When it comes to the adoption of new products and services there is always a tipping point, sometimes it is not obvious what or when that is, but with online storage we have certainly hit the point of no return. There are now more than 30 different providers of online storage, all offering similar services but all with their own twist on beating off the competition.
So what is this new thing about? How do we chose the right one for us? And should we even be trusting these companies with our data?
AN ONLINE HARD DRIVE
If you are new to online storage, there are only a few things you need to know. The simple way to describe online storage (or cloud storage) is to imagine it is a hard drive, but connected to the internet. We are all used to using internet site for services, be it Amazon for shopping, Gmail for email, iTunes or Spotify for music etc. Well online storage is the equivalent for storing your personal files. Any file can be stored online, be that photos, music, documents, anything that can be stored on your computer can be stored in the cloud.
Times are a changing and we need to adopt a more holistic approach to storage. Sharing, security, access, portability are all things we should be looking at when it comes to file storage.
How we define files is something we should take a moment to look at. As a consultant my files are essential to me to carry out my day to day work. But almost more important are my personal files. My music (not the stuff i buy, but the stuff I make) is irreplaceable, I record podcasts, create websites with images I slave over, articles I write and all the cool photos and videos I take. All this makes up my digital life. To me, just as important as some of my physical possessions.
So here is point 1 in our exploration. Online storage service should be able to :
- Backup your files
at a minimum. Obviously each service will add functions to set them apart from the competition, but this is the baseline that we should expect.
Having a backup of your important data is essential to every computer user. Never underestimate the fact that your computer will go wrong at some point. hard drives fail, computers get stolen, floods, fires are insured against, but our data is unique and important to us and cannot be replaced if lost. I have lost a few files in my times, some more inconvenient than others, but I have learnt the hard way. But you don’t have to.
If for no other reason, install a cloud storage solution and backup your data. Do it today, don’t put it off, as the day before you plan to do it, murphy’s law states that is the day that disaster will find you.
So we have that straight? Lecture over, lets move on to more fun stuff. History!
In the bad old days, computer storage used to be very expensive. If you know what a floppy disk is, then you know what a pain it used to be. A maximum capacity of 1.44 MB. That seems quite insane now. An average mp3 is over 3mb. The increase in capacity and the decrease in cost is one of the fundamental tipping points for the majority of technologic advances we have seen over the last decade. New larger capacity storage devices were introduced, like the Zip Drive, which was more similar to a cassette tape than a disk, but these were still expensive and untested in the market so never really caught on with consumers. Now along comes the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM was developed in a joint partnership between Philips and Sony in 1985. Designed to store any type of files, but mainly designed to store music. They were generally branded in minutes, but that also translated to file sizes. i.e. 74minutes = 650mb. A true revolution compared to the 1.44mb of the floppy disk. Not only did CR-ROMs allow companies to sell more data/music, but it also created a new DIY scene thanks to CD-ROM writers. You could copy 650 mb of data onto one CD-ROM. That was massive and changed many things in the world of storage.
Since then, things moved on pretty rapidly. Hard drives came down in cost. Increased in speed and were generally more reliable. But bear in mind that (most) hard drives are mechanical. A magnetic disc spinning round at around 7,200 rpm with a moving head that physically seeks out the data that has been requested. These wear out, can get damaged or are just faulty.
A number of technologies were devised to combat the risk of lost or corrupted data. A common approach in industry is something called RAID (redundant array of independent disks). RAID basically take multiple disks and creates one logical unit. There are various levels of RIAD depending on what is more important, performance or redundancy. See for the Wikipedia article for more detail on RAID.
This article is currently a work in progress…I promise to have more for you soon which will cover:
- Storage space
- File/Document Reader
- Share your files
- Access your files from the internet
- Add and view files from your smartphone