Your email and photos are in the cloud, if you use webmail and store your pictures on Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. Or you may work at a company that connects employees’ computer workstations to a central server for efficient sharing of documents -- that’s another form of cloud. The idea of cloud computing is to make data accessible to multiple people, usually wirelessly and sometimes across vast distances. Cloud computing can be done on small or large scale. You can even create your own private cloud.
According to Gartner Research, the personal cloud will replace the personal computer by 2014. The more people use mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers, the more people will look for on-the-go access to all their personal content. Data won’t be tied up in your laptop; it will be in a cloud all your own.
Personal cloud vs. private cloud
The terms “personal cloud” and “private cloud” are being used for the same thing and for different things, so it can be confusing. The field is new, and various industry players are creating their own definitions.
Most frequently, “personal cloud” refers to a small cloud network you set up for your home or small business. This may be connected to the Internet, but this cloud is intended to be secure and private from larger cloud computing enterprises such as Amazon or Google. Because of the secure nature of a personal cloud, it’s sometimes called a “private cloud.”
A slightly older use of “personal cloud” refers to the free or purchased accounts you can get on large cloud servers like Amazon or Google. This doesn’t seem to be as common of a use, but it’s still out there.
What is the value of a personal cloud?
The biggest benefits of a personal cloud are privacy and security. You can control access. Whether you’re storing family photos or your business’ financial records, knowing who can see what is important.
Public cloud servers can be secure, but they’ve also had problems. In 2011, Amazon’s cloud-based services went down and sequentially took down several other online services, including Reddit and Foursquare. This happened again in 2012, when electrical storms hit Amazon.com servers and in turn disrupted the services of Instagram, Pinterest, and Netflix. Popular cloud file-sharing service Dropbox had problems with username and password security in 2011, leaving users’ files public for hours.
These events, while rare, can permanently destroy some of users’ data. A 2013 survey by Symantec suggests that 43% of cloud computing users have lost data in the cloud and only been able to restore from their own backups.
Creating your own private cloud isn’t perfect, but it does put you in control of your data. You’ll know how secure your system is, when it’s backed up, and who can access your data.
How can you create your own personal cloud?
You don’t need to a full IT staff to build your own personal cloud, especially if you use a plug-and-play system such as Seagate’s network attached storage solutions for home or business.
For individual home use, Seagate Central can be connected to your Wi-Fi router so you can easily access all your devices -- Macs, PCs, tables, and smartphones -- and share content seamlessly.
For small businesses, the Business Storage 1-Bay NAS, 2-Bay NAS, or 4-Bay NAS can be set up in 10 minutes to support an office of 10 to 50 computers. The system can encrypt your data, make automatic backups, and more.
To secure your data while still having the convenience of access anywhere, a personal cloud may be the right solution for you, whether at home or the office.