but still have 13GB of free storage left to use, and probably won’t need to upgrade for a while unless we were to add our photos, music, or videos on there too.
It all depends on the service you choose, the number/type of files you need to store, and if you would like to pay for it or not. For instance, Dropbox offer a meagre 2GB of storage at no cost, and you can upgrade to 1TB for £7.99 per month, while Google Drive gives you 15GB free when you create a Google account or link to your existing Gmail address.
For photos, the best option has to be the Apple iCloud (sorry, PC and Android users), which offers two different services: the iCloud Photo Stream, where you can store 1,000 photos for free, and the iCloud Photo Library, which syncs to the Apple Photos app and stores every photo and video you take across all your devices. The Photo Library is free up to 5GB, and price plans go up to 1TB for £6.99 per month.
For reference, 5GB will allow you to store about 2,200 photos (2GB is the equivalent of 910 photos) – so a free Dropbox account will be better used for documents.
A couple of years ago, Apple suffered a security breach in which hackers stole intimate photos off celebrities’ iCloud accounts. Following this, many users felt that the security of their own accounts was threatened, and have been hesitant to store anything too personal (like photos or videos of their families) or that needs to remain hidden (like passwords, bank details, etc.)
However, Apple and other cloud services have stepped up their security game, and offer complex encryption methods to conceal the information stored on the cloud. To be able to access the files, hackers or malicious programs would need the encryption key – and although it’s not 100% impossible to crack, it would take hundreds of hours of time, computer and software power. Furthermore, your cloud account will also require you to go through an authentication process (username and password) each time, as well as authorise a list of devices or people who can access the information stored on the service (only you, or your partner, or your whole family.) So we’d say it’s still very safe.
Make sure to use secure passwords (not the same one each time) and use a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Passwords should also not have anything to do with your personal life – so no birth date, maiden names or children’s middle names; any good hacker will know these already.
Total security doesn’t exist – because your files are in the hands of a company, they can still be vulnerable to breaches – but data storing companies are constantly updating the level of security, and even they can’t access your files.
Always remember to double back-up your files! Never store important information or sentimental photos in a single place, in case anything happens. So doubling (tripling?) up with physical, computer, and cloud storage is the best way to make sure everything stays as safe as possible.