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It is an interesting time for the cloud storage industry. We all know cloud storage is a convenient, accessible technology that gives us access to our data anywhere, across multiple devices. Our increasing appetite to create and manage content is growing beyond our device capabilities. This has lead to an explosion of cloud-based products and services, to the benefit of the end users from a cost and feature perspective. But how secure are all of those services? What are they actually doing to protect my data? The answers to these questions increasingly matter to end users.
"The services that privately and securely store user data are increasingly winning out, even if not “free"
Back in 2011, it seemed that Dropbox was on an unstoppable roll to become theone and only consumer cloud service. They announced 50M user accounts, and seemed to be outpacing the competition by leaps and bounds. The consumer cloud war was won, and Dropbox was the billion dollar darling. The company set the standard on how to store users’ data, providing “good enough” security for the average consumer.
Fast forward five years, and things have gotten interesting. Simply put, Dropbox and their old security model are no longer good enough, which presents opportunities (and challenges) for others in the space. The market is shifting and new trends are emerging, namely:
• Security is becoming a priority
• The cloud is disaggregating
• Large investors have entered the field
Security is becoming a priority
With data breaches becoming a common occurrence on the news and in letters from our banksandhealth providers, it seems that we are finally starting to care about data security. End users are thinking more about wherethey are storing data, and how that data is being managed. Even governments are stepping in, as evidenced by the sweeping changes in the EU Data Protection Directive.
The fact is, “SSL” and “encryption at rest” is no longer sufficient to users.
The cloud is disaggregating
Wikipedia lists 57 players in the consumer cloud sync and backup space. While not all of these are household names, many are finding their niche by targeting one specific user benefit and perfectly solving the problem: backup, sharing, or photos, for example.
What’s perhaps even more interesting is how many other companies offer cloud storage only as a feature of a greater user experience. Almost every service has a cloud storage component, and often times the end user may not even consider it. Facebook, Instagram, Basecamp, flickr, Evernote, even Walgreens Photo have cloud storage capability built in. Indeed “the cloud” is becoming a set of service offerings, not a single application silo.
The big question is–how safe and secure are all these services? How are they managing and protecting user data? Building a great app is one thing, but building and architecting your infrastructure to keep user data safe and secure is an entirely different beast. Trusting each of these services to do that for you could be a risky proposition.
Large investors have entered the field
Google, Apple, and Microsoft have all made significant moves with their consumer cloud offerings. Long gone are the days of 3rd-party integrations with the likes of Dropbox or Box, instead they see the strategic value and are doing it themselves. Unlimited photos, uniform cross-platform experiences, and a more natively integrated cloud offering are becoming the trends.
There is a war for customer data, and the device manufacturers, network operators, and ISVs all want to own it. There is one thing in common here: for these companies the cloud is a piece of their strategy for both customer acquisition and retention. In all cases the cloud is used as a loyalty card; ensuring users come back again and again to buy more computers, phones, and software.
However, many consumers are waking up to understand that “free” isn’t really free. Take for instance the backlash over Google’s Photos ToS, which states that uploaded photos are the property of Google, Inc. Is this really how users want their precious memories protected? The services that privately and securely store user data are increasingly winning out, even if not “free”.
All in all, it is becoming clear that security and privacy standards for the consumer cloud storage industry are changing. New players that tout better than average security and privacy have an opportunity to win user trust, and secure that user in their ecosystem as a customer for life.