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Storing, Saving and Sharing Your Data: What Are the Processes and How Do They Work?

By the DynaSis Team

Last week, we talked about the cloud and promised to explain some of the nuances between data storage, backup, sharing and syncing. These terms seem pretty obvious to computer users with a bit of experience, but solutions aren’t always what they seem. Furthermore, they can overlap. In this blog, we hope to clear the “cloud” of confusion that surrounds them.

Storage: Computer storage, aka data storage, is the media used to house data. Data can be stored on magnetic disks (“hard drives”) or on solid-state drives (flash drives). Storage can be on-premise (e.g. inside a PC, laptop or server) or it can be cloud based―residing on a server at a data center. (Data can also be stored on memory chips, but this data isn’t generally accessible, so we aren’t talking about it, here.)

Backup: A backup is an archive of a dataset. It can be a complete copy of a drive, or only a partial backup. Backups can be retained on the same media as regularly accessible storage, although some companies also still use a tape-based technology.

File Sharing: File sharing from a universal perspective means nothing more than literally letting someone have one of your files―whether via email, thumb drive or a cloud-based sharing service. However, here we are referring to a framework that supports the sharing of files. These can be third-party storage solutions, like DropBox, or they can be systems set up on a corporate server and network, with permissions that allow sharing of resources stored locally.

File Syncing: Synchronizing files is the process of ensuring that if a file is stored in two places, for example, on a desktop and a server, or on a laptop and in DropBox, that the version of the file is the same. It can also involve syncing a file between two users―for example, when two co-workers collaborate on a document together.

How Do They Intersect?

Storage can be used for backup purposes, and storage can be configured to enable file sharing. Dedicated programs can also sync files between two or more units of storage (e.g. hard drives). In other words, storage is the core element on which three activities―backup, file sharing and file syncing―rely. Even when you share a file via a method that seems impermanent, like email, the file is being retained in the data store of that email client.

Despite the fact that storage is an underlying “container” for the files involved in these activities, users cannot assume that all storage will perform these tasks equally well. That’s essentially the point we want to make with this educational journey.

For example, we’ve seen many users employ a solution like DropBox for file storage, syncing, sharing and backup. After all, DropBox makes backups of a user’s files and syncs them to his or her computer. That user can also share folders with other DropBox users. So, in essence, it can perform all four tasks.

Similarly, we have seen companies employ standard hard drives to perform backup, sometimes using backup software; other times by simply making a manual copy (what the IT world calls an image) of their drives every night.

Both of these approaches are technically backup, but they may not be managed in a manner that best protects the firm, nor will they necessarily be easy to restore in the event of a disaster. There are better solutions―dedicated “backup appliances” that include software that manages the backup and ensures its integrity, for example. There are also dedicated backup services―often connected to cloud-based storage― that incorporate recovery features, as well.

Similarly, file sharing and syncing can be done in DropBox or another file storage solution, but it doesn’t give the corporate entity as much control over where and to whom the files go. As a result, we recommend that no company―no matter how small―implement backup, sharing, or syncing solutions for company assets without guidance from a knowledgeable IT services firm, like DynaSis.

If you’d like to learn more about best-practices file backup, sharing and syncing―and even about storage solutions that give you more control, please give us a call.

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