Some of the most popular applications available on the market, including LinkedIn(social networking for businesses), TripIt (all-in-one travel organizer), and Dropbox (storage solutions for individuals and businesses), are designed by developers for one-way use, leaving little to no way to leave with your personal data.

This poses a massive problem for consumers, according to Manas Kumar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Optimizer HQ, a New Zealand-based company that develops cloud solutions for companies around the world.

According to Kumar, numerous cloud hosting service providers and application developers do not allow their customers and clients to export their own personal data into a practical, usable format. This means that consumers are significantly more vulnerable to monetary loss due to being locked into a long-term contract and even face the risk of having their personal information used for a malicious reason, such as identity theft.

Kumar believes that in the same way governments around the world have the ability to regulate phone number portability (being able to change phone numbers without issue), a set of industry standards should be required to ensure that the data uploaded through cloud-based applications are portable and can easily be downloaded to a usable format.

“Most consumers do not have the technical knowledge required to manage the transfer of data from one provider to another, let alone cope with the complexities of exporting data which is not available in a common format,” Kumar says.

Storing important files in cloud-based applications (such as Dropbox) has become a prevalent information technology solution for small and small businesses in the past few years. Still, such solutions pose a real security threat.

Additionally, switching from one cloud storage provider to another can be incredibly difficult. “Little has been publicized about the issues around exporting data from one provider to another of moving the business from one provider to another using a common language of exchange,” said Kumar.

There are other issues consumers need to be aware of and make themselves thoroughly knowledgeable about the stability of servers and uptime guarantees quoted by most cloud providers. Kumar warns, “Beware of the classic ‘force Majeure or ‘act of God’ clause that most cloud application providers have in their Terms of Use agreement.”

It is essential that you completely read the terms and conditions carefully and understand the impact any downtime will have on your business. It would also be beneficial to compare cloud solutions offered by other competitors to get an idea of the products available on the market. Don’t compromise to save a few dollars in the short term! Do the right research, and your business will be saving money in the long term.

Additionally, many cloud providers offer premium services with guaranteed uptime, so it is important to consider all available options.

Regarding the risk of losing data in the Cloud, consumers should have a scrupulous backup plan and exit strategy for each application. The first step in doing this would be to research the background of the company you are looking to work with and ask them about their network infrastructure and measures to ensure the security of customer’s data. If they truly desire your business, they will answer all your questions without a problem.

Also, you can request that your data be hosted through a local server. This ensures that you will be able to easily access your information in the case of a disaster or some other emergency.

By taking action and researching your cloud service providers and application developers, you can take a role in making the Cloud safer and ultimately better.

Kumar, however, still believes that the ultimate responsibility lies with each country’s federal government: “I believe the Government, in conjunction with industry experts, needs to develop an ISO standard design for data portability and management and have top-tier cloud vendors to conform to that standard.”

Part of that conformance would measure the reliability, scalability, uptime, and service of cloud providers. It would analyze whether or not the vendor offers data exported in user-friendly formats such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) or Open Document Format (ODF).

After these standards are established and regulated, Kumar believes that cloud vendors will adhere to an ultimate gold standard. This standard will give consumers factors to look out for in their search for providers and help keep the industry honest and true.

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