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The cloud goes personal

December 5, 2011 • Opinion

As the world has become increasingly digital, the creation and consumption of content from email and messaging to photographs and videos to music and movies, has literally exploded, increasing fivefold in just four years and predicted to grow more than 44 times by the year 2020.

Khalid Wani, Western Digital Sales Director of Branded Business for Middle East, Africa & India (image: ITP)

While this trend may have been driven by business at the outset, with emails originally making up a large volume of digital content, the consumer is outstripping the enterprise and digital content now exists across business, public and private domains.

Our lives have become digitally oriented, and the Internet with its wealth of content has become intrinsic to our lifestyles and the way in which we communicate.

And while ‘the cloud’ began as a buzzword in the enterprise space, cloud storage particularly has evolved from the storage of IT content in the corporate cloud, to IP and online content in the public cloud, and even so far as storage of personal content within the personal cloud, as a means of addressing not only storage but also access challenges in the digital world.

The need for storage has grown correspondingly with the increase in digital content, and the average modern household now requires in the region of one Terabyte, or 1000GB of storage in order to maintain personal content.

But this does not solve a growing problem that has emerged as a result of an increasingly connected lifestyle and the growing prevalence of connected mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs – users now want to access their content from wherever they are on their personal devices. Added to this challenge is the fact that any content stored on a mobile device is vulnerable, since theft of such devices is a common issue, especially in South Africa.

The public cloud has emerged as a way to solve this challenge, and has become more viable in South Africa as a result of more affordable and available bandwidth. When content is stored in this type cloud, it exists in a data centre somewhere in the world and can be accessed from any mobile device, breaking the limitations of internal device storage. It also ensures content is stored in a safe haven that protects this data should individual devices be stolen or go missing.

However while the public cloud enables users to access content stored publicly wherever they have an Internet connection, these files are often located at an unknown venue which may be anywhere in the world. Aside from the security concerns of this type of storage, it often involves some type of subscription or service fee that needs to be paid in order to access content.

The personal cloud has emerged as a way of combining the best of both worlds, enabling users keep content under their control, secure in their homes, while still allowing files to be shared, media to be streamed and various devices to access content anywhere, anytime and ensuring that content is not stored on individual devices to protect this content from theft.

Using innovative new Network Attached Storage (NAS) aimed specifically at the consumer, users can now ensure that their content is backed up safely at home, and remains accessible from anywhere. These consumer NAS devices plug directly into the wireless router to provide a shared storage platform for computers, tablets and smartphones regardless of operating system, keeping all media centrally accessible and allowing both wired and wireless streaming to devices in the home and outside of it.

Aside from enabling access for connected devices anywhere, anytime, the personal cloud has multiple other benefits. By creating a personal cloud storage network, users can access far more storage capacity than mobile devices typically ship with, allowing for the storage and access of much larger files and greater quantities of content.

Backup also becomes a painless procedure, with wireless technology and automated backup ensuring content on devices has been stored in the central personal cloud. And as more and more home entertainment devices begin to incorporate connectivity, the personal cloud can even be used to create a connected home for the streaming of content from a central point to any device within the house.

When it comes to creating a personal cloud, there are several considerations consumers should look for in a NAS device. These include ease of setup and ease of use, high speed performance, compatibility across various operating systems and automatic backup capability. The NAS should also allow for web-based access to content stored on the device, so users can stream content from anywhere without having to use a public cloud server.

As content creation and consumption continues to expand and users become accustomed to anytime, anyplace access, the cloud has emerged as the answer to solving storage and access needs. While the public cloud is has its uses, consumers also demand higher levels of security and personalisation, and this is where the personal cloud comes into play.

By creating their own personal cloud users can not only share and store content from anywhere in the world, they can also link PCs, smartphones, mobile devices and home entertainment systems through the NAS device to stream content and create the next evolution of consumer connectivity – the connected home.

Khalid Wani, Western Digital Sales Director – Branded Business – Middle East, Africa & India

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