If you store your work to a USB thumb-drive, you’ve probably felt the stomach-churning sensation induced by the the realization that you’ve somehow lost or destroyed it. I’ve certainly felt that way when I watched my USB drive get smashed in a car door. (Coincidentally I’ve stopped attaching the cursed things to my keychain). Even if you haven’t faced similar undoings at the pernicious hands (or is it thumbs?) of USB drives, it’s time for us to reevaluate their utility. Because you have to take them everywhere, they can easily get lost, stolen, or destroyed, so it’s just a matter of time before something happens to your data. If you can count yourself among the lucky two-thirds of the American population who has access to broadband internet, I suggest you consider abandoning these devices in favor of moving your work to a secure location online.
There are a lot of benefits to storing your work online. First of all, your data is backed up remotely, so whether your laptop’s hard drive or your home burns up in flames, your work will remain safe. Second, you’ll be able to access your files from just about anywhere. And third, many online storage companies allow you to sync your files between multiple computers, which can make collaboration much easier.
A ton of online storage options have sprouted up in the past couple of years. You’ll want to choose wisely, as you could lose your data if the company’s datacenters are not redundant or if the company goes bankrupt. That being said, two big players have made forays into this emerging market: Microsoft and Amazon.
Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive offers 25 GB of free storage space, the most free space offered by the three I’ll be taking a look at. If you’re already using Hotmail or if you really just need a simple place to store a lot of data–for free–this may be a good option. On the other hand, if you’re a music buff and you have an Android-based phone, Amazon’s Cloud Drive features only 5 GB free data and the ability to listen to your MP3’s via Amazon’s Cloud Player. If you buy an album from Amazon’s MP3 store, you’ll receive 20 GB free for a year. Not bad for the non-Apple iOS crowd.
Last but certainly not least, internet newcomer Dropbox has gained a strong following, especially for it’s syncing capabilities, which allows you to sync files between multiple computers and even other users. Free membership limits you to 2 GB of storage space, but you can expand that amount for free, up to 8 GB, by convincing other people to join. The file syncing capability is helpful for collaboration across teams who use different devices, including PC, Mac, Linux and web-enabled smartphones.
For me, the ability to sync files between my laptop and desktop, along with the ability to collaborate with other people using the same files, makes Dropbox my go-to online storage service. Because it syncs my computer between the Cloud (its servers and other computers/users), I also have a local copy of the data, which is great.
What web storage service, if any, do you use and why?