Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is there any way to get my photos back? (K2 #13)

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 boaz@thimphutech.com

6 comments:

  1. It's been a while since I've left Bhutan, but is cloud backup feasible Bhutan?

    Cost issues aside, based on realistic upload speeds for the average household and the general reliability of internet connectivity, is this practical?

    I read your previous post on broadband speeds and I'm curious if you have tried these cloud storage services from Bhutan.

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  2. It's definitely feasible. I'm using Mozy to backup my disk. An initial backup might take a few days or even weeks, but that's true also outside Bhutan.

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  3. Great information and was worth reading.
    I think such facilities should be made known to every individuals. It is really hard when your hard dive crashes and you lose everything.
    Thank you for posting this information.
    Great! you even calculated the cost of uploading 1 GB of data using Broad band connection in Bhutan.
    Did you say that, "Cloud computing" would even allow me access to my documents from any places around the world, provided i have internet access?

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  4. Thanks for the information. Things must have improved significantly since I left. I do have an alternative backup recommendation for your readers/audience.

    CrashPlan (http://www.crashplan.com) is a cloud backup service very similar to Mozy. The CrashPlan client (free to install) allows you to backup to the cloud (just like Mozy), but it also offers 2 other very useful options.

    1. You can choose to backup your local computer data to a portable drive. It is just like rsync, but with a friendly UI for configuration/management. The backup is transparent once configured; the process will start automatically once you plug in the designated portable drive. You can even setup to backup a portable drive on to another portable drive.

    2. You can choose to backup your local content to a friend's/work/secondary computer. This should be particularly useful in Bhutan where international bandwidth is constrained compared to the in-country pipe. Again, similar to option 1, both local and portable drive data can be backed up this way. This gives you the security of offsite backup in addition to faster speeds, all without having to pay for a cloud storage subscription.

    The CrashPlan client is available for the major operating systems (Win, Mac OS, Linux and even Solaris!). You can disable the trial cloud backup option and just use one/both of the options I listed above without paying a cent. I hope this is useful for your readers in Bhutan.

    Cheers!
    - anonymuse

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  5. @Sangay: Indeed, one of the benefits of "cloud computing" is the ability to access your information from any Internet-connected computer, in much the same way you can access your online email from any computer.

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  6. @Anonymuse: I wasn't aware of CrashPlan.com. It seems like a great alternative to online backup when an Internet connection is nonexistent, flaky or expensive. Thanks a lot!

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