It’s one of the biggest questions in computing right now: is it safer to store your files and other important information on your own server, or on the cloud?Cloud Versus Server

The answer isn’t that simple. At present, cloud security and server security are practically neck-and-neck in terms of which one is going to keep your data safe. The cloud contains a slight edge. As Matthew Mombrea of IT World notes:

“There is no single point of hardware failure in cloud computing. The odds are in your favor that there will not be a catastrophic data loss in your storage, though it has happened. That risk is much higher on a single dedicated server.”

So the cloud is a bit safer than the average server, but that does not mean your servers are unsafe. It simply means that the cloud, which is spread across multiple “virtual servers,” is less likely to lose data than a single machine vulnerable to the elements.

On the other hand, if you already practice regular backups and storage, the data loss from any single server is minimal and easily restored. That means that if you are trying to decide between servers and the cloud, you have to look not at the question of “which is more secure,” but the question “which is better for me or for my business?”

Let’s examine the available options.

To use server security, you need a server

One of the common mistakes laypeople make is confusing “server security” with “hard drive security.” That is: if you are a solopreneur, freelancer, or small business owner keeping all of your important files on your laptop, you don’t have a server. You have a hard drive. (Or, if you have a newer laptop, a solid-state drive.)

If you trust your important files to a hard drive or SSD, you should switch over to cloud computing immediately. Laptop and computer hard drives are notoriously easy to break, and you could lose all of your data in an instant with a liquid spill or a broken computer fan. Additionally, it’s relatively easy to hack into a hard drive, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Unless you have a dedicated server room as part of your home or business, there’s no question: you need cloud security. Sign up with Dropbox, Google Drive, or any of the numerous third-party cloud solutions.

If you have a server room, consider the costs

So now we’ve moved past the people who are storing files on their hard drives, and we’re looking at the medium-sized businesses who have a dedicated server room. These people likely have enormous amounts of data going back a decade or more, all saved to server racks that are chugging slower and slower with age.

Are your servers secure? Absolutely. Yes, it is possible for hackers to get into your data via malware or an APT, but if you’ve got an educated and trained IT staff, they’ll notice the unusual activity and shut the threats down.

That brings us to the question of cost. Moving from servers to cloud storage is a smart move for many businesses, especially those with aging servers, but it’s also an expensive one. According to Forbes, available cloud services cost “$100 per month per user,” meaning that if your small business staffs 20 employees, you need to pay $24,000 per year for cloud storage. That cost may be too much for most small businesses to absorb.

Of course, it only gets worse for larger companies, who may have hundreds of employees spread out over multiple locations. The cost reason, not the security reason, is why many businesses choose to remain with their current servers.

Education is the key

If you don’t have $24,000 (or more) to give to cloud security, how do you make sure your business has the best security possible? The answer is to educate your staff — and yourself — from the ground up. The more your staff knows about how to protect your data, the better protected you’ll be. Cloud security and server security is only neck-and-neck if the people running your servers are as well-trained as the employees of Rackspace, Amazon, Peer 1, and other cloud solutions.

This often means that it’s time to hit the books. Consider sending one of your employees to get IT online training courses; in addition to learning more about tech security, your staff member can even choose to get an associate degree in Security Technology, making him or her more valuable to your office as well as future companies. Or, take some IT online training courses yourself. The more you know about tech security, the better prepared you’ll be to answer the serious questions like “are our servers safe enough, or should we migrate to the cloud?”