How Does Cloud Storage Work?

Aditya Rayaprolu
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Updated · Feb 27, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Joined February 2023

As a cloud architect at McKinsey with experience handling Fortune 500 clients, this individual has c... | See full bio


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The modern-day and age has brought with it many advances in the computing world.

However, none are becoming as quickly absorbed into our societies and businesses as cloud storage. It allows you to ditch the old-fashioned and bulky physical storage devices and servers of the past.

Now, all you need is a stable internet connection to access an almost unlimited amount of storage space and computing power.

How does cloud storage work? Let’s find out.

What Is Cloud Storage?

Before diving into how cloud storage works, we first have to establish what it is. 

DARPA originally developed the system back in the 1960s for the US military. Essentially, we refer to ‘cloud storage’ when talking about a system of interconnected servers that store data. With it, users can upload and access it remotely via the internet.

Think of services such as: 

  • Microsoft Azure
  • DropBox
  • Google Drive

These companies rent out cloud storage. That way, you can safely store all your data offsite without having to purchase expensive hardware yourself. You also won’t have to worry about paying staff or the upkeep of the servers.

Types of Cloud Storage

The popularity of cloud storage has brought many varieties of the system for businesses and personal users.

Let’s look at the different types of cloud-based storage.

Personal Cloud Storage

You can set up a device within your home that allows you to store and access data online. This can be a hard drive or a computer that is connected to an online network.

Personal cloud storage (PCS) lets you set up a private mini-cloud within your local area network. Doing so allows you to access the data within the network or online from other locations.

While you have to plug a regular hard drive into your computer manually, a PCS lets you connect to it via the internet.

Personal cloud storage works well because it’s usually a cheaper, small-scale version of cloud storage, making it ideal for households.

Public Cloud Storage

It’s also possible to hire online storage space from a company’s service, based on how much you need. Also known as Public Cloud Storage, it’s the most common form of online data storage.

Users can access these servers from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection. Your data is stored on servers in a mass data center.

Some examples include:

  • DropBox
  • Amazon’s Amazon Web Service (AWS)
  • Google Drive

Private Cloud Storage

But how does cloud storage work in a private capacity?

Unlike a public server like DropBox, the servers allocated to your data in private cloud storage are only accessible by your company. It’s usually a lot more expensive, as you have to house and maintain the servers yourself or pay a company to do so.

Generally speaking, it offers more customization and security than a public cloud server.

Since private cloud storage is remote and scalable, you don’t have to buy additional hard drives or PCs for more space, but you have to allocate more server space through the data center.

Hybrid Cloud Storage

Hybrid cloud-based storage is a mixture of public and private cloud storage.

As previously explained, private cloud storage stores data on servers (onsite/offsite) that only you and your company can access through private software. Public cloud storage stores data on privatized mass storage hubs and is accessible through public software.

Hybrid Cloud Storage is a combination of these two models. You sacrifice some of the security benefits by opting for a public cloud, but it’s also more cost-efficient.

How Does Cloud Storage Work?

Let’s discuss how cloud storage works.

Where Is the Data Stored?

Where your data will be stored depends on the type of cloud storage you pick.

  • Personal cloud storage: Stored onsite.
  • Public cloud storage: Stored offsite in a data center.
  • Private cloud storage: Stored on-site or remotely via a data center. 
  • Hybrid cloud storage: Either on-site and remotely in a data center, or entirely remotely at a data center, or many data centers.

How Secure Is The Data? 

In general, using offsite cloud storage is considered a lot safer than housing data on your own storage systems. This is particularly true for using public, private, and hybrid cloud storage.

The larger the data center, the more secure it will be. They have more employees and safety mechanisms to help monitor traffic and prevent hackers from accessing the cloud storage system.

However, if you opt for a personal or private on-site cloud setup, configure the security protocols yourself. More so with a personal cloud storage device, but both will require additional security protocols that you have to set up yourself.

Consider adding additional security protocols to your data management systems and connected devices.


It’s no surprise that the system has become quite popular over the last decade. Here are some of the many advantages:

  • Cost: Cloud data storage is roughly five times cheaper per GB than housing conventional storage devices.
  • Accessibility: Cloud storage is highly accessible and allows you to connect to your data from anywhere in the world. You only need an internet connection.
  • Scalability: You can increase storage simply by increasing your payment plan and requesting more resources.
  • Recovery: Cloud storage allows you to make continuous backups of your data on the cloud server, making it easy to recover lost files. For personal cloud storage, you have to make additional backups of your files remotely on a public or private cloud, though.
  • Security: Cloud storage tends to be a lot safer than conventional forms of storage and offers greater data integrity. Most data centers have more security protocols in place than private businesses do, meaning your data is usually more secure.


