Cloud storage—types, benefits, and security

If you’re looking for a convenient way to store important files, cloud storage is an excellent option. Learn how to reap its benefits without security risks.
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Cloud storage is an integral part of today’s business environment and people’s personal data management. It offers more convenience and flexibility than hard drives, letting you access important files wherever you are—as long as you have an internet connection.In this guide, you will learn everything you should know about the features and benefits of cloud storage drives. We will also discuss the risks to help you take the necessary precautions and store your files without privacy concerns.
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What is cloud storage, and how does it work?

Cloud storage is a data deposit method allowing users to save files on an off-site virtual location managed by a third party. It removes the need for physical data centers and lets users access and manage stored files from any internet-enabled device. Many solutions also provide offline access, letting you open or even edit files when you can’t connect to a network.The way cloud storage systems work is relatively straightforward:
  1. The user connects to a data server and sends copies of their files
  2. The data is saved on a physical server and made available on a virtual drive
  3. The user can access and manipulate the data directly on the server or request copies
This explanation was simplified for clarity’s sake—in reality, your data can be scattered across hundreds of servers around the globe. This is called redundancy, and cloud providers do this to ensure users can access their files if a particular server loses power or needs maintenance.Depending on your provider, you’ll get varying amounts of space you can access through a browser or dedicated app. Most cloud services offer a user-friendly interface to let users manage and share files without complications.

Different types of online storage methods

When talking about cloud storage, people implicitly refer to public cloud services. It’s the most common type with the widest application, offered by numerous providers (Google Drive, iCloud, etc.). There are three other deployment methods mainly used by organizations:
Storage typeHow it works
PrivateAn organization uses its own data servers and intranet to store data without relying on third-party services
HybridCombines public and private storage, letting an organization keep sensitive files on the latter and use the former for collaboration or sharing less-confidential data
CommunityMultiple organizations create and share a community cloud to enable streamlined information distribution. They are typically used by police departments, universities, and similar organizations in need of shared storage inaccessible to external users
The above three types have limited use cases, while public storage is the most commercial data deployment method suitable for businesses and individuals. It offers numerous benefits that make it easy for users to archive, edit, and manage files with minimal risks of data loss.

Benefits of cloud drive storage

Online storage offers many advantages over physical drives, most notably:
  1. Data backups
  2. Remote work
  3. Flexibility and scalability
  4. Cross-platform support

Cloud storage is a reliable way to avoid data loss

All hardware is prone to amortization and damage, and physical drive solutions are no different. If you rely solely on your hard drive to store important files, you risk losing them if the drive malfunctions. You may be able to salvage some data through a dedicated restoration service, but doing so typically involves significant costs.Cloud solutions minimize the possibility of such losses thanks to redundancy (scattering your data across multiple servers). The chances of all servers storing your data failing simultaneously are virtually zero, so having online copies of your files can give you peace of mind.This is why cloud storage is an excellent solution for archiving valuable files you don’t access frequently, like old family photos or financial statements (if you’re a business owner). Whatever happens to the local copies, you’ll always have a backup.

Simplifying remote work and collaboration

Remote work couldn’t exist in its current form without cloud storage. A comprehensive solution comes with numerous collaboration features letting you stay productive regardless of where you’re working.You can share files without using third-party transfer services or even email. All you need is a link or an invitation, and you can seamlessly collaborate with your team.

All the storage you need

Physical drives are quite limiting unless you invest in an option offering massive storage, which can be pricey. Even if you do, you might leave much of that space unfilled and waste money.Cloud services don’t suffer from this problem as you can adapt them to your needs. You can start small and upgrade as needed, ensuring the best value for money. Most cloud storage solutions are reasonably priced, so you can get the space you need for a few dollars per month.

Multi-platform support and syncing

Most cloud storage providers make their options compatible with all major platforms. From web services to iOS and Android apps, you can access your files using most modern desktop or mobile devices.Thanks to automatic syncing, you don’t need to manually transfer files between devices. If you use a service equipped with document editors or collaboration tools, you can leave work for later and pick up where you left off on another device.Speaking of such extra features, you should consider your needs before choosing a cloud storage provider, especially if you’ll pay for the service.

