Where Is My Data Stored?

Cloud technology has come a long way from simple file storage. Entire workloads have been foisted onto the cloud. G Suite alone boasts over six million paid business subscriptions. About two-thirds of all enterprise IT spending will go towards cloud technologies.

Yet despite investing millions into software and trusting the technology with critical functions, the cloud remains an amorphous concept for many organisations. Around 43 percent don’t know where their data is located. Less than a quarter have a dedicated security team for their cloud infrastructure.

The where of cloud storage can be answered by understanding it’s what. Cloud technology is essentially renting someone else’s equipment to process and store your data. Instead of storing files on your local devices or using on-premise servers to generate project management reports, you’re outsourcing third-party providers to supply the hardware for you.

Cloud service providers house your data on a network of servers. Every server consists of the typical components you would find inside your own computer. They have motherboards, processors, graphics cards, network cables, hard disk drives (HDDs), and solid-state drives (SSDs) – only everything is scaled to meet the computing workloads and storage needs of multiple enterprises. This is truly about economies of scale.

These servers are in turn found in storage units called cabinets or racks. Cabinets and racks vary in size, but the largest ones can hold upwards of 20 servers. Data centres are the facilities where all this equipment is located. This is the actual physical address of the “cloud”. 

Depending on the size of the data centre, you can find racks upon racks of servers. The China Telecom-Inner Mongolia Information Park, a massive one million square metre site and allegedly the world’s largest data centre, contains space for a hundred thousand servers.

How Data Storage Has Evolved

From punched cards, reels of magnetic tape, and finally sleek NVMe drives, electronic data storage has gone through quite the evolution. Alongside it, our capacity for computing, and eventually, cloud computing. 

The original data centres were just rooms that housed enormous computers called mainframes. The mainframe functioned as the brain that ran programs and stored data for connected terminals. 

Advancements in hardware gave rise to distributed computing. Instead of relying on one or two mainframe computers, companies could spread data storage and compute to several smaller machines. This model persisted until the 2000s. But what started as a method to share resources and scale capacity turned into complexity, especially as our compute needs grew. Companies became bogged down in maintaining multiple devices and layers of hardware and software.

Cloud computing is a move back to consolidation while remaining flexible and agile. It splits the burden of responsibility and accountability. Security and maintenance are now shared workloads between businesses and IT service providers.

Cloud providers don’t only offer the infrastructure to host data. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Data are two of the biggest public cloud computing and storage platforms and businesses can use Azure and AWS for just about any need, including developing web and mobile applications and crunching massive volumes of data for training neural networks.

How Secure Is The Cloud?

Security is always a major consideration for businesses working the cloud into their infrastructure. Companies are naturally reluctant to move data and critical processes to a remote, third-party controlled system.

While risk can never be completely eradicated, most cloud platforms and services are more secure than local servers. Data centres are built from the ground to be redundant. Critical components are backed up by generators, power sources and HVAC systems are duplicated. The system remains operational even when one part fails, unlike on-premise setups that can be wiped out by a single power outage.

Cybersecurity measures are just as robust. Dedicated teams keep software updated and patched, which minimises gaps that can be exploited. Zero-knowledge encryption is an industry standard, which limits access via a decryption key. Should the company lose the key, not even the service provider will be able to decrypt their data.

While cloud service providers shoulder the bulk of the burden when it comes to protecting your data, there are still things you can do as a business to improve security. One would be to limit user access to your cloud storage on a need-to-work basis. Another would be to conduct employee training against malware strategies that rely on social engineering, such as phishing.

Security also starts with your choice of provider. Not everyone will be operating at the same level. A Tier-4 data centre will have more complex redundancies built in than Tier-1 facilities. Hours of downtime spell the difference.

Location is another prime consideration. Hosting your data in the cloud protects it from accidents at work. Yet you wouldn’t want to cast the link too far. Distance can cause higher latency, which could be a concern if your workload relies on fast, real-time data transmission.

Evolvit offers remote hosted desktops, cloud backups, and data recovery management services using UK-based infrastructure. Book a free consultation today.