While cloud storage has a lot more advantages than disadvantages, here are some you should know.

  • Good Internet Connection: For data storage in the cloud to work efficiently, you will need a high-speed internet connection.
  • Software: You will need to download the relevant software on every device to order access the data. This can mean lots of updates and coordination across devices.
  • Physical Storage Devices: Some forms of business-orientated cloud software will require you to use additional hard drives to utilize their software. This can increase the cost substantially.
  • Data Security: This largely applies when using a private or personal cloud setup. If your security protocols aren’t set up correctly, your data could be made vulnerable to hackers.

Cloud Storage vs Cloud Computing

While the two may sound similar, they are very different.

Cloud Storage 

Cloud storage refers to the act of using data centers to store your data, files, and information remotely. Server cloud storage uses software to access your files and upload new ones to the cloud server.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing allows for on-demand access to IT services via the internet. It’s a pay-as-you-go model that will enable you to perform all your computational needs online.

It allows you to avoid buying high-performance computers and setting them up on-site. All you have to do is specify and scale the amount of computing power you need via a service provider.

Every command is made on your devices and sent to the service provider. All the computing is done off-site and then runs back to your devices in a matter of seconds.

It’s a lot cheaper than conventional computing power and allows you to scale your computational demands as you need them.

Cloud Storage Services Worth Your Attention

How does cloud storage work as a product? And which one is best suited to you or your business? There are plenty of options available, but these are my recommendations. 


iDrive is a lightweight cloud storage solution that gives you 5TB of storage for a fixed fee of $52.12 per year. The system features 256-bit AES encryption and Two-Factor Authentication, which protects your data.

You can connect an unlimited number of devices per account, giving you high-speed useability. And best of all, the service is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.


pCloud is an efficient and highly integrative cloud storage platform that allows seamless transitioning between systems like Google Drive, OneDrive, and DropBox. 

It costs between $4.99 and $9.99 per month, with the basic plan offering 500 GB of storage and the premium plan offering 2 TB.

pCloud features personalization on each file uploaded and collaboration management, meaning you can decide who gets to access what on the virtual drive.

It’s a sleek and intuitive software that makes using cloud storage easy. On top of that, it works on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices.


LiveDrive’s basic plan offers you unlimited amounts of storage for only $8.99 a month. Their premium plan provides you an additional 5 TB of online hard drive space to store files that you can access at any time.

It’s a highly intuitive system and allows for large-scale data cloud storage, and works on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices.

Wrap Up

It’s easy to see why cloud storage has become so popular in recent years. The technology allows you to store and access data via the internet. No need to plug in bulky hard drives anymore! They save money, resources, and manpower while providing much safer data storage solutions.

This is especially true in an age where cyberattacks are forcing companies to find scalable and affordable solutions for keeping their data secure and backed up.

Once you understand how to use the cloud, its various benefits become more obvious.

So, if you haven’t integrated your business with cloud storage yet, now is the time!


Do you have to pay to use the cloud?

In most cases, you will have to pay to access cloud storage services. Some systems like Google Drive, DropBox, and iDrive will offer users a limited version of their services for free. To qualify for more features or space, users have to pay a fee. 

Is cloud storage really safe?

Generally speaking, cloud storage is considered a lot safer than most conventional forms of physical storage. Data centers tend to have more security protocols and staff dedicated to keeping your data safe. It’s their primary business function, after all.

How do you access cloud storage?

So, how does cloud storage work? In most cases, you will access the cloud through software that connects you to the cloud server. This software will give you access to all the files and data you have stored on your virtual drive. It will also allow you to upload files, make backups, and remove files as need be.


Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya Rayaprolu

As a cloud architect at McKinsey with experience handling Fortune 500 clients, this individual has comprehensive expertise in cutting-edge technologies and tools such as cloud computing, virtualization, network security, data storage, and disaster recovery. They have a wealth of experience in creating and executing virtualization solutions for both on-premise and cloud-based systems, with a primary focus on enhancing efficiency, dependability, and security.

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