Is the cloud the cloud?
May 4, 2015 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Is there a reason for me to pay $11.99/year for 5GB of cloud storage on Amazon when 5GB of storage is free on iCloud? Is there something I'm missing?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say its the ultimate commodity - the only discernible difference being price.
posted by H. Roark at 1:06 PM on May 4, 2015

Amazon offers unlimited photo storage, which would really eat into the 5gb on iCloud.

Mega also offers a whopping 50GB free cloud file storage.
posted by FallowKing at 1:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

For me, the difference is how I can interact with these. Do my phone and laptop both have apps that will integrate seamlessly? Can I mount the storage as a drive on my desktop? Can I share links to my cloud stuff easily?
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:26 PM on May 4, 2015

The cloud is just an idiotic marketing term for making something that used to be your responsibility into some random company's responsibility, with a corresponding reduction in any ability to determine what sort of actual reliability and security characteristics might be in play.

iCloud may be subsidizing that 5GB of free storage with Apple's sales of other gear and services. Amazon's approach is more transparent. In both cases, it is probably not wise to rely on those services for critical data, which you should maintain your own copy of.

Providers ultimately have to consider the cost of Internet bandwidth, and the cost to provide (hopefully) redundant storage and (hopefully) backups when providing services such as these. If your cloud provider isn't able to turn a profit, will they be around next year? Will they be able to keep providing the same level of service? Or will the service be "retired" or sold off or migrated? Didn't see that bankruptcy coming?

These are some of the real risks that most people aren't considering at all when they store data on these services.
posted by jgreco at 1:29 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Follow-up question:

In that case, what is the best way to store information? I don't have good experiences with external hard drives or computer hard drives. Is there another option? Should I just use Google Drive (which is still "cloud" storage but at least I think there's less chance of it disappearing)?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 1:34 PM on May 4, 2015

I personally use iCloud - it keeps all my stuff synced - plus backblaze - which is an online service that does automatic backups. I also use a hard drive every few months that then lives in a fireproof safe.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't really trust Apple after their role in the celebrity photo leaks. In some cases, the women had deleted their photos a long time ago but they were still saved on Apple's servers. Every cloud service can be hacked, so that's not Apple's fault, but I would stick with a service where you know what is being synced and not synced, and you have the ability to remove it from their servers. It appears many of the women didn't realize every single photo they took on their phone was being stored by Apple on iCloud.

Personally, I like Dropbox because it works like any other folder on my computer, and I can also put it on my phone to sync stuff too. I find Dropbox easy to use, and it comes with a lot of free storage. I also like that with Dropbox, I still have the files on my computer or wherever and it doesn't solely exist on "the cloud" -- they are filed on my computer that are backed up and accessible by Dropbox remotely. But that's just me.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:24 PM on May 4, 2015

I learned about the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) principle in library school, and nothing else has seemed as secure to me, so that's what I do. Really important stuff is saved on my home computer, my work computer, a USB drive in my house, and a USB drive kept in my safe deposit box. And maybe also a print copy kept in a file box at home.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

External hard drives are prone to failure. It kills me every time some non-techie person I know asks about retrieving stuff off their failed hard drive.

Mirrored hard drives are a good idea, and not that hard to do, but many people have difficulty wrapping their heads around why they should spend the money. OS X on a Mac Mini with two hard drives can be made to do this fairly easily. It isn't that difficult on a Windows box either, I'm told.

Looking at network-attached storage ("NAS"), a device that sits on your network and can provide file access and sync services:

External NAS devices often come in a two-drive model that can be used for data storage and protection, but you are kind of tied to a vendor who is interested in selling you a magic box, and once the warranty expires, no more software updates - the software being the most important part of it all.

Open source products like FreeNAS are capable of creating high reliability NAS solutions that include checksum verification of all your data, and the ability to tolerate multiple drive failures. However, building the proper hardware to do this tends to be expensive (the FreeNAS Mini is a prebuilt platform that runs almost $1000 without disks). But it gives you a large amount of flexibility for fast local storage, and the ability to use tools such as OwnCloud for mobile sync.

obDisclosure, I'm one of the moderators and frequent participants at the FreeNAS forums. I am admittedly very biased towards ZFS as a great way to protect your data.

However, none of these solutions alone is acceptable for reliable information storage. You still need a way to back up your information, and that should be offsite. What happens when your house burns down, or is broken into?

The average person could probably be well served by having mirrored disks and then also using one of the free online backup services. However, any other strategy that allows you to not be reliant on the proper operation of a single hard drive (whether external or internal) and also provides for periodic offsite backups is a good starting point.
posted by jgreco at 2:27 PM on May 4, 2015

In that case, what is the best way to store information?

What kind of information? These cloud services are pretty good for accessing files you use frequently or for keeping multiple devices updated with the same data (a calendar or contact list, for example).

But you probably want something else for long-term backup of infrequently accessed files.

I use Dropbox and iCloud as an easy way to shuffle files from home to work or to see pictures wherever I am. But for data I want to save permanently--like my music library or completed work stuff--I back that up on a monthly basis to an external hard drive AND an online backup service (like Amazon S3, not Amazon Cloud, or Carbonite or Mozy).
posted by mullacc at 2:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use the Amazon cloud for storage because it syncs to all of my devices: android phone, Fire TV, Kindles, Amazon Echo, etc. I don't mind paying for the storage because I have access to my entire music library, video library, photos, etc. anywhere I can access the internet.
posted by tacodave at 4:36 PM on May 4, 2015

I love apple stuff, and icloud backups are awesome... but i treat icloud as solely a backup for my iphone/ipad data. It very VERY quickly turns in to a black box if you aren't accessing it from an apple machine. You can view some of the photos/info online, but it's more of a tailored backup solution than something like dropbox.

In fact, if i had to pick a solution to this sort of thing that was really sort of the "standard", it would be dropbox. Someone will point out that they're "evil" and hired Condoleezza Rice and whatever... but EVERY cloud storage company is spying on your data anyways, and dropbox works with everything. It's a folder that lots of apps on devices will play nice with, rather than amazon which costs more and isn't quite as widely supported, or icloud... which feels like the digital equivalent of the special antifreeze fluid you have to put in volkswagens.
posted by emptythought at 7:08 PM on May 4, 2015

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