For the most part, almost all cloud services are at least as secure as a local or physical hard drive. But not all clouds are as safe and secure as others. Some cloud storage (opens in new tab) providers offer much more private services than others, or they may have specific security features that are light years ahead of their competitors.
Fran Villalba Segarra. Founder and CEO, Internxt (opens in new tab).
When choosing a cloud storage service provider, it's wise to do a little research to determine if the cloud service is as safe as their marketing (opens in new tab) teams say.
Below are five things to consider when determining how safe, secure, and provide a cloud service is and if you should trust them with all your data:
Storage provider reputation and reviews? And who owns it!
This may sound a little obvious, but checking out reviews of a cloud storage provider can help you narrow down which cloud is the most secure and private. Most of the time, how safe a cloud is boils down to technical things that can be hard to comprehend unless you have a degree in computer science or engineering.
The good news is there are plenty of intelligent, tech-literate people out there that look into different clouds and are all too happy to voice their opinions online. If tons of people complain about download/upload speeds or harping on bugs, you should probably pass on that provider.
Also, is the company open-source (opens in new tab), and do they honestly communicate with the public and their clients? If not, you can't be too sure what's happening behind closed servers.
Make sure to scour the provider's "About Us" section on their website and check who owns the majority of the company or if they use servers provided by more giant tech corporations. Just because a provider acts legit doesn't mean it isn't subject to a Big Tech firm that is super lax on cybersecurity (opens in new tab). A poor parent company is a huge red flag when picking out a safe, secure cloud storage service.
Tech the Cloud Uses to Protect Your Data
How a cloud protects your data is the most crucial thing to consider when picking the right service for you. It's essential to ask the right questions when evaluating a cloud's technical commitment to privacy and security specifications:
- Is data encrypted? At rest and in transit? And how does the cloud store my password (or encryption key)
- What kind of encryption (opens in new tab) do they use, and is it a newer type of encryption or slightly outdated?
- Do I need to provide personal information to open an account, or can I do so anonymously?
- Is the cloud source code open-source, made public, and independently verifiable?
- Does the cloud store all user data in one central server location or across a peer-to-peer network?
- How long can shared files be accessed, and how much agency is given to recipients?
- Can the storage provider access your data or files? Can any other party or person access your data or files?
- How is the service regulated and monitored? Through anonymous blockchain or some other less-secure methods?
- Is the service compatible with the devices you use?
- Does the service release updates, patches, and bug fixes regularly?
Certain technologies are safer than others. As a rule of thumb, the newer and more modern the tech used, the safer the service likely is.
A cloud service should be transparent in explaining how it protects its data. You don't have to be a computer whiz and know about anything specific, but the provider's information should be clear and thorough.
Free or paid?
Free is usually always better, but that's not always the case when it comes to cloud services. Many companies offer small plans so you can try their cloud service, and for the most part, these are as secure and safe as their standard, paid service. Many of these free cloud storage (opens in new tab) plans don't come with all of the providers' regular features, though they are still a workable alternative for those on a budget.
The providers who provide all of their services for free and seem too good to be true probably are. It's not that their cloud service is poor. It's that they are likely making money in some way off your data. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and if you're not paying for a product, you likely are the product.
Google Drive (opens in new tab) is an excellent example of this. Yes, their collaboration features are top-notch and widely adopted, but the company is well-known for privacy violations. Your data makes Big Tech rich—privacy and security are far from their priority.
Who actually reads the Terms and Conditions before clicking "Yes," right? You should when it's a service that will house all your valuable information. Companies are legally obligated to inform you about what they do with your data. It's crucial to figure out what that is BEFORE you start storing files and photos with their cloud service.
This will take up some of your free time, but you will discover some dirty little secrets that will be an automatic deal-breaker. Also, check out a company's website info. Their mission, views on privacy, and how they generate revenue can give you clues to their overall trustworthiness.
Get a second opinion
Still not sure if a cloud is safe, secure, or private? Still not sure if the provider is one of the privacy good guys or bad guys? You don't have to figure it all out on your own.
Many privacy (opens in new tab) rights and online security organizations are working to protect humanity's fundamental digital rights. These organizations have tons of resources and educational information designed to help you make smarter choices on the World Wide Web.
See what these advocates are saying about some cloud services (and the company providing them) while you're shopping around for safe storage. Knowledge is your greatest ally in finding safe and secure web services.
Is digital cloud storage safe?
Yes! Cloud storage is safe, and it's a good idea to back up your files and photos to the cloud.
That said, not all clouds are equal. Some are safer, more secure, and more private than others. You must do some research before going all-in on one service. Consider the five ways to determine if cloud storage is safe above, and you'll be fine.
Be vigilant, be curious, and be nosy regarding your online privacy. Being proactive is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your data on the internet. Now go and find yourself the perfect cloud!
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