The popularity of cloud storage has skyrocketed ever since the introduction of user-friendly services, such as DropBox and Apple iCloud, that allow users to store and retrieve their data from anywhere on the internet. It has also become a major selling point for companies in the web hosting industry, particularly when it comes to backup services that customers can purchase on top of their hosting plan.
What is Cloud Storage?
Cloud storage, like cloud hosting, is a specific type of cloud computing service. This just means that rather than using your own hardware and software to store data, whether locally by downloading it to your own computer or remotely by uploading it to a single server that you have access to, you instead utilize a service provided by another company that abstracts away most of the details of the underlying server architecture and lets you access your data through a simple interface, often via a web browser or an app that can be used across multiple devices.
Cloud storage standardly uses a virtualized infrastructure, which is when the underlying server hardware is used to run what are called virtual machines, or emulations of real computer systems. Those virtualized machines themselves run the software used for storage. What makes virtualization so great is that it allows for cheap, easy, and rapid migration of data across the company’s infrastructure, which makes it trivial to create and maintain backups, recover lost data, and create multiple copies to improve redundancy and access to data.
It also significantly decreases the costs associated with data storage, because it eliminates the need to have dedicated servers and technicians that look after your data. Instead, a third party maintains the cloud infrastructure for you, and all you have to pay is a relatively small fee for the service. As with cloud hosting, cloud storage often functions the way a normal utility might: you pay for your usage (usually in terms of storage space but occasionally in terms of bandwidth as well) as you go.
In the web hosting industry, cloud storage is usually an add on service to your hosting package. Your hosting provider may have their own in-house cloud storage solution, or they may partner with a third party company to provide you that service. Often the service is accessible through an intuitive interface linked to your user account, which may be your customer portal or through the website panel you use, such as cPanel. You can also use a cloud storage service that is completely independent from your hosting service, easily linking it up using software or scripts.
How it Works
When using any cloud storage solution, backups of your data are pulled at regular intervals which can be set by you. That data is stored offsite on separate servers, thus ensuring that if anything were to happen to your live website or emails, such as a server crash, a malware infection, or accidental deletion, you can easily retrieve the data from the cloud and restore your website to the state of the last backup. Because cloud storage solutions are virtualized, thus allowing for multiple layers of redundancy of your data, the chances of any secondary data loss is extremely negligible.
It is important to remember that not all cloud storage solutions — of which there are many — offer the same services. Some solutions will backup only the files in the home directory of your web server, which will not include any databases you may have. Other solutions are primarily for database backups only. And still others may focus only on email storage.
If your website is your business, backups are a necessity. As the saying in the industry goes: If backups aren’t kept, it’s not business-critical. Business owners should think very carefully about which backup solutions best fit their needs. Cloud storage is a smart way to ensure that any important data, business or otherwise, is kept secure in case of an unforeseen disaster. It is cheap, fast, easy to use, and is accessible from anywhere you’re connected.
Be sure to check out our reviews of web hosting providers for any cloud storage solutions that they offer.