Since publishing this paper, I am sure there are many more virtual storage options are available. Even as I was doing the research and attempting to be complete in my analysis, I noticed more companies pop up. Understanding the various layers involved in virtual storage could impact the security and longevity of that data. For those not interested in reviewing the complete paper, here are a few critical questions to ask when seeking out a virtual storage provider:
1. Who owns the facility in which the data is stored?
2. Who owns the land on which the facility is built?
3. Who manages the security of the facility?
4. Who makes sure that the power, air conditioning, and air quality is maintained in the facility?
5. Is there a back-up power system in case power should go down? What is it? If it's fuel-based, is there a reserve of fuel available nearby to help keep the power on (and the data online)?
6. Is there a back-up system for the air conditioner? If the cooling system fails and the power keeps running, the servers could burn up, damaging data.
7. Is there location redundancy, meaning that a copy of the data is stored someplace far enough away that your data will still be available in case of a natural disaster where the original data is stored?
8. Is the equipment on which your data is stored up to date, or is it built on equipment whose vendor has gone out of business? If additional servers need to be added or replaced, will they work with the old servers without taking your data offline to do so?
9. Who owns the equipment on which the data is stored?
10. What happens to your data if the company who is leasing the servers goes out of business?
These are just a few of the many critical questions one must ask to understand how secure online storage systems really are, but there are many more. Many companies do not own the land, the facilities, or the equipment on which your data is stored. Many do not monitor the servers, but are instead a retail company that rents space on another company's servers.
While virtual storage has many important strengths, remember to choose a company with a good reputation. Companies that have detailed information about the facility and equipment on which the data is stored are generally more reliable. The less a company understands about how and where your data is stored, the more vulnerable your data could be. This not only applies to online storage systems, but any company that stores data that belongs to you.