Although the term “cloud storage” is now commonplace, many users do not know where this data is actually kept. The “term” Cloud computing was originally coined in 1996 by Compaq engineers to describe the process of using the computing power of several machines to work more quickly. “Cloud” is actually a misnomer, considering that data, like the internet itself, is a system of computers housed in massive warehouses around the world. Cloud storage received its name from a metaphor originally used to describe telecommunications, but is now generally applied to data stored remotely and accessible from any internet-connected device.
By using these networks, computers were then able to become smaller and portable because the “heavy lifting” can be the networks instead of the device itself. This also means that the services operated by these networks, such as Google, can run more efficiently and dependably. However, items in the cloud, once traversing the digital gulf, are stored on one or more servers and is being kept by a company, like iCloud or Dropbox.
This is for digital security, ensuring the safety of files even if a disaster destroys the physical storage computer. This means that deleting an uploaded file is not as simple as one stored locally, essentially it is dependent on the company to delete all copies of the files across their servers. Many of these companies, like Google, do not require warrants from law enforcement to release data; whereas, a warrant would be required to search files stored on a single device.
While most users don’t worry about law enforcement’s interest in their files, a larger concern is personal hacks or widespread “hacktivist” attacks. The highest level of security comes with encrypted personal networks, passwords and hard drives. Nevertheless, even encrypted files uploaded to the cloud are inaccessible without access to the internet, or when servers are shut down by DDoS attacks, such as the October 2016 attack that effectively shut the internet off for most of the East Coast.