Sunday, May 15, 2011
Traditionally, storage and backup of digital data has been limited to physical devices such as hard drives, CD-ROMs, Blu-Ray discs and flash drives. While these devices have been used for years, they are all prone to failure, loss and theft. When the devices fail or are lost/stolen, the digital data is lost forever. In the last few years, a new way of managing digital data called "cloud computing" has emerged.
Cloud computing is a term which is used to describe the storage, retrieval and backup of digital data online. If current trends continue, cloud computing appears to be the future digital data management. There are currently several companies offering online cloud computing services, but this review will focus only on Dropbox.
I became interested in cloud computing earlier this year when I purchased the iPad 2. I quickly discovered the easiest way to transfer files to the iPad 2 was through the cloud. By using the cloud for file transfer, the need for being tethered to the home computer was removed. While researching different cloud computing sites, I found Dropbox and have been quite happy with the service.
Dropbox works by storing files online in the cloud. These files can then be downloaded/synchronized to different devices, including, other computers, portable tablets (iPad/Xoom/Playbook/Galaxy Tab) and mobile phones (iPhone/Blackberry/Droid). Users simply set up a Dropbox account on the website and then start uploading digital content to the cloud. On the home computer this is done by moving files to the Dropbox folder which automatically uploads the files to the cloud. On the iPad/iPhone the Dropbox app is used to upload files. Once a file is in the cloud, the user can download/synchronize the file to any device. Sounds very simple and it is.
From a photography perspective, Dropbox is likely to be most useful for the backup of digital images. All photographers should have a backup plan for their digital images and the cloud offers another possible solution.
Currently I have two main uses for Dropbox. 1)As a means to transfer files to the iPad 2. This includes anything from Word documents to PDF ebooks. 2) As a backup storage for my master digital image files.
Everyone always asks if sites like Dropbox are safe for storing digital data. In my opinion, Dropbox is safe to use, since data security appears to be very important to the Dropbox team. It's really no different than trusting your email service (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) to send your important files. The only issue I see with using Dropbox is that if the cloud goes down, you will not be able to retrieve any digital files until it is back online. This is why I currently recommend Dropbox as a backup of the files that are already on your computer, iPad or iPhone. In the future, if services like Dropbox have proven themselves to be reliable, the cloud may turn into the primary storage site for digital data.
If you are interested in signing up for Dropbox, please click here to use my referral link. By using this link you will get an extra 250 megabytes of storage space and I will receive 250 megabytes as well. If you end up using Dropbox, I hope you enjoy the experience, and welcome to the cloud!
Dropbox has three different account types.
1. "Basic" Free account with 2 gigabytes of storage space. Dropbox also gives you 250 megabytes of storage for each friend you refer to the site, up to a maximum of 8 gigabytes.
2. "Pro 50" 50 gigabyte account for $99.99/year
3. "Pro 100" 100 gigabyte account for $199.99/year