Cloud Storage Explained


I read an interesting analogy for cloud storage the other day that might help those of you who don’t really understand it.

The Babbage Blog at The Economist explains it this way:

“Consider the purchase of a home in two adjacent gated communities. Both have houses with truly impregnable locks. In one community, whenever you need to enter your house, you visit the management office and show your driving licence. A guard walks you to your home, and lets you in using the master key that opens every door lock in the community. You can stay inside indefinitely. If an employee misuses the key to wander into homes or, heaven forbid, a thief gets his hands on it, all bets are off – the households’ sanctity has been compromised.

In another community, the management requires that you privately choose your own lock and corresponding key, which you hang on to and use to enter your abode at will. But if you lose the key, or any copies you have made, you can never re-enter. It will remain a sealed edifice until the universe’s heat death.”

In this analogy Dropbox would be represented by the first gated community and something like SpiderOak by the second. As mentioned in a previous article, Dropbox stores encryption keys/passwords on their servers potentially enabling them to be accessed by employees or third parties. In addition, should they be asked by federal agencies to hand over information, they can … and must. SpiderOak does not store encryption keys on their servers – these are kept by the users – and should they be asked by federal agencies to release information, they simply can’t – even if they want to. They don’t have the key.

You can improve Dropbox security by encrypting your files with third party encryption software before upload to the Dropbox folder. In this way, Dropbox may be able to provide access to your house, but your data is effectively stored in a locked room within the house that they don’t have access to. This type of pre-encryption isn’t necessary with SpiderOak.

Computer scientist Nathaniel Borenstein summed it up when he said:

“What Dropbox provides is more than adequate for most users. Those with a more stringent need for privacy … need to take responsibility for their own privacy, not count on a remote, third party service to provide it.”

Which ever option you choose, cloud storage is a great way to share documents with disparate work teams, manage work flow, or just back up your data off-site.

Are you worried about cloud storage security? If not, why not and if so, what strategies do you use to avoid some common pitfalls? Or do you just not use the cloud? Share your comments below!

© Lyn Prowse-Bishop –

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