The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
A newsletter reader recently posted a comment about some articles I have written explaining why the cloud is good for genealogy and for many other purposes. The newsletter reader protested, “You constantly tout that cloud storage is much more secure than local device based storage. Yet, we constantly hear about celebrities, companies and national and state governments whose files have been hacked and published.”
Yes, indeed, there have been major security problems with government and corporate data servers. However, these problems did not occur on cloud computing services. The problems all arose (to my knowledge) from hackers accessing old-fashioned servers in data centers, not from true cloud services that use encryption. In every case I have read about, the stolen files came from individual servers or banks of servers, not from the cloud. The cloud is not the same thing as a server in a data center.
To be sure, cloud computing is not radically different from single servers. Instead, the thing generally called “the cloud” is an outgrowth, or advancement, of single servers. Many enhancements have been added to the concept of single servers, and improved security is one of the enhancements that is usually included. In most cases, a cloud-based service provides much higher security than does a single server or a group of servers in a data center. Improved security isn’t automatic; the company providing the cloud services must add security to the service. However, given the large number of servers involved in a cloud service, improved security is almost always included.
The US government apparently still uses many servers that are not cloud-based and are vulnerable to attacks from hackers around the world. Many corporations do the same. Use of cloud technology isn’t a perfect solution but it is far better than running single servers or even groups of servers in a non-cloud environment, the way that all companies and government agencies did a few years ago.
Cloud computing means that, instead of using the power of your desktop computer, or the power of a server somewhere inside your company’s network, the computing power is provided for you as a service, often provided by another company, and is accessed over the Internet, usually in a completely seamless way. Exactly where the hardware and software is located and how it all works doesn’t matter to you, the user—it’s just somewhere in the nebulous “cloud” that the Internet represents.
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