In the ever-escalating cloud services arms race, Microsoft just trotted out a whopper of a one-up over just about everyone in competition: Microsoft’s OneDrive VP just announced on the OneDrive blog that all Personal, Home and Education Office365 subscribers will have access to unlimited cloud storage for no additional cost. Lest you feel left out in the cold, business subscribers, Microsoft has plans to extend your storage in a similar fashion in 2015. All a part of its master plan, Microsoft envisions a future where everything is done in the cloud, and they want to make sure you are firmly rooted in their ecosystem.
What this means for you:
Before you rush off to move all your files to the cloud as Microsoft suggests, you should consider the implications. Cloud storage of any type is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, once you get your data uploaded, you can (supposedly) stop worrying about mechanical failures, such as hard drive crashes and sending your USB thumb drives through the wash. Another great benefit is your data is essentially accessible from anywhere on the internet. Setting up technology to provide this type of of service is not trivial. Even when you are as big as JP Morgan, it’s still possible to misconfigure your servers, so having a provider who is (probably) an expert at this is better than trying to do it yourself, especially if your company can’t afford a full-time IT professional.
On the other hand, your data is now stored on hardware (and a service) over which you have very little control, and which requires an internet connection. There is also the possibility that your data could be accessed without authorization, either by hackers who manage to penetrate the services security, or by the provider itself, who may be subject to government subpeona, or even by a provider employee with malicious intent.
Given the two sides of this very sharp sword, one must make a reasoned decision about whether to employ cloud storage as part of your technology profile. The most important factor will be the type of data you are planning to store: if any of the alphabet-soup laws apply (HIPPA for example), you may be severely limited in what you can legally store on a cloud-based service. Even if the laws don’t seem to directly apply, consider the consequences if any of your data were to be exposed on the internet for anyone to see: would it be damaging to your business or your clients? If so, you may want to rethink whether the cloud is ready for you.