According to TechTarget, the term “cloud” became used worldwide when Amazon launched AWS with the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. But the concept of the cloud goes way back. In fact, the earliest known conception was during the 1960s, when J. C. R. Licklider came up with the idea. He started the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which in its simplest form, was designed to connect people and data from anywhere, anytime. 

Fast-forward to now, we have the beg the question – “Where is cloud data physically stored?” When we think of the cloud, it’s easy to envision “floating data”, but that isn’t the case. In reality, data still needs to be stored in a physical space, but with the cloud, this data doesn’t take up space on your personal computer or Smartphone. Instead, cloud computing serves the purpose of shifting data and applications away from individual devices and onto cloud servers.

Cloud-based storage is more popular than ever – with private cloud and public cloud being used for various business and personal uses. In this guide, we’ll dive into how cloud storage works, where your data is actually stored on the cloud, and how data centres work in relation to the cloud.

How cloud storage works

Cloud storage is relatively simple in theory. Think of it as splitting a hard drive into segments, and sharing them with other users over an internet connection. This, in its simplest form, is the basis of cloud computing. For the technical-minded, here’s a more in-depth explanation.

Essentially, cloud storage works by allowing users to rent out space on a virtual server that is dedicated solely to their use. The types of cloud available are, generally, public cloud or private cloud. The former, as the name suggests, is a cloud that’s managed by a third party and looks after hundreds if not thousands of clients. Private cloud, on the other hand, is an unmanaged cloud that’s fully provisioned by the user (but requires technical expertise to do so).

There are many benefits of cloud servers, such as working on documents anywhere in the world, and benefiting from software as a service (SaaS) – the list is endless. There are also many advantages to having cloud storage, such as data access to free up space on a computer, accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection, hosting a website and so much more.

Where is data stored in the cloud?

Cloud storage involves storing data on physical servers, which are located in data centres and server farms around the world. For transparency, all Fasthosts data is stored within our green data centres by our Gloucester office. Our data centres use the most advanced APC X UPS system available, which helps to provide uninterruptible power to all our servers (including Dedicated Servers, VPS, and more). In the case of an outage, the power supply is switched instantly to a backup generator, which ensures your server’s uptime.

Most reputable cloud providers will be transparent about where their data centres are. However, it can still be challenging to determine the exact location of them – particularly if data is distributed in data centres globally. Some cloud providers may not always disclose this information, so while your data is securely stored in the cloud, the specific whereabouts may remain a mystery, which could lead to privacy and data redundancy concerns.

How can I find out where my data is stored on the cloud?

Finding out the exact location of your cloud’s data centre can be tricky – especially if there are a number of them across the world. However, here are some steps you can take to get more clarity:

1. Check your cloud provider’s documentation

When you rent out a cloud server, you should receive a pack of documents which generally includes the service level agreements, privacy policy, terms of service, log-in details and more. They may detail within these documents the location of the cloud server’s data centre(s), so it’s worth sifting through these again.

2. Contact your provider’s customer service team

Simply filling out their online form, sending an email to a dedicated customer team or giving their telephone number a ring may be all you need to do to find out where the data centres are located.

Simply Googling where your cloud provider’s data centre is may be all it takes – particularly if they’re active in the news. They may have a press release or article about them, so it’s definitely worth trying this if all else fails.

Who has access to my data?

Whichever cloud storage provider you go with, they are able to see it and even access it. A good cloud provider will make it clear that your data still belongs to you – however if this seems unclear, then you should read through the terms and conditions or seek legal advice.

Ultimately, cloud providers have a duty of care to keep your data safe, but no one is entirely immune to cyber attacks.

So while you can’t fully control who can access your data on your cloud, you can take steps to ensure you’re storing data with a reputable provider. If the idea of provisioning your own security protocols, or hiring a dev to configure your private cloud sounds daunting, then a public cloud which looks after your data’s security may be the way to go.

Frequently asked questions about where data is stored in the cloud

What is the difference between a cloud and a data centre?

Cloud computing involves using resources and services through the internet such as storage, CPU and RAM – all of which can be scaled according to a user’s needs. If opting for a private cloud, infrastructure and management are handled by the user, otherwise, a public cloud provider will handle all of these things instead.

Data centres, on the other hand, can be either privately owned by a user themselves or by third-party providers. If the latter, they will handle the maintenance, updates and safeguarding of your data.

Do you need a data centre for cloud computing?

Yes. Data centres facilitate things like storage, recovery, maintenance and the overall security of your data. Without a data centre, cloud computing simply wouldn’t work. Put simply, your data wouldn’t have anywhere to sit. Data centres are also needed for you to access your data via an internet connection from a remote location – the main reason cloud computing exists!

Who owns the cloud storage?

A cloud hosting company is who owns your cloud’s storage. The matter of who actually owns your data is fairly complicated to answer. In short, you own your data, but your cloud provider has control over its security, storage, and much more.

We hope this has shed light on where cloud data is stored. Keep in mind that even though your data isn't saved on your computer's hard drive, it's still stored in a different location somewhere else. Tech can fail at the worst of times, so do your due diligence to ensure you pick a provider with robust security measures. If you’re looking for a Cloud Server with a reputable provider – then look no further than us!