Let's look at the major advantages and disadvantages of cloud storage. There are lots of arguments in its favor:
- It's easy. You choose a cloud storage provider from the many available, such as Mozy, Carbonite, Dropbox and SugarSync. Install the software and choose which types of documents you want to back up. You may be able to choose the method for encrypting your data for security. Then you just let the service do its job, and you don't have to think about it.
- It can save money. For individuals as well as businesses, cloud storage can be a money saver. You can buy a basic computer model rather than one with lots of storage capacity.
- It can save space.
- It's away from your home and business. If disaster strikes, your data is safe somewhere else.
- You can access your information from any device anywhere you have a good Internet connection. You can also share access with others.
- You can find something on the cloud when you need it more readily than searching through all the discs and folders in your personal archives.
But nothing is foolproof. One big drawback of the cloud is the possibility that your data won't be kept private. If you're wondering whether to back up data that's already in the cloud, you've probably satisfied any doubts you had about security by checking your provider's encryption and authentication practices.
Reliability is another matter. Startup companies sometimes don't last. And devices like Microsoft's Sidekick have had highly publicized failures [source: Dilger]. You never know when and where problems might crop up on the Internet.
Aside from major system failures, data often gets lost in the cloud because of human error or sabotage. For that reason, some people use services like Backupify, which has no delete function, to automatically backup their calendars, pictures, documents, e-mail, social networking accounts and other data in the cloud.
But even if you use Backupify or a similar service, your data is still in the possession of someone else, in the cloud. Is there another approach? And do you need to back up everything some other way?
Read on to the next section for more options – and answers.