The Cloud: questions you should ask yourself before storing data in it

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 23, 2012
Updated • Dec 26, 2012

The rise of cloud storage in the past two or so years was fueled largely by an increase in mobile Internet usage. Barely any smartphone gets released these days without Internet access and an app store that users can make use of to install apps on their phones. They can then browse the Internet, check emails, post updates to Twitter or Facebook, or play online games with other people. With mobile Internet came the desired to synchronize data like contact lists, the calendar or emails between clients,and with rising Internet speeds came the desire to access documents and files for entertainment on the go as well.

Hosting data in the cloud has consequences though, and it is highly recommended to understand what those consequences will be before making any data available in the cloud. The following questions can help you significantly in making that decision.

cloud storage
photo by akakumo

What happens to your data when the service is canceled?

If you cancel the service or delete your account, what will happen to your data? Will it be deleted securely with the account, or will it remain to be available on the servers? If the latter is true, will it be there for a specific amount of time or forever? And if that is the case, is there a way to force the service to delete your data?

But there is another situation that you need to consider: if the cloud hosting provider terminates your account, will this have consequences on other activities? The files are usually synchronized with a computer and available, but what if you use your account for other activities? A SkyDrive account for instance may be linked to Xbox Live or an email account, and if it gets terminated by Microsoft because of something that you have uploaded to SkyDrive, you may also lose access to other services as a consequence.

Should I make this file available without protection?

Once you have signed up for a service you need to understand that files that you upload to the Internet may be accessible by the company offering the service. While there are usually strict guidelines in place that regulate when and how data can be accessed, it means that in theory data can be accessed if it is not protected - read encrypted- before it is uploaded.

This resolves another issue that you may run into. At least some cloud synchronization services use automation to scan files for contents that are against the services' terms of service. With encryption, you won't run into a situation where an automated check may block you from accessing your account as the scanner can't identify the files that you have uploaded.

Some services may also scan the files for profiling or advertising purposes. This begins with the file names and types, how and when the service, is used, from where it is accessed and so on.

You also need to consider how the data is transferred between your devices and the servers of the provider that you have selected. Is the provider using encryption to protect the files during transfer?

In short: if your files are important either use encryption before you move them into the cloud, or do not upload them to the cloud at all.

Where are my files hosted?

It is important to know where the servers of the cloud hosting service are located? It depends. For home users it is usually not really a consideration, but businesses may have regulations that prevent them from uploading files to servers in foreign countries. The server's location may also impact download and upload speeds, and latency.

If you are not living in the US but select a cloud hosting provider in the US, your data may be subject to the USA Patriot Act.

In closing

Moving your files into the cloud opens up a new can of risks that most computer users are probably unaware of.  Providers too make it look easy - and it is - to start synchronizing data with a cloud server, but they often fail to address concerns that savvy users may have.

Have you moved your files to the cloud? If so, which service provider are you using for that and why?


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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