Question of the Week
My hard disk crashed. Help! Is there any way to get my photos back?
- R. Chhetri, Thimphu
Answer (Part 2 of 2)
In the last column, I wrote about backing up your files to an external hard drive, and promised to discuss another option. Thanks to broadband Internet, there's now the attractive alternative of storing your files online. This is also known also as storing the files in "the cloud", a phrase that originated from cloud computing. The idea of cloud computing is that you buy a computing and data storage service from a provider and then access it using the Internet, instead of the hassle of buying and maintaining your own hardware and software. This is similar to buying electricity from BPC, which is much simpler than running your own diesel generator.
Many of us are already taking advantage of "cloud computing" without even knowing it. For example, if you use web-based email, such as Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, or Hotmail, then you are already using "cloud computing". Your email messages are in "the cloud". You don't know (and don't care) where the data is physically stored, but you can rest assured that after signing into your email account, your messages will be magically waiting for you.
Like web-based mail, quite a few services now offer free online file storage. Storing your important files online is an excellent way to back them up. Even if your hard disk crashes or your laptop is stolen, your files are still in up there in "the cloud" (and being here in the Himalayas, the clouds are never too far!). To use these services, you must first create an account, sign in, and then follow the instructions which will explain how to upload your files. You can then access your files from any web browser. Many of these services offer various additional features, such as the ability to share photos with friends.
Note: If you use a broadband connection at home, remember that uploading 1GB-worth of data (1024MB, or about 250 songs) will cost you around Nu 160.
Here's a list of recommended services, sorted by alphabetical order:
Amazon Cloud Drive (www.amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore) The newest of the bunch offers 5GB of free storage. A nifty feature is the Amazon Cloud Player which plays mp3 songs that you saved on the Cloud Drive.
DropBox (www.dropbox.com) Simple to use but requires software installation. After installing the DropBox application, a special folder is added to your computer. To store your files online, you simply drag-n-drop them to the folder. The first 2GB are free.
Google Docs (docs.google.com) and Picasa Web Albums (picasaweb.google.com) These two very popular services from Google are convenient for storing files and photos, respectively. Each offers 1GB of storage, are packed with various features and definitely worth a try, especially if you already have a Google account.
SkyDrive (skydrive.live.com) Microsoft's entry offers a huge 25GB of free online file storage. You can use the SkyDrive to share photos and even edit Microsoft Office documents online (see www.officelive.com).
Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org