Big white fluffy cloud with a thick curvy shape and some shades of gray from the bright summer sun. The sky is deep blue and almost clear, with some smaller grey clouds far in the distance.Find out what ‘the Cloud’ is and why we ‘save to the Cloud’. 

So what is ‘the Cloud’?

Saving to the Cloud’ means storing your data in a place that is not on your device or local hard drive but online in a network of computer servers. We call this network ‘the Cloud’. By storing your data on a cloud service you can access this data from any device at any time (provided you can access the internet).

Some common cloud-based systems:

  • DropBox can be accessed by creating a free account or using your google/gmail account such our UoA email
  • Google Drive can be accessed with a google/gmail account.
  • ICloud Drive  is part the Apple platform and so is accessed using your apple ID.
  • Microsoft OneDrive  can be accessed from a brower with your Microsoft 365 or Hotmail account.

Cloud Storage solutions – What’s best for you?

Advantages of using the Cloud:

  • Access data (files, photos, video etc.) from anywhere that you can connect to the Internet. You can use mobile, laptop or desktop devices.
  • Security – most drives in the Cloud, use industrial level security software and practices which make it harder for hackers to get at your data. That’s harder, but not impossible.
  • Backup – one of the biggest advantages of using cloud storage service is that it adds another layer of protection for irreplaceable and important files. You have a backup of your data if your local device crashes or is lost.
  • Collaboration – Others can access, view, and modify your documents or folders, if you grant them access.
  • Syncing You can set up automatic updating for files across different devices through syncing. Then you can access to the files from any of the devices.

Disadvantages of using the Cloud:

  • Security breaches Even though it is harder for hackers to reach your data, it is not impossible. If this happens, your personal information (and possibly that of other users)  may be exposed to the world.
  • Technical problems Remember, these can occur at any time then you would be unable to access data stored in the cloud. At these times a local copy or backup is useful!
  • Storage limits While your local hard drive may be able to hold 500GB or more of data, typically a remote server may only allow you to freely store about 5GB. If you want more room, you have to pay. There may be a limit on the size of the data that can be stored.
  • Slow speeds Uploading and downloading large documents may be slow (depending on your internet connection speed).

Security for the cloud:

Personal security is a concern when using cloud storage and collaborative cloud tools. They provide us with benefits but also bring risks that we as users need to be aware of and mitigate.

  • Always use appropriately constructed passwords and not duplicate passwords across cloud accounts.  For help to do this see CreATEs 23 Things for Research Thing2.
  • Do not rely solely on cloud storage. Take regular backups of your documents, photos, and other files to hard media such as hard drives or home network drives.
  • Do not put anything of a personal nature in the cloud, such as personal photographs you would not want viewed publicly, or private data such as bank details, passwords etc.
  • Check to ensure that your devices are not set to automatically back up data such as images that you may not want online.

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Netsafe provide offer this advice about cloud service providers and key issues for New Zealand schools.

Top 5 Tips for Cloud storage safety from “We Live Security”

A video about cloud storage security from WANE NewsChannel 15:

 Data Ownership – One issue that many people debate is the concept of data ownership. Who owns the data stored in a cloud system? Does it belong to the person who originally saved the data to the cloud? Does it belong to the company that owns the physical equipment storing the data? Opinions vary on these issues.

Who owns the data?The cloud conundrum: who actually owns your data? and The Ongoing Question of Data Ownership in the Cloud make for interesting reading on data ownership.


Parts of this Thing were adapted from 23 Things for Research Oxford / CC By-NC-SA 3.0

Header image: Horia Varlan / Flickr / CC By 2.0
Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License.

23 Teaching Things has been written by Lucie Lindsay, Bronwyn Edmunds at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work.

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