What is “the cloud”? The term itself is a misnomer, leading people to think that when you upload a picture, video, or personal document, it just goes “up there somewhere”, and you can access it at leisure. This is partially true. It does go “up there”, in a sense- it is stored in a company’s server system across town, on the other side of the nation, or halfway across the world, and you can access it at anytime. In reality, cloud computing is sending your data to a company, who then stores it for retrieval at your beck and call. You can login from any device and access your data (via a password and user-name in a majority of instances).

Companies offer “cloud storage” for folks who want to access data from lots of locations. Companies give consumers a certain amount of data (limited free amounts, and more if you pay) to store your files in their systems. Companies that offer places to store your data include Microsoft (Onedrive), Dropbox (dropbox), Google (Google Drive), and Apple (iCloud). These companies will give you a certain amount of free space (2 GB up to 20), and let you store what you want in it. (You can pay for more space- up to 1,000 GB)

This type of data storage was invented in the 1970’s by IBM and DEC, and it was known as RJE (remote job entry). In the 1980’s, Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) became more widely used, and these evolved into the massive data centers in use today. End users use this technology frequently often not aware of the higher security risks for doing so. “Clouds” are very dangerous places to keep data. Despite the apparent “ease” (you don’t have to transfer data from computer to computer using a flash stick or DVD/CD), they are increasingly volatile to cyber attacks (no company is exempt here… 🙂

What does this mean to you? Well, it depends if you use it or not. If you have a Gmail address, you will be able to easily send files to your Google Drive account. If you have an icloud account, then whether you like it or not, you have a “cloud” account with Apple. For those who do not have a “cloud” account with any company, I applaud your decision and I encourage you to keep it that way!

For those of you who have “cloud” accounts, I encourage you to update your password regularly, and remove any personal data from your cloud account (personal photos, sensitive financial documents, etc.)- better yet, if you can help it, not have one at all! I would also encourage you to streamline your cloud documents, and move private documents to your local machine. I can’t stress this enough! Unfortunately, a lot of us are unaware of the risks in having such things in an account…. from the massive iCloud hack in 2014, to the smaller Dropbox hack, data is NOT SAFE in the cloud! Companies that have had cloud data hacked include JP Morgan Chase, Target, Home Depot, Anthem, Staples, Ubuntu, Apple, Evernote, UPS, Yahoo, Adobe, AOL, European Central Bank, US Military, NASA, and Twitter to name a few. Hopefully this will help all of us be better equipped to protect ourselves and make educated decisions regarding our technology!

(Taken with permission from, “The SGT Publication”, February Edition, 2016, page 5)