Cloud Technology (Cloud Computing) provides seamless access to programs, applications, data, bandwidth and many other computer functions from remote servers to the end user. Instead of storing and installing information directly on an end-users devices and/or computers, the heavy program files, data and other information are stored remotely and accessed via high-speed internet/data connections. This has dramatically optimized the way individuals and companies operate since they are no longer limited by storage and ram in the same ways they were when everything had to be installed and stored on one computer.
Cloud computing has made technology and internet based companies more competitive by drastically reducing the cost of hardware/storage/server acquisitions and increasing the flexibility of their hardware/storage/server capacity. Companies can quickly scale up/down their services to respond in real time to the demands of the market without having to pay more than what they need.
Companies can also provide their services/products directly to consumers in a business model called Software as a Service (SAAS.) Many large and well known companies are SAAS companies such as: Salesforce, Dropbox, Tableau, Plantir, Adobe, Intuit and many others. These companies can provide instant access to resources from anywhere in the world thru an internet connection. This model of business is completely based on cloud technologies.
There is also the added benefit of never losing access to your information and being able to access your files, programs and relevant data instantly, from anywhere in the world. Losing your computer, cell phone or other vital device no longer means losing your critical data or programs. With a few simple logins you can access all of your information, delete all of your info from the lost device, and carry on with your life with virtually no impact on your productivity.
However, there are also real issues associated with migrating your information to the cloud and using cloud based services such as privacy and security which I will address more in depth below.
Thinking About Security and Privacy
But there is a hidden cost/risk of using the cloud. For all the perks and benefits it provides companies and consumers alike, it carries the huge risk of data security and privacy. Prior to the cloud, if someone wanted to get access to our private information they would need to hack our computer, phone or other device directly and download all the files or break into our homes and physically steal the devices and then break the passwords (if you use them.)
But in the age of cloud storage on almost all cell phones and increasingly all of our computers are connected to the cloud in one form or another providing companies and anyone who compromises those companies systems to access your information. If your a company you might not want hackers/competitors getting a hold of your projects, plans, clients lists, billings etc. or worse causing economic or other harm to you and your customers.
Private individuals are perhaps at the greatest risks of not understanding the risk of putting their information in the cloud. Emails, text messages, app conversations, credit cards/banking info and a vast array private photographs that most people would like to keep private and secure. Individuals cannot rely on companies and/or governments to protect their private information from attack and being stolen.
How Using the Cloud Impacts Your Rights with the Government
Most of us have watch CSI, Law and Order or some other legal series and head the person tell the police, "Do you have a warrant?" When the police say no the person tells them to go away and the police leave. Makes sense right? Well you may not be aware of it but this process doesn't apply to your data in the cloud. Unlike data you store on a personal hard drive or external drive, any data you share with a third party is not entirely yours. Yep. You heard me right. The abilities of governments to access your information in the cloud range from direct access in countries like Russia, Belarus and other similar regimes to procedural access in the United States were government agencies need only issue an administrative subpoena (very easy.)
The point is, everything that you store and connect to the cloud which transmit meta data is open and free for the government to review without your consent and more importantly without you ever knowing. While some people will say that they have nothing to hide so they do not care, I would encourage them to rethink their line of thinking. By governments leaving loopholes in the legal system to gain access to our private data which in my opinion is our property, they are being allowed to create series of precedents and systems which allow them to further erode our rights as citizens. If they want to make everything we do on our cellphone, computers IoT devices etc to be deems non-private/non-owned data transmission devices lawmakers should pass laws that state as such so everyone knows what they are giving up specifically.