Finding yourself Googling “explain the cloud to me like I’m five” or “what is the cloud for dummies”? You’re in the right place! If you use any kind of social media, streaming service, online banking, or online storage drive, you’re already using the cloud, you just may not realize it! Since the cloud is so easy to use, you don’t have to have a thorough understanding of technology to use it. But if you’re curious about how the cloud works, where your data is stored, how secure it is, and more, have no fear. In this beginner’s guide, we break down everything self storage owners need to know about cloud technology, such as:

Read on to find the answers to all of your burning questions about the cloud.


What is the cloud?

The cloud has nothing to do with the sky, the wind, or the fluffy white things floating above your head. Put simply, the cloud is a network of uber-secure servers that store information and allow users to access them securely via the internet. You can think of the cloud like a virtual storage unit for information, photos, videos, documents, software, and more. Depending on the cloud service you’re using, these servers can be public, where everyone online can access stored data, or private, where sensitive or private information (like your self storage business data) is only accessible to specific users.

Since security is of the highest priority, the actual physical location of the servers your data is stored on is rarely shared with the public. The buildings housing these servers are called data centers, and they look like big warehouses with hundreds of giant, crazy-looking computers in them. These data centers are spread out across the world for maximum reliability in the event of severe storms or power outages.


How does the cloud work?

The cloud works over the internet to allow you to access software and services through your web browser instead of through a CD-rom or USB download on your computer. Some examples of cloud services that you probably use everyday include Facebook, Gmail, Netflix, Google Drive, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Hulu. If you use online banking, that is also a cloud-based service. You can access the cloud over any internet service, whether you’re on your computer, smartphone, tablet, iPad, or smart watch. Many new internet of things devices (like smart TVs, security cameras, and even new smart refrigerators) are also capable of accessing the cloud to store information and run software programs.

As a user of a cloud service like Facebook, users simply need to access the service (i.e., facebook.com) using a web browser like Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Internet Explorer. From there, you can log into your private cloud account using your Facebook login and password and start browsing Facebook. And voila! Just like that, you’re using the cloud.


Where is the cloud?

It all depends on the cloud service you’re using, but every “cloud” has a physical location. The physical location is a server farm. Server farms are typically kept in data centers, which are high-security warehouses in undisclosed locations for maximum security. For example, the world’s largest cloud-services provider, Amazon, has over 38 data centers all over the world. Some of Amazon’s data centers are in the U.S. in San Francisco, Seattle, Virginia, and Oregon. Other Amazon data centers are spread out across the world in places like Europe, Japan, China, Australia, and Brazil, though their exact addresses are not known to the public. It’s all very spy-like: for example, Facebook has a data center in the remote forests of the Arctic and Microsoft has been rumored to be creating undersea data centers off the coast of Scotland.

Long story short, the cloud is accessible to you via the Internet and your secure login for the cloud service (think: your Facebook account login and password). But the actual files and information behind the tools you’re accessing (like your Facebook posts and photos) are stored on giant computers in secret locations and managed by the cloud provider.


Is the cloud the same thing as iCloud on my phone?

No. While Apple iCloud is a cloud service, it isn’t the cloud. Apple iCloud is Apple’s online cloud storage service that is available to everyone with an Apple ID, such as iPhone and Macbook users. Apple was quick to grab the name “iCloud” when cloud-based technology first came out, but they don’t own all cloud services. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Verizon, and Dropbox are other examples of cloud service providers. All of these cloud service providers work independently and store their data on private servers in secure data centers.


Is the cloud safe?

Yes, it’s very safe. In fact, it’s the safest way to store your data. Information stored on cloud-based software isn’t protected by a lock and key; it’s guarded by something more powerful: encryption. Encryption is a modern defense tactic that keeps your information safe while it’s in transit and stored in the cloud. It’s basically a secret code language - encryption deters hackers by making what you’re doing indecipherable to outsiders. Your storage business’s information and renter data are much more safe and secure in cloud storage than in file cabinets in your office or in a folder on your office computer. Even if your office computer is stolen or there is a break-in at the facility, your cloud-based data will be safe and protected. For this reason, you should store as little sensitive data as possible on your computer and avoid printing or filing sensitive information as hard copies in your office.

When choosing a cloud-based self storage software, you can ensure your data is kept secure by researching and asking questions. Responsible software vendors store information in private servers, back up data several times every day, are PCI-certified, and keep data encrypted on the web using SSL.

You can protect your information in the cloud even further by using a secure login and password for various cloud services like Facebook and Gmail, and by never using the same password more than once. Check out these tips to get more tips on how to keep your information secure online.


What is cloud-based software?

The term “cloud-based” is often used when describing modern self storage software and access control. Cloud-based software is hosted over the internet instead of installed onto your computer, meaning it can be accessed from multiple computers. Unlike standalone software, cloud-based software does not need to be installed on a disc or updated manually. It is accessible via a secure login and password over the internet on any Wifi-enabled device, similar to how you would access your Facebook account.

With cloud-based software and access control, you can complete tasks on your work computer and then head home and pick up where you left off on your personal computer. Or, useful in the storage industry, managers can work on tasks in the facility’s office and owners can work within the same program in their office the next state over. Cloud-based software is also much more secure than standalone software, since your data is backed up on secure, private servers that are very unlikely to fail compared to your office computer.


What is cloud-based access control?

Last year, storEDGE introduced cloud-based access control for self storage owners, and the new technology prompted a lot of questions about the differences between cloud-based access control and traditional access control systems.

A traditional access control system stores your tenant data on an on-site PC, Windows, or DOS computer. There is no backup plan for your data, meaning if the on-site PC crashes, so does your access control system. Contrastingly, a cloud-based access control system stores your tenant data in the cloud rather than on an on-site computer. Your tenants’ access data is kept safe, organized, and is easily accessible from anywhere in the world. To communicate with your facility management software, a traditional access control system uses your on-site computer’s wifi to connect with your facility management software, and because of on-site computer failures like viruses, overnight software updates, and frequent restarts, this process can be slow or fail frequently (meaning you have to go to the facility and restart the computer or access control software program). Cloud-based access control is much faster: there’s no lag between communication from your gate to your software. When a tenant rents a unit or pays their bill, their account status is updated instantly across both your software and access control - so their gate code starts working right away.

 


Researching access control? You’re in the right place. To learn more about the differences between cloud-based access control and traditional access control systems, check out these blog posts:


Is my storage business information secure in the cloud?

Yes, if you work with a reputable vendor. When choosing a cloud-based self storage software provider, you can ensure your data is kept secure by doing thorough research and asking questions of your provider. A high-quality, secure self storage software provider will store your business information in private servers, back up data several times every day, are PCI-certified, and keep data encrypted on the web using SSL. Ask vendors the following questions to ensure your data is being kept safe:

  • Is tenant credit card or bank account information stored in the software?
  • Are credit cards masked in the software?
  • Are passwords masked in the software?
  • Does the software automatically log users out if they’re away from their desk?
  • Does the software have password verification and advanced user permissions?
  • Does the software’s payment portal have an up to date SSL certificate?
  • Are emailed reports password protected?

Overall, your self storage business data is much more secure in the cloud than in file cabinets in your office or on your office computer’s hard drive. You’re much more susceptible to lost or stolen information when storing sensitive information on your hard drive or in physical files in your facility office. Whenever possible, you should avoid printing or storing sensitive information relating to your self storage business. It’s much more secure to keep that information encrypted in cloud storage than stored in your office safe!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Is your self storage software fully cloud-based?, Everything you need to know about cloud-based software, and The ABCs of cloud-based technology.