Advantages & Disadvantages of Internet Storage
By Elise Wile
Conduct an Internet search for “Internet storage” or "cloud storage" and you’ll get pages of listings for websites offering online storage, free and for a charge. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox are just three examples. Before uploading vacation photos, business documents and your wedding video, you must weigh the pros and cons of these services.
Advantage: Easy Access
Online storage websites are a boon to people who travel and don’t always have access to their laptop. Logging on and immediately accessing documents or photos is an advantage that's comparable to using an Internet mail service. It is convenient and keeps you from not having data because your laptop crashed or you forgot to bring the data CD. Storage websites also allow collaborators and employees to easily log in to your account and access data. This can save small businesses quite a bit of money, as networking computers will not be as crucial.
If you store your photos and documents on your hard drive without creating backups, you are asking for trouble. Hard drives crash and computers get stolen. Using Internet storage to back up your important files can be more convenient, particularly if you have a tablet or a laptop without a DVD drive.
Advantage: Hard Drive Space
Using Internet storage sites means you won't have to buy an extra hard drive to upload any photos and documents. Using these sites can be a great way to save money, because you won’t have to upgrade your hard drive. If you do use a site, make sure you have a backup copy stored somewhere else, either on your computer or an alternative storage site. You should always have two copies of any important documents or photos.
If your Internet access goes down for a few hours, or if you are traveling somewhere that doesn't have Internet access, you won't be able to access files stored online. Your files will also be inaccessible if the storage provider's servers crash or if they are down for maintenance. Another thing to keep in mind is that Internet storage websites are like any other business, existing to make a profit. If the business is no longer profitable, it can dissolve or declare bankruptcy. There's no guarantee that the storage company will notify customers if it discontinues its storage service.
If you use the same password for every site or meticulously store passwords (online and offline) where they can be found, accessing your online storage site should never be a problem. If you tend to forget passwords and have multiple email accounts, you could find yourself forgetting which email account and password is associated with the storage site and be unable to retrieve your password and your files. Unless your passwords are exceptionally secure, there is always the possibility that someone else will be able to hack into your online storage account to access your private documents.
Online storage sites pop up every day. While most of these sites are legitimate, you can't be certain the wrong person won’t access your data. Even when dealing with reputable companies, there can be security flaws in their infrastructure that makes it possible for others to access your data. Since 2013, internet storage sites have been hounded by reports that the NSA and FBI have access to otherwise private data stored on cloud servers. If you have documents that must be kept confidential, rethink your decision to use Internet storage, as storage websites may have these vulnerabilities.
If you need an Internet storage site that lets you upload unlimited gigabytes of data, you’ll pay for it. There are free services available, but these typically limit the number of gigabytes uploaded. Before spending money, compare the rates offered by different cloud storage providers to make sure you get a fair rate. If a service never charges for uploads, make sure there won't be a fee when you want to download your files later.
- ComputerWorld.com: Opinion--Can we trust Internet storage?
- TechCrunch: NSA Docs Detail Efforts To Collect Data From Microsoft’s Skype, SkyDrive and Outlook.com
- Johns Hopkins: Design Flaw in 'Secure' Cloud Storage Puts Privacy at Risk, JHU Researchers Say
- NBC News: Is Your Cloud Drive Really Private? Not According to Fine Print
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.