What Is the ‘the Cloud’ and Is My Data Safe There?

If you have a device that was made in the last five years, you no doubt get constant pings about ‘the cloud.’

Tech companies are eager to have you transfer your data and documents into their cloud storage. If you haven’t made the switch, this move is understandably daunting.

‘The cloud’ doesn’t exactly sound like a secure place. Maybe if they called it ‘the vault’ or ‘the fortress,’ you would be more inclined to store your most valuable documents there.

But despite the name, the cloud is a surprisingly secure place to store your data.

What Is the Cloud?

The cloud is not in the sky or the ether. It’s a network of servers, on the ground, all across the world. These servers essentially do the heavy lifting that individuals and companies might not be interested in.

Cloud servers can store data, compute data, and give people access to apps and files across different devices. That’s because the information is not stored on their devices; it’s stored in the cloud’s servers.

Cloudflare
The cloud enables you to utilize power and storage beyond your device’s normal capabilities. | Source: Cloudflare

Small businesses don’t need to build an external computing infrastructure to run their companies. They can utilize the infrastructure that cloud vendors have already built. And whereas businesses would normally have to purchase and implement the maximum amount of computing power they might need, cloud vendors often let you ‘pay as you go,’ so you only pay for what you use.

amazon cloud
This graph shows the financial advantage of using the cloud. | Source: Amazon Web Services

For an individual, the cloud can provide many advantages. You can free up valuable space on your device. You can access files and apps across your devices. For example, if you save a video on your computer, you can pull up that same video on your phone from a different location.

But you might wonder: aren’t my files more vulnerable to computer hackers if they’re stored on the cloud as opposed to my hard drive? Not necessarily.

Is the Cloud Safe?

Naturally, fears may arise around putting your sensitive documents in the hands of a third-party. Will they protect my data? What if the cloud servers fail? Will my data disappear? Can’t hackers infiltrate the cloud more easily than they could access my hard drive?

Major cloud companies like Amazon Web Services, iCloud, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, IBM, and more have taken steps to provide top-notch security.

The fact is that hackers can infiltrate your hard drive if you’re not careful. Through phishing scams, malware, or ransomware, they can do things like freeze your computer until you comply with their demands or hold your sensitive information for ransom.

But cloud providers take many steps to provide a higher level of security than the average person implements.

Check out this short video on cloud security:

What is Cloud Security?

Common Security Measures

Here are some of the security measures that most cloud services provide:

  • File encryption. Files stored on cloud servers are encrypted. That means the data is scrambled, making it much more difficult for hackers to access.
  • Firewalls. Cloud data is stored behind a protective firewall. These firewalls filter out any suspicious network activity, making it more difficult for hackers to slip in malware or viruses.
  • Data Back-ups.  All of these walls and security precautions sound nice, but what if the cloud servers fail? Won’t all of my data get lost in an instant? Not necessarily. Cloud services generally back up your data in multiple different locations. This way, if one server fails, you can still access your data from a different location.
  • Security Updates. You probably get little pop-ups all of the time that nudge you to update your security program. Do you always click on it? Or do you procrastinate until it’s convenient? Cloud companies always ‘click on it,’ and by doing so, help protect your information against the latest viruses and malware.

Although the cloud can provide these high-quality security features, no service is full-proof. You should still take basic precautions to help protect yourself. Always use a strong password, consider enabling two-factor authentication for important accounts, and never give your sensitive information away.

If you think you’ve been hacked, reach out to us immediately.

Featured image by Blackboard via Shutterstock.


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Aaron Weaver
Aaron Weaver is the Head of Content for Hacked.com. He has over 15 years of journalism experience. As a tech-savvy editor and researcher, he prides himself on journalistic integrity by providing cutting edge data backed by the latest science.

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