Typical cloud storage features to look for

Cloud storage services can vary greatly in feature availability, so think about why you need a drive before exploring your options. Some basic features to assess include:
  • File versioning—Stores previous versions of your files and lets you access them to make changes retroactively
  • Retention of deleted files—This is the equivalent of a recycle bin on your computer. You should be able to access deleted files for a certain period before they’re removed entirely
  • Management and organization features—You should be able to organize your files using folders and labels
  • File type support—Some cloud solutions only support specific file types, while others, like Skiff, let you store all types
On top of this, some platforms offer helpful add-ons, such as:
  • Offline support—The service lets you access files without an internet connection by leveraging your device’s local storage. You can’t upload files, but some platforms let you queue them so that they’re automatically uploaded when you connect to a network
  • Sharing permissions—You can control what the recipient can do with a file you send (editing, downloading, etc.)
  • Third-party app integrations—Some storage solutions let you connect them to various tools so you can expand their usability
No matter how useful these features are, none of them matter if your cloud provider doesn’t check the most important box—security.

Security risks of cloud storage solutions

Data safety is one of the main reasons some people still prefer to store important files on physical drives. They’re typically concerned about:
  1. Lack of control
  2. Cyberattacks
  3. Privacy issues
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Letting go of control over your files

When you upload your data to the cloud, it’s no longer managed by you. Some users aren’t comfortable relying on a third party to safeguard their files. If their servers are damaged or infected by malware, your files might get corrupted or lost.Luckily, this isn’t a common issue. In most cases, providers do a solid job of keeping your files safe. A bigger concern is file sharing, especially with the rise of link sharing as a standard method. Once you send a link to someone, it’s hard to restrict further distribution of your files.This is why you should exercise caution when sharing links to files or folders. A handy feature offered by advanced cloud storage platforms like Skiff is link expiration, which lets you set a date by which the shared files are available. After that, the link will no longer work, so you’ll regain full control of your files.

Common cyberattacks targeting cloud storage

Every online service comes with a risk of cyberattacks. With cloud storage, a malicious party can either target the end user or the provider’s servers.A good example of the latter is a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. It’s an attempt to crash a server by overwhelming its infrastructure. The attacker floods the server with traffic it can’t handle, causing it to slow down or crash altogether.As for end-user attacks, they typically involve attempts to steal login credentials. The most common types include:
  • Brute force attack—The hacker tries to guess the password by starting with the most common ones. They use specialized software to submit numerous passwords at high speed until they crack it
  • Phishing—A form of social engineering where the attacker impersonates a legitimate service and asks for personal details or login credentials. The user gets an email with a URL leading them to a fake login page designed to record their username and password
The best way to protect yourself from these attacks is by setting a strong password and enabling two-factor authentication. Even if someone steals your password, they can’t access your storage without a one-time code sent to your trusted device.

How much privacy do you get with cloud services?

If you’re a privacy-conscious user, it’s normal to be skeptical about cloud storage. After all, you’re uploading copies of important files to a space managed by someone else.It doesn’t help that some of the biggest online storage providers are openly curious about user data. Google is a great example, as the company is infamous for invading user privacy. From revealing data to the NSA to frequently changing its privacy policies, Google has made many moves that damaged users’ trust.This spurred the rise of privacy-first storage solutions featuring advanced security and privacy measures. If you want to keep your files safe and confidential, choose a service with end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

