When it comes to working with data and files on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, one of the most crucial issues concerns data storage - where and how the data is going to be stored, accessed, updated and backed up. Cloud storage assumes storing data in the cloud and making it accessible irrelevant of location and, sometimes, irrespective of terminal type. In a mobile cloud computing scenario, both mobile apps and data are stored and run directly from the cloud, increasing the relevancy of network servers, data center infrastructure and efficient network delivery while decreasing the importance of the storage capacity and processing power of the end-user device itself.
Cloud storage providers and online data backup intermediaries
There are many service providers offering cloud-based storage solutions, most of them already providing IaaS and/or PaaS services in the first place. These include the Amazon S3 and Rackspace CloudFiles storage services on the enterprise level and Google Docs and Microsoft SkyDrive for use by SMEs and individuals.
A number of intermediaries have built user-friendly services and interfaces that provide access to cloud data storage and backup from multiple devices, fixed and mobile. Some of the most notable include Box.net, DropBox, JungleDisk and SugarSync. These often utilize the storage space provided by the large cloud storage service providers, such as Amazon and Rackspace, and provide a range of applications and interfaces for accessing and manipulating the stored data.
Online cloud-based data storage and backup services
In a 2011 review by TopTenReviews, the three online data backup services that received the highest ranking are:
- SugarSync – the overall winner with the most features and options. Possible to sync and share data across multiple devices and supports a range of mobile devices including iPad, iPod, Blackberry, Android, iPhone and Symbian. SugarSync uses SSL encryption for secure file transfer and 128-bit AES encryption on stored data as well as backing up customer data in two separate data centers.
- DropBox – has most of the required functionality except the ability to configure idle backups. Offers a free version of 2GB and Pro versions for 50 and 100GB. DropBox uses the same security features as SugarSync as well as support for mobile handsets.
- IBackup – takes the third place and is also an excellent choice for both home users and business users, offering plans with up to 1000GB storage space. IBackup offers encrypted transmission and storage and geo redundant storage. However, IBackup lacks some of the smartphone festures offered by the others.
For more information, there is a great comparison of online backup services available on Wikipedia.
Assess the benefits and limitations of cloud storage and backup
Although online data backup services in the cloud offer many conveniences, they have their limitations as well. When it comes to backing up large amount of data (100GB or more) using an average internet connection for uploading the data becomes costly and time consuming. Therefore, some service providers offer so called “seed-load” of initial data backup. The service provider will either send a hard drive, or accept a removable hard drive to "seed" the backup account. The hard drive is then shipped to the provider who loads it into the server and from there on the user only needs to remotely backup additional files and changes.
Overall, the benefits of online data storage backup seem obvious, especially for home users and SMEs, both from an economical and security point of view – assuming that users verify the amount of data needed to be stored or backed-up and select the most beneficial way.