Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Can Get Lost in the Clouds

We've All Been There...
It would be a safe bet to say that anyone reading this blog has lost information in a digital format. Maybe you were writing your term paper and you forgot to save it. You could have made the mistake of taking your flash drive out too soon and corrupting the file. You have may have mislabeled it and been unable to find the file among all of your other files. In earlier years, you may have copied music on a CD to find that its quality had deteriorated. Even further back you may have put it on a floppy disk only to have some magnetic force destroy it. While CDs, tapes, and floppy disks, and flash drives all used to be common forms of storing information, the next generation of data storage is Cloud storage.

Cloud vs the Others
Cloud storage is  are hosted electronic storage services over the internet Mavodza, 2012 November, p. 133). Cloud Storage seems to be a cheap panacea to all of the problems that plagued older digital storage devices. Cloud servers can hold more data than traditional storage (Breeding, 2013, p. 25). The servers typically are not lost, dropped, or damaged by the environment. Cloud servers are their own backups as well, as most cloud services have mirror sites that produce copies of your data and send it to other servers around the world (Dougherty, 2009, p. 599). Thus making sure that if one server goes down, that your information will be retrievable from another one of their servers. While Cloud storage is an advancement over CDs, tapes, flopy disks, and flash drives; Cloud storage still has some important vulnerabilities that can lead to data loss as well.

Transfer Problems
Cloud storage depends on information being transferred from one computer to another, and any transfer that occurs offers the possibility that the data can be lost (Dougherty, 2010, p. 445 and Delozier 2013, p. 65). The corruption of a few bytes of information can lead to the entire digital item being inaccessible. This can occur because as the data moves from one location to another fluctuations in energy output, internet connectivity, and weather conditions can affect the complete transfer of all the information (Dougherty, 2010, p. 445 and Delozier 2013, p. 65). If enough information is disrupted, the file can be rendered useless. If this error is not found before the original hard copy or original digital file is deleted, this can lead to the loss of that data. 

Data loss can happen accidentally, but the one of the biggest reasons for data loss on a cloud comes from the data being intercepted by an unauthorized user (Samson, 2013 and Mavodza, 2012 November, p.135). As more data is sent to digital servers that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, more people looking to illegally access that material have the ability to try to intercept and steal that data. Hackers can infiltrate Cloud storage and data can either be literally lost from being deleted, or data can be lost in the sense that it did not go to its intended user (Samson, 2013). Both instances of data loss can be damaging in their own way. Having digital data deleted means that it can actually be lost forever if the user did not use a secondary storage option for the digital data. Data that is stolen can be used by the thief to steal credit cards, bank account numbers, or other personal information that can damage a persons finances or reputation. Data lost because it is stolen has made important news of late as large corporations like Target have comprised their customers credit, and celebrities have found that their personal pictures posted for all to see.

Limited Access
Cloud storage can also lead to a loss freedom to access your digital data. In order to access information from a Cloud server you have to be connected to the internet (Breeding, 2013, p. 24), and this can be frustrating in remote areas with no internet connections. Cloud services offer a cheap alternative to physical storage space, but are generally not completely free for large corporations and information institutions (Breeding, 2013, p. 25). If a user cannot pay for the cloud storage they are using, this may lead to services being stopped, data being locked, or data being deleted. Since most Cloud services are administered by sources external from a company, anyone who uses a Cloud service is ultimately at the mercy of the Cloud company as to whether or not their data is safe. It is even possible for Cloud services to go out of business and leave their customers with no option but lose data that they have no digital room to store.

Lost In Translation
The last concern is the loss of quality as information is changed from a physical format to digital. The resolution used for pictures, video, audio, and texts as they are converted to digital format can lead to a loss of  preservation quality (Conway, 2010, p. 70-72) . The color of pictures, the detail of the video, the crispness of the audio, and the clarity of the text can be distorted as they are converted to digital format. Just as translations can change the meaning of a song, book, or movie, so can these digital translations change the original intent, meaning, or impact of the data being converted to digital format.

Questions to think about
1) How can people protect themselves from their data being permanently lost from anyone of the issues previously mentioned?
2) What right should people have to the data they store on a Cloud server, especially when they are paying to use the Cloud storage?

3) What standards should be put in place for LIS institutions as to the quality of the digital artifacts they are creating of physical artifacts that they own? 

Works Cited

  • Breeding, Marshall. (2013, March). "The Systems Librarian: Digital Archiving in the Age of CloudComputing". Computers in Libraries 33(2), (pg. 22-26).  Retrieved from:                
  • Conway, Paul. (2010, January). "Preservation in the Age of Google: Digitization, Digital Preservation, and Dilemmas". The Library Quarterly 80(1), (pg. 61-79).DOI 10.1086/648463
  • Delozier, Eric P. (2013). "Anonymity and Authenticity in the Cloud: Issues and Applications". OCLC Systems and Services 29(2), (p. 65-77). DOI 10.1108/10650751311319278
  • Dougherty, William C. (2009, November). "Preservation of Digital Assets: One Approach". The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35(6), (pg. 599-602). DOI 10.1016/j.acalib.2009.08.008
  • Dougherty, William C. (2010, September). "Can Digital Resources Truly Be Preserved?". The Journal of Academic Librarianship 36(5), (pg. 445-448). DOI 10.1016/j.acalib.2010.06.016
  • Mavodza, Judith. (2013). "The Impact of Cloud Computing on the Future of Academic Library Practices and Services". New Library World 114(3/4), (p.132-141). DOI 10.1108/03074801311304041
  • Samson, Ted. (2013, February 25th). "9 Threats to Cloud Computing Security". InfoWorld  Retrieved from: security.html  

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