Standard encryption vs. end-to-end encryption

Encryption is the practice of turning data into a string of unintelligible characters so that unauthorized parties can’t read it. Big Tech cloud services offer standard encryption divided into two categories:
  • Encryption at restProtects data sitting on the provider’s servers using an algorithm like AES-256
  • Encryption in transit—Safeguards data while it’s traveling through the network with SSL or TLS protocols
Some providers offer both encryption types, making users believe their files are completely safe. This is only true to an extent, as the encryption happens on their servers, leaving a large vulnerability that the provider and an attacker can exploit.Server-side encryption means your files are encrypted using the service’s key once you have uploaded them. As the provider owns the decryption key, they can access your files and read their contents.This is in stark contrast to end-to-end encryption, which allows the user’s device to create and store the encryption key. E2EE offers far better security and privacy than standard encryption, as shown in the below breakdown:
FeatureStandard encryptionEnd-to-end encryption
PrivacyUnencrypted files are accessible to the providerOnly the user with the private decryption key can decipher the files
SecurityIn case of a server breach, the hacker might steal decryption keys and access your data All files are encrypted on your device before reaching the server. Even if an attacker breaches the server, they won’t see your data in unencrypted form
With E2EE, you don’t need to worry about your files being visible to anyone but you and the people you decide to share them with. If you want to enjoy this level of privacy and secure your files with state-of-the-art measures, sign up for Skiff.

Safeguard your files with Skiff Drive

Skiff Drive is a secure alternative to Big Tech cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox. It uses advanced end-to-end encryption to give users full ownership and control of their files.You can store files of any type and rest assured that nobody—including Skiff’s team—can’t access them. Your files are enciphered on your device before reaching the servers, where they’re stored in their encrypted form.If you decide to share a file, only the recipient can decipher it using a private decryption key that isn’t shared with anyone. Sharing links are end-to-end encrypted as well, which means only the decryption key holder can open them.

Skiff Drive’s standout features ensure complete privacy and security

With Skiff Drive, privacy starts the moment you sign up. You don’t need to leave any personal information to get started, and Skiff uses zero-knowledge authentication. The platform won’t store your login credentials, so you can enjoy complete anonymity.Unlike many cloud providers, Skiff doesn’t charge for this level of privacy. You can create a free account and take advantage of various useful features:
  • 10 GB of file storage—More space than you would get with most end-to-end encrypted drives
  • One-click migration—All you have to do is select the folders and files you want to move from another cloud solution or your hard drive, and you can transfer them immediately
  • Comprehensive file management and organization features—You can sort files by various criteria and organize them using folders and labels
  • Secure file sharing—Share files within or outside your organization using E2EE viewable and editable links
  • Optional InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) integration—IPFS is the largest decentralized storage network offering users a secure space for their files
  • Integration with numerous crypto wallets—You can log into Skiff using MetaMask, Coinbase, Keplr, and other wallets to share files securely and anonymously. You can also upgrade to Skiff’s paid plans using crypto
You can learn more about these features and the company’s encryption method by reading Skiff’s whitepaper. The platform is open source and fully transparent, so developers and the general public can review the codebase and validate its security measures.

One account, four E2EE platforms

Besides Drive, Skiff offers three end-to-end encrypted platforms you can access at no extra cost:
  • Skiff Mail lets you send secure emails and files without privacy risks. Every email is encrypted before leaving your device, so only the recipient with the decryption key can read its contents. You can organize your mail using folders and labels, and you’ll get four aliases to manage emails from multiple addresses with ease
  • Skiff Pages goes hand-in-hand with secure cloud storage, letting you create and share unlimited private docs. You can invite multiple team members to create a streamlined workflow in an end-to-end encrypted environment. File versioning, link sharing, and fast text search enable smooth and frictionless collaboration, supercharging your productivity
  • Skiff Calendar helps you stay organized and schedule private events. It syncs with Skiff Mail and automatically pulls events from forwarded email accounts. You can create shared calendars and hold video conferences to gather your team in a secure E2EE space
Skiff is available on browsers, iOS, Android, and macOS devices, so you can enjoy complete privacy wherever you are.

Create a Skiff account and secure your files

Getting started with Skiff Drive is easy and involves three quick steps:
  1. Go to the signup page
  2. Choose your account name and password
  3. Start uploading files to Skiff Drive
Whether you store files from local storage or migrate from another cloud solution, Skiff won’t store unencrypted copies. You can rest assured your data is shielded by numerous security layers and invisible to all unauthorized parties.

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