In a crowded cloud market, it's tough to know which features are a must and which features bust. When choosing a secure cloud storage provider (opens in new tab), it's essential to understand your needs and select a service that best fits them. Not quite sure what to look for, though?
Fran Villalba Segarra, CEO, Internxt (opens in new tab).
At the end of the day, most providers provide similar services, but there are a few features to be on the lookout for if you value your personal privacy and data security. Here are five features your next cloud storage provider should offer:
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Your files and data need to be encrypted, and more specifically, end-to-end encrypted. Like many things in this world, encryption (opens in new tab) comes in many forms. They all do the same thing: scramble and fragment data rendering it useless and unreadable without the designated decryption key.
The beauty of end-to-end encryption means that your data is always encrypted. With end-to-end encryption, your files or photos are encrypted before they leave your device, stay encrypted in transit or while uploaded/downloaded to the cloud, and are stored in encrypted form. Basically, data on the cloud is always encrypted, in transit, and at rest.
Many providers offer some kind of encryption but not all offer complete end-to-end protection. Some encrypt file transfers, or some encrypt data in storage. If your provider doesn't feel the need to encrypt the whole process, then your data (opens in new tab) is vulnerable at some point and at risk of a data breach.
Open source code
There are a lot of free clouds out there that come loaded with plenty of nifty features. But there's a catch, many of the free services collect data or scan the content of your files in some way or another. Sure, they say they don't, but it is well-documented that they do, in fact, often infringe on users' privacy (opens in new tab).
These services often operate on closed or private code, meaning that no one can independently verify their claims or double-check exactly what their programs are up to. If they do precisely what their marketing says, why won't they let their code be inspected and verified?
If you want to be sure that your next cloud service provider is doing what they say they are doing, you should opt for a service that is 100% open source (opens in new tab). You don't have to be a computer expert or programmer and check the code yourself. There's no shortage of volunteers and good samaritans who will check and verify most services for the greater common good.
Open-source projects rarely try anything funny because they know all it takes is one nosy individual to let the world know they're up to no good. Open source cloud services generally have better ethics, and many put user rights above their bottom line. After all, if you're handing your personal files to a company, it's much easier to trust a company that operates in the open than take a shady corporation at its word'.
Collaboration (opens in new tab) is king these days. Plus, what is the point of saving all those photos if you don't share them with friends and family? A good cloud service should have a robust and safe share function. You shouldn't have to use your email to send files. Instead, your cloud service should allow you to do everything within their platform.
By the way, not all shared links are equal. With Google Drive (opens in new tab), once you allow everyone access and send out the link, you have no clue how often the link is shared and who may have access.
Some services, like Internxt (opens in new tab), allow users to limit the number of times a link is shared. Want to send some documents to 4 people? Limit the links to four shares, and ensure no one else will eventually gain access. That said, Google does allow access to specific people, so that's nice.
Ultimately, it's crucial to see what safety perks a cloud provider provides for sharing information. Try out your next service's free plan before committing to ensure their share feature is safe, smooth, and compatible with the types of files you usually send.
What devices and operating systems will you use to access your cloud storage? What devices and operating systems will the people you share or collaborate with be using? What browser do you prefer? Do you want your service to have an app, or is a web-based-only service fine? Are you a die-hard Linux fanboy (or fangirl)?
The best cloud services are compatible with all devices and operating systems (opens in new tab). Be very sure to, at the very least, make sure your next cloud offers support for the device and OS you plan to use.
The most space-extensive file formats are images and videos. Photos take up a ton of space and are typically the reason many of us find our physical storage insufficient and need the extra storage in the first place.
Photos are the types of things you would like to view, and maybe even edit, from inside your cloud's app or web browser. Solid cloud photo storage (opens in new tab) will have a gallery where you can access and view photos without having to download them to your mobile device or computer. Downloading an image every time you want to glance at it can be a real pain.
Bonus: file formats
Make sure your new cloud provider supports all other file formats you regularly use (including photos!). Especially file formats that aren't extremely common. Almost all clouds will handle PDFs and DOCs just fine, but if you want to store audio, XFDLs, or something even more niche, make sure it's compliant with the service.
Pick the best cloud storage provider for you
Remember, just because everyone uses Dropbox or Drive doesn't mean they are the best for you. For example, if you highly value your privacy and security, better options are certainly available.
Find out what you must-haves for your next cloud service before settling on one.
Be objective and do your research. It's not a forever decision, but moving all your files to new services over and over again gets old fast. Check to see if the cloud provider you're interested in has all the above features. If it does (and has many unique features that are super vital for you), go for it!