Private cloud services for private cloud user

With various offers, more and more companies are pushing private users to use private cloud service. Because of the high level of comfort, they are often too reluctant to respond. Andreas Bachmann, CIO of ADACOR Hosting, compares the approaches.

Simple cloud constructs are increasingly finding their way into the private sector.

Benefits such as cost savings, data and reliability, as well as flexibility and scalability of services are not only of interest to companies, private cloud users also value these privileges.

For example, many would like to store their data more securely than on a single computer or to access it anywhere at home via the network – be it for working or streaming audio or video files.

Private cloud services for private cloud users

Exclusive data access via NAS systems

Central storage on network-attached storage offers an easy way to access software and data such as pictures, films, music, e-mails and documents and files in your own home via PC, tablet or smartphone.

This is a network-connected memory that is connected to the (W) LAN router. Such a private cloud offers the user a high level of security because he operates it exclusively for himself. Hackers find it difficult to intercept the data on the NAS drive.

Because external access is impossible as long as it is not set up consciously.

However, this also affects the user himself. As soon as he leaves the network, NAS access no longer works.

Setting up external access is quite demanding since the IP address of the device must be known. However, Internet providers generally only conclude DSL contracts with dynamic IP addresses with private individuals, which change every day due to DSL forced separation.

Dynamic DNS as a compromise

In order to counter the disadvantage of complete foreclosure in the private cloud, more and more NAS manufacturers are offering alternatives.

For example via DDNS technology (Dynamic DNS), with which a NAS system can also be reached from outside.

To do this, the user does not call up the memory directly, but first accesses a provider address. This forwards to the NAS drive.

After each IP address change, the NAS drive logs on to the provider server and announces its currently valid IP address.

The provider then redirects to this so that the driver can always be reached at the same IP address.

Unfortunately, this trick is only a half-hearted solution. Because the user can access his data from anywhere, but only with slow upload speed.

Unlike when downloading at home, the data stream now flows from the in-house NAS to the Internet. This can lead to loading times of several minutes even with a few MByte files.

To avoid such long waiting times, providers of NAS drives often offer additional storage space on their servers. Important files can then be stored there.

If you want to save time, first copy the data into a special area of your own NAS. From there, there is an automatic comparison with the webspace in the background.

This construct can be compared to a hybrid cloud since only data released specifically by the user is transferred to the publicly accessible area (public cloud). All other data remains in the more secure area of the home NAS.

Cloud services like Box, Dropbox & Co.

With consumer cloud computing, software and files are no longer stored at home on the NAS drive or PC hard drive, but stored on a provider’s server (public cloud). Access to applications and data is, therefore, possible at any time from anywhere in the world.

This requires only a few requirements such as an internet-enabled device (PC, smartphone, tablet and television), internet access and sufficient bandwidth.

There are several options for accessing the cloud service: using a browser via the provider website, a program (client) installed on the device or an app.

Data can also be easily shared with third parties. For this purpose, the content stored in the cloud is released for certain people, who are then invited to retrieve the data via a link or an email.

The use of such cloud services is fundamentally a safe and flexible matter for private cloud users. Thanks to the high scalability, storage space and functionalities can be comfortably increased if necessary.

In any case, most providers offer their services free of charge. At least up to a certain capacity limit.

Irrespective of this, cloud services offer a further cost advantage: Since there is no need to buy and update hardware and software, they are cheaper than own solutions.

The provider takes care of the operation of the service, the provision of sufficient storage space and server capacity, the import of software updates and data backup (online backup).

Risks and side effects of consumer cloud computing

Cloud services for private cloud users are convenient and offer many advantages. But they also harbour risks. After all, sometimes very personal data is no longer on your own hard drive, but on the server of a third party.

Anyone uploading data to the cloud should therefore first think about how much they want to disclose.

If you want to save particularly sensitive data such as bank or credit card information, tax documents, the scanned passport or driver’s license securely in the cloud, this should only be encrypted with your own key or password.

But the information that is irrelevant at first glance can also be dangerous. For example, if the credit card provider queries the date of birth, the name of the first pet or grandmother, the place of birth, etc. to verify a change of address and then re-apply for a card by telephone.

The more information about a user circulates in the cloud, the easier it is to create a comprehensive profile for the purpose of advertising or identity theft.

Virtually no one can check where exactly the provider stores the data, what happens to them there and how secure they are.

It is therefore important when choosing a provider to place value on their seriousness and not necessarily only to decide on the cheapest offer.  The reliability of cloud services is generally high, in any case, higher than that of your own system at home.

However, since there is no 100% security, a regular offline backup should be a matter of course.

There are various pitfalls that may prevent access to the data in the cloud. Access may be denied, for example, if your own Internet connection or that to the provider fails, the data centre in which the server is no longer accessible or the provider is struggling with a technical problem, a failure or a hacking attack.

The resilience of cloud services is generally high and definitely higher than your own system at home.  However, since there is no 100% security, a regular offline backup should be a matter of course.

The insolvency of a provider or the termination of an offer can also make data access more difficult. Exemplary providers offer professional solutions here: with a highly available IT infrastructure in a high-security data centre, a redundant Internet connection and a spatially separate backup location.

Encryption increases security

The encryption technologies of the providers are likely to provide basic protection for data transmission.

However, even with high-security standards in every network, there is a risk that hackers will crack the encryption and tap data.

Therefore, the safest option is to encrypt the data yourself and then transfer it to the cloud.

Another risk is the connection between the customer’s end device and the provider’s server in the data centre if it remains unencrypted.

The data is then easily visible on the move, even for inexperienced attackers. A reputable provider is characterized by the fact that it handles data transmission via a secure connection such as https.

With many other cloud offerings, on the other hand, it is often not clear in which country the provider is based or where he operates his data centres.

And abroad, data protection is often not taken as strictly as it is here. In addition, each provider can set up its own terms of use and data protection provisions as long as they are legally compliant.

These could be formulated in such a way that he may be given access and use rights to his customers’ stored data, even though they do not want to.

But be careful: the end devices themselves can also pose a risk. If, for example, a PC is infected with malware, the cloud services that are accessed by this device can also be attacked.

Access via insecure networks, in which attackers can intercept and misuse access data (for example WLAN hotspots), also poses a risk. Access via smartphone is particularly critical in many cases.

Many users save access data in the app of the service provider so that they can access the data with just one call. Unfortunately, this only applies to the users themselves, but also to unauthorized persons.

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