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by Ray Carlson

Q. Is it safe to use an online storage service rather than buy a larger hard drive?

A. Unfortunately, that is a complex question being addressed by companies as well as individuals. Alert Logic is a major provider of security for private companies. They regularly compile information on security problems they encounter and issue reports on the patterns observed. In their latest report, they note that security threats and particularly malware attacks are still greater for a company’s own computers compared to data stored online.

Another report by Verizon noted that eighty percent of hacking attacks focused on organization’s internal data. Google recently noted that the number of attacks on internet-stored data is increasing, but most storage companies are responding with increased security. Google now has about 300 professionals addressing security. The fact that online services are spending more on security than an individual or company can afford is prompting an increasing use of those on-line services that demonstrate a commitment to security.

At the same time, many companies are being cautious, storing locally any data that might be used for identity theft or to gain access to financial accounts and any information with economic value. A similar approach might be appropriate for individuals. Anything legal that would not help a thief steal your money can be stored online without much anxiety.

The other risk with online storage is that the information could get lost. That risk is small and is similar to the risk that your hard drive will die. To protect data on your hard drive, it is recommended that you back up your data to another hard drive. Similarly, you can store your data on two online services so that one is likely to be available if the other is compromised or temporarily unavailable.

Using such strategies should make online storage reasonably safe, and, in the long run, it may prove safer than personal storage. The Prescott Computer Society is continuing to debate this issue at its Saturday afternoon meetings at the Library.

Published: Courier 4/21/13 - Page 3C