First, don’t worry! It’s a common question and very confusing one! These days many firms are offering all types of cloud-based services, from Cloud Sync to Online Backup, but what do these buzzwords mean? This article will eliminate the complicated jargon and present the raw facts so you can see how the cloud can work for your business.
What is the Cloud?
With the rise of the internet age, businesses move more and more critical components off-site and out of the office. Everything from financial operations, payroll to data storage. Gone are the days of shipping backup DVDs to a warehouse; tomorrow’s solution uses a network of servers known as the cloud.
Recode.com defines the cloud as: “software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer.” It is essentially a group of servers linked together create a ‘cloud’ between them.
The cloud is located everywhere, based out of servers in multiple locations (From the USA to Australia to Africa). Each cloud server backs up, so no centre is a catalyst for server data loss.
Ah, but it gets deeper. As a business, you have two ways to use the cloud. Cloud Storage or Cloud Backup?
Here it is in a simple nutshell:
- Cloud Storage – Make some of your files available online at any time.
- Cloud Backup – Back up all your files and restore them if needed.
Here are the details; with advantages and disadvantages of each.
What is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage is an ‘end point’ or final destination server for your project files. This is typically after the development of your client’s project; you would host the files on a storage platform, so your client can download them. These platforms can have a robust HTML interface (web portals), so any level of user can access them. (Yes, even the employee who can’t use Microsoft Word!) Additionally, Cloud Storage can be used to run enterprise applications and databases. If your firm has an extensive customer database needing to be regularly accessed, then cloud storage is the way to go.
However, Cloud Storage does not access all the files on your hard drive; you will need to physically select each item to upload (or a whole folder with subfolders). Because of this specification, it is possible to miss critical items.
- Ability to regularly pull data from the cloud storage, which is useful for big data analytics or customer information.
- Most platforms have an easy-to-use interface.
- You must build or select the information to place into storage; critical data might be missed, so it is not perfect for intentional backups.
- Most services charge a fee for the amount of data that is accessible at any one time, so long-term storage for large databases is not a good solution.
Example services: Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Putfile
What is Cloud Backup Storage?
Cloud Backup Storage is an external memory partition for backups to (hence the name!) and is used for the adaptably named ‘disaster recovery’ situations; primarily for backup and restore files. This backup process is usually automatic and does not require input from the user. Backups are done overnight or during quiet hours (some firms may back up more than once a day). It creates a snapshot once a day of the entire system.
- Fixed pricing models, generally cost a fee per month and have a set amount of storage available. Cloud Backup is much cheaper than using Cloud Storage per GB of data.
- You can have different versions of files online so you can roll back to a previous file version if needed.
- No need to drag files to a specific folder; the system software backs everything up.
- If you are working for a firm that requires accessing or sharing data quickly, this would not be the ideal solution.
- These services are not very user-friendly; they don’t normally have an HTML web portal and require the installation of software before using.
Example services: Mozy, Backblaze, Carbonite, FTP servers.
What is Cloud Sync?
Cloud sync is the perfect step in-between storage and backup. Syncing is the process of copying selected data files and file structure on your system, automatically placing them on a central server and allowing other users to access it anywhere in the world. It includes your project structure from your desktop computer (for example, an important client project) ensuring that an offsite copy is available at all times.
- Because of the ‘sync’ nature, multiple users can access and work on the same projects at the same time. This can be as simple as a document that users work on together or the entire client resource folder, allowing for truly collaborative work.
- Projects are saved and backed up in real time, meaning once you have completed one part, all team members can access it right away.
- It is quick and easy to set up another workstation or work on the go. Just connect to the platform, and the desktop app/platform will download all the latest information.
- A large firm would have significant data costs to have all files synced for the entire business. A solution around this would to only have specific files synced, and previously completed works in a Cloud Backup (deep storage).
- Any files outside the designated ‘sync’ folders would not be backed up and only available locally.
- If a user does not have access to the internet, files might be duplicated, or erroneous versions created (e.g., If two users work on the same file and reconnect, the service will create two distinct copies).
Example services: Google Drive, DropBox, One Drive
Armed with this understanding of the different terms, you can confidently find the best solution for your business. Good luck!
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