Storing Data in the Cloud

Reed McConnell

Reed McConnell, 30 August 2016

What the heck is the cloud? People often refer to storing data in the ‘cloud’, but what does this concept really mean and how is the cloud constructed?

Contrary to popular belief, the cloud is not an intangible hard drive that is floating above our heads, but instead a physical network of connected servers that can store and process information. When you store information in the cloud, you are sending that information to third party data centres. Once the cloud receives the data, the user has the ability to access it from anywhere and anytime as long as they have Internet capability.

The initial development of the cloud began in the 1960’s with computer scientist J.C.R Licklider. With the vision of allowing people to be interconnected and to access data from anywhere and anytime he founded the ARPA.net, a model that first implemented the protocol suite TCP/IP. In the late 90’s, the popularity of web browsers meant that new companies such as Google, CD Baby, and Salesforce could deliver software from servers through the Internet instead of on discs and CD roms. Another breakthrough development came in 2002, when Amazon Web Services provided a suite of cloud based services that included storage and computation. As virtual technology has matured, the development of universal high-speed bandwidth has also greatly advanced the development of the cloud.

Cloud based services have now become standard practise for storing data, and Culture Counts utilises this technology to store our user’s survey response data. As with other cloud-based services like Google, Amazon, Slack, Dropbox and Salesforce, Culture Counts stores data in multiple data centres around the world. Access to those databases is cryptographically secure to the standards of industry best practice.

Using the cloud to store data has numerous benefits, including:

  • Convenient access to data from anywhere and anytime - provided that the user has Internet capability
  • Productivity can be increased as users can work on the same data simultaneously rather than having to wait for it to be saved and emailed
  • Can ensure data safety even during a natural disaster as data is often backed up in 2 or 3 different locations around the globe
  • Can significantly reduce energy consumption, promoting a greener business

For some, the concern that privacy may be compromised when storing data in the cloud can result in an apprehension to use any cloud based services. It is important to note that Culture Counts is bound by the laws of the respective jurisdictions with regards to people requesting what data we hold on them. If they want their data deleted we are required to comply with that depending on the jurisdiction. For example in Australia we are bound by the terms of the government privacy requirements (APP8) and we comply with those terms.

Additional precautions and procedures Culture Counts takes to ensure data security include:

  • Public survey data collected is anonymous and not linked with people's real details and identity
  • Access to servers is secured by industry standard public-key cryptography
  • Detailed audit logs of all server activities are maintained
  • Sensitive data such as passwords are salted and hashed according to industry best practice
  • Data is backed up in multiple redundant geographic locations
  • Security patches are applied immediately

In the next decade, cloud storage will likely become an even more popular method of digital storage amongst businesses, ushering in the complete transfer of data storage to cloud based services. It is exciting to imagine what advancements will be made next in the digital storage frontier.



Main image source: Stories by Williams

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