Backing up your data is always a good idea. From hard drive failures to simple accidental deletions, a backup can save you hours, if not days, of work in lost data. We've had USB sticks and external hard drives for a long time, but when it comes to convenience, cloud storage services have them all beaten. You upload a file, store it in the cloud, then access the file no matter where you are: what's not to love?
Unfortunately, while very convenient, there are some elements not to love! When it comes to making a cloud-based copy of something simple (such as general photos), they can be very helpful. The more sensitive the data is, however, the more uncomfortable it becomes to upload it to a company's cloud. Is it safe to upload personal and sensitive data to a cloud? Where is it stored? Can employees at the company peek into the files? Is it susceptible to attack and the files within leaked to the public? It can be a scary situation for people with privacy concerns if they want to store files that reveal very personal information.
If you want the convenience of cloud storage, but you want to know where, exactly, the data is being held, there's a very simple solution: own one yourself using home cloud storage!
What Is Home Cloud Storage?
Sounds great, doesn't it? But what exactly is home cloud storage? What do you get, and what does it do?
To understand this, we need to take a look at how "regular" cloud services operate. Usually, when you give a file to a service such as Dropbox, it'll keep that file on one of the servers they own. The problem is you never really know where that server is in the world. It's just somewhere on that service's server clusters.
The goal of home cloud storage is to set up your own server in your home. If you've ever owned something like an external hard drive, you'll know that they come as boxes which you plug into your PC via USB. Home clouds are very much akin to external hard drives, except they connect to your router rather than to your PC.
This allows you and other people on your network (such as housemates or family members) access to the storage device, so you can back up and store files wirelessly. Some home cloud storage devices even let you remotely access them from any computer connected to the Internet, just like a regular cloud service!
Don't be mistaken, however; you're not going to be purchasing a server as big as Dropbox's. Services like Dropbox use large collections of servers in order to hold everyone's data. You'll only be purchasing one server (or hard disk, in laymen's terms), but given how entry level models start at an impressive 1TB of storage, you won't be starved for space.
Home cloud storage is incredibly useful for someone who wants the convenience of a cloud while keeping peace of mind about their privacy. Even better, if it sounds like something you'd like, you can purchase one directly from any good computing store.
What Should I Consider When Getting One?
Of course, no two clouds will be the same. What can you as a user look for when purchasing home cloud storage?
- Quality - Obviously, given you're entrusting it with your data, you want something that works well! Look for user and expert reviews to find the clouds with the best quality.
- Data Storage Size - Different people are going to want different sizes. Someone who wants to store documents and photos may want lesser storage than someone who wants to store movies and games. The entry level for cloud storage space is usually at the 1TB level, so you should be able to find a cloud that suits your storage needs.
- Data Transfer Speed - Obviously you don't want to sit around and wait for your data to back up. Check to see what kind of speeds the home cloud works at so you can purchase a server that doesn't keep you waiting.
- Is It a RAID? - There are some home cloud storage devices you can buy called NAS (Network-Attached Storage) drives. While all home cloud systems do attach to a network, the NAS terminology is normally reserved for clouds that use a hard drive RAID to store data, which you may have to set up and maintain. If you have no idea what a "hard drive RAID" is, you probably won't want these! Stick to home cloud devices with a single pre-installed drive at the storage size you want.
- Price - Home cloud storage devices aren't very cheap! Entry-level models typically retail around $100. Make sure you compare and contrast the clouds you find and see which one does the job you want best for the lowest price.
- How the Internet Feature Works - Different clouds may handle remote access differently. For example, one cloud may force you to download and install software to access your files online. This is fine if you're using machines that you personally own, but it's definitely not ideal if you want access to your files from a library or someone else's computer. If you think downloading software to access the cloud is not ideal, opt for a cloud that allows you access to your files in a web browser without installing any software.
- Additional Features - Some clouds come with extra features, such as automatic backup functions to make sure you'll be protected in case of hard drive failure. Make sure to read what each cloud does, and choose the one that suits your needs. Are you buying one to back up your PC's data? Or do you just want the ease of storing a file so you can access it anywhere?
Also, before you purchase a cloud, make sure you have Ethernet ports free on your router and a spare power plug socket near the router itself. This will come in handy when installing the cloud.
How Do You Set One Up?
It may seem daunting that home cloud storage works with your Wi-Fi router in order to give everyone on the network access. However, if you've ever plugged something into the router via Ethernet, you already have experience! Home cloud devices usually talk to the router via an Ethernet connection. They come with their own Ethernet cable and an Ethernet port on the cloud itself. To get it on the network, simply plug the cloud into the power, then connect the cloud via the Ethernet cable. The cloud will now talk through the router using the Ethernet cable you attached.
How Do I Create Accounts for the Cloud?
The answer to this question varies depending on the model of the cloud you've purchased. For some clouds you can set up permissions and accounts by accessing the cloud as a network location on your computer. It'll appear in your network locations like this:
When you access the cloud this way, you'll find a file within its folders. Opening this file will then begin the account-creation steps.
Sometimes the cloud requires you to download software that will automatically hook up and communicate with the cloud. Usually this kind of software will take you through the necessary steps for creating accounts, too.
At this point you'll want to think about the accounts you're making on the cloud. Are you the sole user of the cloud? Then perhaps just giving yourself admin control and leaving it is all you need to do. What if you have other members of the household who want to use it? How much should they see? Would they be allowed to see each other's files? Or will they only be able to see their own files and folders? How about making a private folder for each user, then having a central public folder which anyone can use to share files between one another. It's up to you to set how people use your cloud.
How Do You Access the Cloud from Any PC?
If you want to use your cloud online, you'll have to let your cloud know this. Again, this varies from cloud to cloud depending on which one you bought, but typically it requires signing up with an email and password with the cloud storage's manufacturer. This then acts as a login through which you can get to your files. Some cloud manufacturers let you access your files through a website, but others will demand you install software first. This is why it's crucial to check a cloud's features before purchasing it. You don't want a hassle when getting at your files - it completely defeats the purpose of a cloud in the first place!
Head in the Clouds
With the ability to upload files to an online cloud without surrendering your data to other companies, home cloud storage is highly useful for those concerned about their privacy. It sounds daunting to set one up, but hopefully these steps have demystified the process for you.
Do you use home cloud storage? Would you? Let us know below.
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