Cloud backup has got one purpose and one purpose only: to back up data in whatever form - be it databases, documents or spreadsheets - that are critical to the ongoing function of a business or individual and to store that information on cloud based servers with incremental backups occurring at least every day.
The data is typically stored in an encrypted and compressed state and only the data owner knows the key to decompress and decrypt the data when restored. This is 100% safe, secure backup technology that no one can view without the owner's consent. An example of cloud backup is the IronTree online cloud based backup service.
Cloud storage is where a person uses the storage facility in a cloud storage service provider to keep certain files. It could be many files and can be a large store, typically for accessing from multiple devices and for sharing of information with other connected people. So with cloud storage a person will place files, for example Excel spreadsheets, from their PC or Mac in an online folder and grant another person or people access to this folder. It can also enable the owner of the Excel file to view the file from their iPad or similar tablet.
The files transferred to cloud storage are typically not encrypted by the owner and may or may not be stored in an encrypted and compressed state. These files are susceptible to being hacked and their privacy is not guaranteed.
Why does one need both cloud backup as well as cloud storage?
Let me illustrate why you need both cloud backup and cloud storage by sharing the story of Ian. Ian is an HR director at a company based in Cape Town. He has a laptop that he uses for his work and also for occasional private use.
As the HR director, all the payroll data of his company is on Ian's computer. It contains many confidential documents as well as databases - this is highly confidential and critical information. He knows this so he always locks his computer and has a good password.
It is not safe for Ian to use cloud storage as the data on his computer is too confidential and cloud storage data can be hacked or stolen. It is also then on multiple machines or 'in the cloud' so it is difficult to control. Data is also not encrypted.
As a responsible director, Ian ensures that his laptop is backed up and is aware of the security and confidentiality issues surrounding this data. He has registered a backup account with a reputable offsite online backup service and backs up his critical data every day to offsite servers located in South Africa. This means that he can always restore his data quickly due to local bandwidth usage, that he has contactable support in his time zone when he needs it and he does not have to comply with the legal issues of another country's off-site storage laws. In addition, he makes sure that he does not back up to memory sticks or similar as these are highly insecure.
Ian has tested a full restore of his HR data to another machine and is satisfied that he can recover and have HR business continuity within hours of losing his existing laptop.
On his home computer and iPad or iPhone, Ian uses one of the many cloud storage platforms provided by international companies for file sharing. Ian's wife also uses these on her iPad and they both share documents and images of interest to them both as required. The cloud storage service enables them to instantly communicate home improvement and holiday ideas. What is useful is that it syncs documents between all the devices that it is installed upon. So when his wife makes changes to the spreadsheet, he is able to access the latest version at work or on his tablet device.