Modernization and Adopting Change

Managing Data Locally vs the Cloud

Posted by Chris Barlow on Mar 23, 2020 5:19:39 PM

Managing Data Locally

Part of our series on Cloud Privacy & Protection

Once upon a time (a long time ago), computers were either not connected to the internet at all, or at best connected to other computers within the same building. 

In those days if you wanted to save data, you did so on your own hard drive (25 years ago, a standard PC had 8MB RAM and a 1GB hard drive)! Where applicable, and usually as a necessity due to the limited size of drive storage, you also printed a hard copy of the data and stored that physical copy in a file cabinet somewhere. 

As each year passed, technology steeply advanced and we began to see larger and larger digital storage capacity taking up a smaller and smaller physical footprint. Soon it became possible to save meaningful amounts of data on removable drives. At the same time, local networks were faster, making it possible to store data on local server.  For the first time, data was no longer local to a single machine or hard copies - we could now use a removable drive or local server to backup, share, collaborate, or transport data. For scale, Apple’s iPhone 11 contains more than one million times more memory and a hundred thousand times more processing power than that of the Apollo Guidance Computer on board when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. 


Alongside extraordinary developments came the Internet. In the beginning, Internet upload and download speeds were quite slow (at around 30Kbps it was 2,000x slower than speeds easily achieved today, at 60,000Kbps; if Mbps is easier to understand, speeds were .03 Mbps compared to 60Mbps today). This meant it often made more sense to continue to backup, share, collaborate, or transport data using a local server or a removable disc. 

Today it’s much faster to upload data from a personal computer and to send it over the Internet, than to transfer a physical copy via servers or discs. Furthermore, it is becoming the norm to use the Cloud to manage data. Why is this? Saving or backing data up to a local server still works, but there are downsides. Thus, in this article we will compare local (or legacy) servers vs. the Cloud.   

If the Cloud can solve a lot of problems faced with local storage, why do companies continue to manage their data locally? 

Pros of Managing Data Locally

  • Historically, it was the only option! 
  • It was essentially impossible for people offsite to steal or infiltrate the data  
  • Convenience (everyone already understands it) 
  • No Internet required/ needed to access data
Cons of Managing Data Locally
  • Data cannot be easily accessed from multiple locations 
  • Data is difficult to share across multiple locations 
  • Collaborating on data is difficult 
  • Backing up data requires the user to manage it 
  • Restoring data from a backup can be an arduous/time consuming process 
  • Data privacy is weak (anyone who has access to the place where physical docs are filed, or drive/ server has full access to the data) 
  • A local physical or digital copy of the data (being only in one place) can easily be destroyed, stolen, or even lost, while physical documents/ projects cannot be edited or collaborated on);  
  • Locally stored data is at risk from hardware or software failure, natural disaster, theft, or negligence. 

Managing Data in the Cloud

“The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flow charts and diagrams. Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted service over the Internet.” (Source) The simplest definition of the Cloud is managing your data using someone else’s server. But how does managing data in the Cloud actually work?  

Have you ever logged into email before? What about your bank account?  
If so, you already use and rely on the Cloud. Any data or software that requires you to log into through the internet to a personalized account is managed in the Cloud. 

Pros of Managing Data in the Cloud

  • Data can be accessed anywhere there is Internet, including Wi-Fi (or cell if Wi-Fi is unavailable) 
  • Data is easy to share 
  • Data can be collaborated/ co-edited in real time 
  • Data can be downloaded locally or automatically saved and backed up; major Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) like MS Azure and AWS always have numerous backups – far more than any company who tries to manage their own local backups 
  • Restoring data from a backup is usually automatic: managed either by the software or directly by the CSP 
  • Far lower cost (the cost of maintaining one’s own servers/ networks/ drives and especially security is only going up each year) 
  • Manage privacy controls on a granular level (file/folder-level permissions, person-by-person, or by team, etc.) 
  • Manage security from one place: do you keep money in a bank? That “money” is just data managed in the Cloud. If you trust your bank’s digital security, you trust the Cloud! That being said our next article will share far more detail about cloud security.

Cons of Managing Data in the Cloud

  • Internet access is required (however, it is still possible to save data locally, edit it, and later upload it back to the Cloud!) 
  • Slight learning curve (i.e., managing data in the Cloud is new for some organizations, so it takes a willingness to learn a new system) 
  • Emotional resistance to change 

The Future of the Cloud

Whether we’ve all warmed up to the idea or not, in time the Cloud will be the most common way for organizations and individuals to manage data. There are too many pros that come from the economies of scale (lower costs, higher security, convenience) from using the Cloud for organizations and individuals to continue managing data locally. 

Whether the Cloud has a higher level of privacy and security than local data management is something we’ve yet to fully address, and therefore, we will cover this topic in our next article


Topics: data management, cloud

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