Defogging The Cloud 101: Where Is My Data Actually Located?

“The Cloud” sounds like a very ethereal and confusing term. You may be wondering, “Where is my data actually stored? After all, it can’t just be floating around in cyberspace, can it?”

The modern cloud can be traced back to the mid-90s, when AT&T first introduced an online platform for web-based file storage.

If you use Gmail, Dropbox, or Microsoft’s Office 365, you are most likely also using their cloud service. There are also consumer clouds that hold your pictures and social media posts or store your music and email.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google have cloud computing systems that cover the globe. Your data is in their computers, usually stored in a regional data center close to where you live.

On top of that, individual companies can have their own clouds – also known as onsite servers. These are called private clouds and are accessed by employees and customers. Your data is safer in these private clouds. In regard to the big public clouds, computer scientists from the National Security Agency and Stanford University are often hired to protect the data stored there.

But none of this information means anything if you don’t understand how cloud technology works.

Understanding Cloud Technology

If you use the cloud, your data and applications are stored on server space that is reserved specifically for you. So, if the company you work for uses cloud services, all their data is stored on cloud space that is reserved for their company.

This is beneficial for several reasons. For one, your data that is stored in the cloud is now accessible from anywhere. You don’t have to log into your personal computer every time you need to access your data.

Your data is still stored in a physical location. However, the purpose of the cloud is that your data does not have to be stored on your individual computer or mobile device. In fact, cloud computing is designed to get data and applications off individual devices and onto cloud servers instead. That description may still be confusing, so let’s break it down a little bit more.

Where Is My Data Stored?

So then where is this easily accessible data physically stored? Cloud space is located on individual servers found at data centers and server farms across the globe. These data centers and server farms offer server space for cloud computing. Here’s a made-up scenario to help you think though this concept.

Let’s say the fictitious company, Techno-Wizards, decides to offer consumer-level cloud storage to its customers. Techno-Wizards can lease hard drive space on servers from a specific data center. This data center would give Techno-Wizards as much space as needed. Techno-Wizards can then partition that space into smaller blocks of storage space that they lease out to their employees and customers. When this happens, Techno-Wizard’s customers are all storing their files on the exact same physical server. But, no one has access to anyone else’s storage space, keeping private data secure.

There are data centers and server farms located across the world. A lot of cloud providers do not maintain their own physical storage, so they lease space. Often, these cloud providers do not even lease space in the same location. This means, you could have a U.S. provider that leases space in Ireland. The only way to find out where your data is actually located is by asking your cloud provider.

Hopefully, this explanation has helped you understand the cloud a little bit better. If you are still confused about where your data is physically stored, our computer doctors can answer any questions you might have. Contact us today!