It's no secret that everyone is embracing cloud/shared technology from the Department of Defense (DOD) to every single startup. It's a great way to lower overhead costs, increase flexibility (in some cases offer a plethora of telecommuting options), and supposedly enhance security. However, not all sharing technologies are created equal, and you can't assume that just because there's a big name behind a service means it's the most secure. There's no getting around it -- you have to do your homework if you're going to go into the cloud.
In the beginning of any technology, there are going to be kinks and bugs to work out. Knowing the past failures of some of the most popular technologies can help you see the flaws and also gauge whether or not you think an option is secure enough for you and your business. There are ways to optimize your security, but there are also times when certain marketers in key industries can be a little more lax.
Here are some of the most popular sharing technologies available today, how they've failed, and a guide to whether or not they're now a good option for you and your business.
iCloud's rough start
Remember when iCloud was called MobileMe? If you've forgotten, you're in good company because Apple was more than happy to bury this embarrassing debut. Originally, it was a means of automating address books, emails, calendars, and additional data across a variety of Apple devices. However, in the three years of MobileMe, it erased data numerous times, suffered through a variety of shutdowns, and in some cases lost data for good. The most memorable of these mini disasters were the summer of 2008, which resulted in 11 days of shutdown and permanent loss, December 2009, and September of both 2011 and 2012.
However, it's not all bad news for Apple. With the introduction of the new and much improved iCloud, those major bugs have been destroyed and it's now one of the top ranking cloud technologies available. The lesson learned here is that if you wait for the real beta testers to suffer through new technology, you can bet that the best versions will be available in about three years' time. In other words, don't willingly sign up to be the guinea pig.
Google Drive's questionable history
Arguably the most popular file storage and sharing service, Google drive is used by many simply out of convenience. It's already sitting right there when you're in your Gmail, and it offers a pretty generous free storage size that's good enough for most individuals as well as a number of businesses. However, as the road of least resistance, it also has its fair share of trouble. There have been numerous reports of files mysteriously disappearing (for good) from Google Drive, and when trying to delete unnecessary files to create more available space.
If you need proof, just search "Google Drive Sucks," and there are message boards, forums, and even entire websites created for the ill ways of Google Drive. Now, whether or not this is the fault of Google or the fault of users who don't really know what they're doing is up for debate. Regardless, it should be very difficult to permanently delete files and user-friendliness should be at the absolute top of the priority list when designing file sharing options. When GoogleDocs changed to Google Drive, it's possible some brand new kinks worked into the system.
The DropBox headache
Right up there with Google Drive in terms of popularity is DropBox, which has become a business favorite and a quickly expanding company that just opened its first UK office this month. However, it also comes with its own common complaints, such as when it gets "stuck" syncing, it won't launch, or pesky errors keep popping up. Another issue with DropBox is that many Luddites complain it's hard to get started since it's not "just there" like with Google Drive. Sometimes the contextual menu is missing, other times the icons aren't displayed correctly. Basically, many people say DropBox doesn't work like it should.
The good news is that for the most part, the folks behind DropBox are constantly striving for improvement. There are less complaints of files getting corrupted or deleted with DropBox, and most of the claims center on the layout and accessibility of this system. However, that's very little comfort to the thousands of people who depend on it for business and who are virtually locked out of their own files which might be tied to a tight deadline.
Media Fire gone haywire
Media Fire is attempting to give DropBox a run for its money, but not all customers are happy with the product. It's been claimed that the system is incredibly slow compared to other providers: it can't upload anything bigger than 400Mb, it makes PCs crash if Windows is involved, and there's almost no support from Android developers. With this technology, it's mostly about the lack of support and inability to correct what might be individual issues rather than rampant failures for the record books.
However, that doesn't bode well for a technology that's regularly listed as one of the 10 hottest file sharing options out there. While now renowned for customer service, it remains a favorite for techies and those who are pros at managing systems. Basically, if you're a Luddite, it's best to go with another option but if you're up for a challenge and know your way around the cloud, Media Fire might be a cake walk.
When it doesn't really matter
There are scores of other top ranked file sharing and cloud storage companies out there, but the reality is that you're going to go with what you're comfortable with -- it's human nature. On the plus side, even if your system isn't really the best for your unique situation, it probably doesn't matter. As long as your files aren't getting deleted (whether it's your fault or not), file sharing technology is probably offering you better security and lower overhead than anything you could manage on your own.
No, documents stored in the cloud aren't guaranteed to be safe and protected no matter what the company or how much you spend. The data is actually being stored in a tangible data center (not an actual cloud) that technically is vulnerable to natural disasters, accidents, and break-ins. However, it's going to be much more secure than your filing cabinet system in the closet. You can't expect miracles, but you should expect -- and you deserve -- quality systems.
It's actually pretty simple: Do your research, but be realistic.
Anna Johannson is a freelance writer.
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"Concept of a businessman that works over a cloud" image via Shutterstock.