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Future is now with online data storage


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POSTED: Monday, March 09, 2009

With all the talk of Web 2.0 and cloud computing, many folks expect highly sophisticated services to become available in the future.

Some very simple and straightforward functions are, however, available today.

One of the most useful and popular services is online data storage.

The premise is simple: Providers make available disk space for folks to access over the Internet.

You can store your files on these disks, usually via a simple and straightforward interface.

The more sophisticated products are made to operate and look like your own hard drive.

Such a function is extremely useful to folks who travel a lot and don't necessarily need want to lug their laptops around.

Just knowing you have access to your files, even if you have to use the hotel's business center or a Kinko's, provides a sense of comfort.

This is also handy for part-time telecommuters who don't want to or can't access the office network from a home PC

Most commonly, people use online storage for backup purposes.

Costs for these types of services range from free to a few dollars per month. For the “;free is good”; crowd, consider Microsoft's Windows Live Skydrive (skydrive.live.com). Folders can easily be created and files uploaded and even shared.

The most compelling aspect, however, is that SkyDrive offers 25 gigabytes of storage (although individual files are limited to 50 megabytes in size). That's a lot of data!

A handful of competitors provide similar or even greater amounts of storage, but, of course, none have the cachet of Microsoft. Alternatively, Road Runner's Safe Storage package (safestorage.rr.com) allows only 500 megabytes of storage for free, but provides the ability for easy backup and restoral of data.

Free to Road Runner subscribers, additional storage can be purchased for a nominal charge.

Taking this function one step further is Microsoft's Windows Live Sync (sync.live.com).

Also free, this function is useful for folks who regularly use more than one PC and want to keep data on all of them synchronized. Internet-connected PCs automatically sync through this service.

In addition, connection between computers is allowed to facilitate inspecting contents and downloading files.

Beware that corporate firewalls can get in the way of this function.

Note that Live Sync does not actually store any data; it simply acts as a channel between computers. As such, there is no limit on the amount of data to be synchronized.

Of course, the biggest concern with these types of functions is security. No matter how strongly worded the license agreements may be, there really is no remedy for your data being exposed, no matter who's at fault.

At least for now, people need to be very careful about what kind of data is entrusted to an online storage vendor.