Online storage comes of age
Feb 14, 2009, 19:48 GMT
Washington - It's time for you to get yourself an online storage account. The reasons why are compelling - and they keep piling up.
For starters, it's wise to have a backup copy of your critical files someplace off-site, and there's no place more 'off site' than on some online storage service's servers. Also, with the number of mobile, data-driven devices increasing - everything from iPods and iPhones to netbooks - online storage is an ideal way to ensure that your data is always at hand. And finally, the number of online-only business applications - led by Google's Docs suite - is growing, so having a place or two online to store your data files is essential.
As demand for online storage continues to grow, online storage services are proliferating - and evolving rapidly. So it pays to know your options. Most services today offers some amount of online storage space absolutely free, and competition has forced many in the industry to offer unlimited space for a reasonable monthly fee.
--- The major players
While there are lots of newcomers to the online storage arena - and more on the way - it makes sense first to survey what the major online storage companies are offering. In no small part, that's because the major players are likely to be around for a while, and that's important when you're talking about safeguarding your data with a third party. Whether you go with one of the free or enticing new entrants into this burgeoning area, you should probably consider opening at least a standard account with one of the big companies for your critical files.
Mozy (http://mozy.com), owned by storage giant EMC, has been around a long while now, and the service allows you to get your feet wet in the online storage area by signing up for the free Mozy Home plan, which provides 2 GB of storage. The upgraded Mozy Home service, which comes in at 4.95 dollars per month, provides unlimited backup. The nice thing about Mozy and the other big guns of this space is that they generally provide desktop-based backup software that makes file selection easy and backs up your files in the background.
Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com) prides itself on simplicity. Like Mozy, the service provides a desktop program that runs in the background and backs up any new or changed files on your PC. If you're a Windows user and store your files in the default locations, there's really very little you have to do to configure Carbonite. It will automatically back up everything in your Documents and Settings folder. Carbonite offers a free trial but costs 49 dollars per year for an unlimited amount of storage space. Once you pay the fee, the service will automatically back up your music files and any other files you specify.
Amazon's Simple Storage Service (http://aws.amazon.com/s3) - or S3 - has become another major player in the online storage industry. Its pay-as-you-play model - which charges you no monthly fee but rather a metred rate based upon how much storage you use - has proven popular. Amazon's name, with its implied stability, is an added comfort. The service is not directly marketed to consumers, however. But you can pair S3 with the JungleDisk Desktop Edition (http://www.jungledisk.com), a 20-dollar application that makes using S3 a breeze, and you end up with a low-cost, easy-to-use, and unlimited online storage solution that's hard to beat.
--- The newcomers
If you want to make a name for yourself in the increasingly crowded online storage arena, you have to offer two things: more storage space than the next guy and a free service that's hard to beat.
Adrive (http://www.adrive.com) boasts up front that it offers more free storage space than any other service, and at 50 GB, that appears to be the case. The catch is that the service provides no desktop program, which means you have to upload or download files via your Web browser - an interface that's clunky at best. You'll also have to put up with third-party ads at various points, and if you need any support at all, you'll need to move up to Adrive's paid plan, which is 6.95 per month.
Humyo (http://www.humyo.com) does not provide as much storage in its free plan as does Adrive - just 10 GB rather than 50. But Humyo's emphasis is on 'easy,' and the service delivers on that goal. Humyo's small installable download integrates seamlessly with your operating system. In Windows, Humyo shows up as another folder within Windows Explorer. So copying or backing up files to your Humyo space can be a simple drag-and-drop affair, or you can use a traditional backup or archival tool and point it to your Humyo folder as the destination device. Humyo's Premium service, which runs 6.99 dollars per month, bumps up your storage capacity to 100 GB.
Dropbox (http://www.getdropbox.com), like Humyo, believes that you'll never use an online storage service if it doesn't fit in seamlessly with the way you compute currently. So it too provides a service that looks like a folder within your file manager. But Dropbox goes a step farther, making synchronisation of your files across multiple machines a part of the plan. Essentially, once you install Dropbox on your computers and tell it which files to keep track of or to back up, all of the computers that are linked to your dropbox are kept up-to-date with the latest versions of your files.
It's a compellingly complete solution to a problem that today's mobile users with multiple computers often confront.
Dropbox's free service provides 2 GB of storage space, while the Pro version costs 9.99 per month and gives you 50 GB of storage.
--- The future
Online storage is the future, and you can bet that plenty of big names will be muscling into the market. Microsoft already offers 25 GB free through its Live SkyDrive product. Symantec, too, recently confirmed that it will soon launch its own Web-based storage solution. The company currently provides 2 GB of free online storage space to customers of its Norton 360 product, but the new service will be offered a la carte to all.
Google, for its part, has long been rumoured to be readying its own online storage solution, reportedly to be dubbed GDrive. While no details regarding the amount of space or the cost are official, speculation is that the offering could be a game changer, given the way Google's other online products - most notably GMail - have come to define their market niches.
But you don't need to wait for Symantec, Google, or anyone else to start enjoying the benefits - and security - that come from using online storage. If your Internet connection is reasonably fast and your data means something to you, your excuses for not having online storage have all but run out.