When most people talk about the cloud, they often refer to the current paradigm of remote file storage, synchronization, streaming, and browser-based applications offered to the public by data centers and hosting providers. What many people do not realize is that cloud computing can also be deployed as a private and personal network.
Before becoming a paradigm, cloud computing started as a series of technologies aimed to improve the old client/server computing structure. As such, cloud computing was developed to be scalable in any direction, which means that small cloud networks can be deployed in similar fashion to the massive public networks operated by companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Spotify, Dropbox, and others.
Although cloud computing has become synonymous with large-scale public networks, it is important to note that smaller cloud systems can also be hybrid and private.
Major cloud providers offer their services on a subscription basis that often starts with a free, albeit limited, option. The perfect public cloud service provider has yet to emerge; while some offer productivity software and document storage, others focus on file sharing and synchronicity, however, Microsoft’s offers Office 365, which, alongside OneDrive cloud storage, offers many more services. Since subscribers have no control over these commercial options, they often have no choice but to use more than one cloud service.
A private, personal cloud solution can be attained with a network attached storage (NAS) device. These hardware devices can be described as personal cloud appliances that can be easily connected to a modem or router. They can be used on a personal basis or for small business purposes, and they present the following four advantages:
1. One-Time Payment
Although many cloud service providers offer free subscriptions, not many users bother to read the fine print. Many of these providers cannot promise for how long they intend to offer free services, and they are free to change the terms and conditions of their end user licensing agreements at any time.
Once a NAS device is purchased and installed, the cloud is free to access and use by all members of a household or of a small office. There is no reason to worry about future price increases or about a sudden change in features. Some smaller cloud service providers offer an elevated fee for “lifetime subscriptions” that can end without notice should the company stop doing business altogether. With a private cloud, users know exactly what they are getting, and they don’t have to worry about surprises as they are paying a monthly fee.
2. Data Handling
Although most public cloud providers strive to make their systems as user-friendly as possible, they can make changes to their user interfaces and file sharing policies at any time. Once a personal cloud has been installed, users can customize their interface and learn to operate the NAS just once.
With a NAS device, cloud bursting is possible; this means that if a small business is getting close to its file storage limit, the systems administrator can choose to temporarily move non-sensitive files to a public cloud until a permanent solution is decided upon. In some cases, the business owner may even choose to run a hybrid cloud system.
3. Data Security
The current cybercrime threat levels indicate that public cloud providers and major data centers are the most valuable targets sought by hackers for identity theft, i.e. credit card and other profitable information because the centers are basically banks storing data for countless users. Criminal groups are not the only ones interested in breaching major cloud providers; activists and anarchists also see data centers as attractive targets.
Running a private cloud means never having to worry about what the public cloud services provider is doing in terms of security. First of all, users are in full control of setting up security; the default settings are pretty safe, but they can be increased accordingly. For example, if a law firm sets up an NAS device to store confidential client files, security can be increased to a high level that may include two-factor authentication.
4. Data Access and Availability
With public cloud providers, users never have full control of their data files. The provider may strive to make data constantly available with mirrors, backups and redundancy strategies, but the reality is that access can be compromised at any time by security breaches, network outages, extreme weather conditions, and even sudden business emergencies.
With a personal cloud, data files are available even without an Internet connection. Since files are physically stored at a home or small office, they can be copied or downloaded by means of USB or Bluetooth connections. If the NAS device is a full Windows or Linux cloud server, serial connections to other computers may be possible. To extend the availability of data, the NAS can be equipped with an emergency power supply.
John Porter is a Southampton-based freelance English-German translator, writer and a tech head. He enjoys keeping up with tech trends and writing about anything related to modern technology with a special interest in all types of productivity apps. Find him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook!