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Old 05-28-2007, 01:32 PM   #1
iamback's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
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Lightbulb Online storage (1.1) - appels, pears, tomatoes and fish

What? Fish are no fruit! But files disappearing from online servers - is that online storage? Well, in a way...

So, let's see what we have. A lot of services, and a great deal of variation. So, before giving an overview and comparison of a number of such services (in part 2) in this post I'll give a short overview of types of services, and something to read while you wait for part 2.


There's great variety, and several providers offer a combination. But before you give your money (or your files) to any one provider, it's good to know what kind of services there are, and ponder how they match with what you actually need.

This is the most basic form: just put your files on a remote server that the provider makes available. You can copy or move your files between your own computer(s) and the online server. Yes, move: you do not necessarily keep the files locally - in which case, of course, it's good to know what kind of measures the provider is taking to keep your files safe. Check the FAQ, and the terms of usage - some are crystal clear, some are fuzzy (so send them an email and ask if the service otherwise looks interesting!). In general, your files stay in exactly the same format as they are on your local computer (though the provider may - transparently - apply some compression which in theory gives you more space; while compression works well for text, it hardly does anything at all for media files which generally are already pretty well compressed.)

While storage has the emphasis on files, mirroring reproduces a whole directory structure, including all (selected) files. It's like a backup, only - as with storage - the files normally stay in their original form, and take up just as much space. But the online version (the mirror) is kept exactly the same as on your local computer(s); if anything happens locally though, you can restore from there. It's also a way to share a whole structure between different individuals or offices (see also sharing) so data on a number of computers can be kept in sync (more or less). Often one account is for the storage but can be used from any number of machines.

This works exactly like a backup program that works locally: you can have full or incremental backups, and the backups are compressed and (usually) encrypted. Services like this generally provide a dedicated client program that will run on the computer that is being backed up. Another case where you need to pay attention to details: if you want to use a new computer you may be able to "transfer" the account (and client) to the new machine, but it's possible the backup will be wiped out unless you do a full restore... In general, you need one account per machine.

Here, the purpose of putting files (or a file) online is so others can retrieve it. That's handy for passing large files to your friends without attaching them to email (and you need to upload only once). With some services you can also share whole "folders" of files between a group so you can cooperate on (or with) those files. Services like these range from permanent storage where you control who else may access them (read, or download) to services where you do nothing but upload a file, get a key for it, and then give the key to someone else who can download it with that key: once downloaded, or after a fixed time, the file is deleted again (hey, that's our fish!). The latter type of service can be quite barebones (and free), but don't expect anything in the way of remote backups, compression or encryption: that's all up to you.

Hosting is a more advanced form of sharing: it makes the files you stored retrievable via HTTP (the web), so you can for instance play music or videos, build albums, or embed images in your blog without storing them with that blog.

to be continued in the reply...

Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
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