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Families, find out how you can use the cloud

Mashable Lifestyle has posted a great article with  7 ways how families can get more out of the cloud.

http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/cloud-tips-family/

 

Why use cloud storage?

There are a lot of advantages in using cloud storage opposed to storing all your data on local hardware.

  • Great freedom in accessing your files from anywhere on any device. You can show your holiday pictures on your tablet while visiting your family without storing all these pictures on that tablet. Just set up your WIFI, open your cloud storage app and you’re good to go.
  • Storing your data with one of the best cloud storage providers will make you sleep a lot better. There’s no need to worry about hard drives crashing and losing all your important files.
  • Many storage providers offer the possibility to share your files in an easy way with other persons. You just need to specify which files (photo’s, spreadsheets, texts ,etc.) you give permission for access to and your friends or colleagues can view those files and even edit them (if you authorized them to do so).
  • You don’t need to worry about having enough storage space. Some cloud storage providers even offer unlimited storage.
  • The best cloud storage providers provide easy-to-use interfaces for backing up your files. You just need to select the folder or file you want to back-up and the automated processes on the providers side do the rest.
  • Syncing: your files are automatically updated on all your devices. If you alter a text file on your desktop the latest saved version of this file will also be available on your mobile or Ipad.

What features to look for when selecting a cloud storage provider

When you’re looking for the best cloud storage provider you’re probably comparing all kinds of features. We think the following features are the most important:

Backup-options:

  • Can you set the backups up to occur on specific moments, like daily, weekly or monthly?
  • Can you use automated backups? This means files are automatically saved whenever you alter them and new files are also automatically updated by your cloud service provider.
  • Can you restore previous versions of your files in case you accidentally delete the latest version of a file?


File-sharing capabilities

  • Can you easily share photos with a slideshow-option?
  • Can you make individual private links for other people related to a specific file?
  • What are the sharing methods: Facebook? Twitter? Email? Links?


File Size:

  • What’s maximum file size limit? This could be important if you’re planning to upload high defintion video content, a 2-hour movie can easily reach a file size of 8 Gb.


File Access and support

  • Can you store all kinds of digital files (photo’s, videos, texts, etc.)?
  • Can you access the file from any kind of harware: Mobile, Desktop, Tablet, eReader, TV etc.
  • Does the Cloud provider support windows, MAC, Linux, etc.
  • Does the provider offer apps for android, Ipad, Iphone, Blackberry or Windows Phone?
  • Can you set file-permissions for indivual files?
  • Can you set maximum up- and download speeds?


Helpdesk/Support

  • Does the cloud storage provider offer support by Instant Messaging (IM)?
  • Is there 24/7 support?
  • Does the cloud storage provider have a knowledge base or at least an extended FAQ page?
  • Does the cloud storage provider offer Tutorials?

What does cloud storage cost?

When you’re comparing the best cloud storage providers you must make sure you’re not paying too much for the offered services.

  • Is there a free service available? what storage amount is offered? (most of the time it’s limited to a couple of gig’s, like 3 or 4 Gb)
  • What amount of storage is offered  for the monthly fee? Some providers offer unlimited storage space for a reasonable fee, while others limit the storage space to 10, 50 or 100 Gb.
  • Does the cloud storage provider have a ‘Money Back’ option when you’re not satisfied with the service?
  • Do you pay a monthly fee or is the total amount cumulated to a full-year price?
  • How scalable is the offer? Can you add additional storage and users to your account as needed? The best cloud storage providers ensure that you never pay for more storage than you are actually using.

How much storage space do you need?

The free option from a cloud storage provider can sound pretty interesting, but with the vast amount of data that most people accumulate it’s hardly sufficient. In determining what amount of storage space you need, you must take into consideration the following factors:

  • If you’re planning to upload your entire digital photo collection, take into consideration the total file-size of all your photos and what you’re expecting to add the following year. With digital cameras still up-sizing their megapixels per photo, the average file-size of a picture has steadily increased these last couple of years. A couple of years worth of family photos could easily add up to anything between 10 or 30 Gb.
  • Are you planning to use your cloud storage space for adding video’s? These could be video-files from your camera or uploaded movies. An average high-definition video file (1080p) of 2 hours could easily be as big as 15 Gb.
  •  Are you planning to update your music collection. A music collection in  MP3 could easily use up a couple of Gb’s, let alone if you store your music files in a high definition format (.flac for example).
  • Are you planning to use your storage space for work purposes, for example storing powerpoint presentations or backing up your complete email-history (.pst outlook files).
  • Do you want to back-up your entire hardrive or maybe the harddrives of a couple of computers for security reasons? How large are these hard drives?

How safe is cloud storage?

One of the most frequently asked questions concerning cloud storage is ‘how safe in my data’. A few things are important to mention when we’re talking about security.

The first one is password-related. If you enter your cloud service with a password (for example through the website login) keep the following things in mind.Passwords can be hacked. This doesn’t mean that passwords aren’t safe, it just means that they’re vulnerable to dictionary and brute force attacks. Brute force attacks means the trial and error method of hacking passwords, meaning the hacker tries to generate every possible combination to gain access.Another way to hack passwords is to use a dictionary attack, a program that inserts common words into password fields.If you choose a cloud storage solution that relies on a password to access your data choose a password that’s difficult to hack with dictionary attacks and change your password often to reduce the chances of success from brute force attacks.

The other thing to mention is the possibility of your data being captured en route. Fortunately the best cloud service providers will encrypt the data while it’s traveling back and forth, making it impossible for someone to read your files in the case that person intercepts the data. You need to check if your cloud storage service uses ‘https’ instead of ‘http’ in the address-line when you’re accessing your files through an internet webbrowser. The ‘s’ in ‘https’ stands for a secure connection. If you use an desktop or mobile app for accessing your files, check if the cloud provider uses some form of encryption with internet exhanges.

One of the most important rules is to never give away your password to someone. It almost never happens that for example a technical helpdesk agent asks for your password. They will only require a minimum of personal information to establish who you are before they can help you.
Look for the following things when comparing different Cloud storage providers:

  • A company with a reputation for excellent physical and network security.
  • Multiple-level redundancy, meaning there are multiple copies of your data to prevent loss in the case of a single disk or server failure.
  • Redundancy across multiple geographic locations, so when a natural disaster destroys your data at one location, that same data is still available elsewhere.

The conclusion is that yes cloud storage is safe, just do yourself a favor by choosing a safe password and give extra attention to security aspects when comparing cloud storage providers.