The Cloud and Local Storage
Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari - PVNN
April 11, 2011
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A number of articles have been presented by myself and other writers about "The Cloud". That's all well and fine but I have had some questions. Basically "how" to use "the Cloud".

To begin with, the cloud consists of two components, apps and storage. What are the apps? Take for example Google: you have an account with Google (gmail) and you can open directly any document in other formats like Microsoft Office or Open Office without downloading it to your computer. You can use Google voice and talk with somebody else… literally anywhere else. The Google voice app needs a component in your browser to activate your mike and speakers. But the core of the app is in the cloud. Likewise with Skype. Search engines like Yahoo! Bing and Google and others, you submit a request and the search is made through a core app in servers and you simply get the result on your screen. Your computer did nothing.

Storage seems to be the main question for most people. So, using the very same language, let's take a look at some of the storage "out there".

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage services, in part because of its simplicity. The free account comes with 2 GB of storage, and you can use it to automatically sync across Windows, Mac and Linux computers whenever you upload new files to it. There are also apps for iPhone/iPad, Android and Blackberry mobile devices. Installation is drop-dead easy. A folder is created on your desktop and you simply drag and drop files into it. Then you can access those files from anywhere. You can even share files with other people. SSL encryption is used to protect your data in transit, and it's then encrypted with AES 256 on the Dropbox servers If you need more storage space, you can pay $10/month for 50 GB or $20/month for 100 GB.

Box.net is another cloud storage service that's popular with many users. It gives you 5 GB of free storage, with a file size limit of up to 25 MB. 25 GB will cost you $10/month and 50 GB costs $20/month - half the amount of storage for the same prices as Dropbox. However, it has a nice feature set that includes some advanced collaboration tools such as commenting and discussion, and the ability to assign tasks. There's also a good content search engine. You can create direct links and turn any of your Box.net folders into a web page with one click. It also supports mobile access from the iPad/iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. If you have a Windows phone, you'll have to access your storage from the mobile web browser.

Microsoft's Windows Live Skydrive is another online storage option. It gives you much more free storage than the others: 25 GB. Unfortunately, if you need more than that, you're out of luck as there is no premium account option. As with Dropbox and Box.net, you can specify who else has permission to access your files. As you might expect, it integrates with Windows Live Mail and with the web version of Office. Pictures taken on a Windows Phone 7 device are automatically backed up to SkyDrive and you can also back up other phone data such as your contacts, Windows Live calendar and OneNote files. Individual files are limited to 50 MB each, which still doesn't work so well with big video files. You can sync files across Windows and Mac computers.

You can drag and drop files into your SkyDrive folders on Internet Explorer there is a program called Gladinet Cloud Desktop that will turn your SkyDrive storage into a virtual drive in Windows Explorer (it also does the same for Google Docs and other cloud storage services).

As far as I can tell, there is not a SkyDrive app, per se, for the iPhone, but there is a OneNote app for iPhone with which you can access OneNote notebooks stored in SkyDrive. If you know of something else for accessing SkyDrive from iOS, let me know. There is a beta SkyDrive client for Android, called Sorami- skydrive.

Google Docs provides only 1 GB of free storage, although docs that you create in Google Docs don't count against that limit. The size limits on files depend on the type of file and on whether you convert them to Google formats.

Google Docs does offer the ability for multiple users to edit documents simultaneously and see the changes made by the others almost in real time. You can also create web-based forms and you can edit documents from the iPhone and Android 2.2 (Froyo). With other mobile operating systems, you can edit spreadsheets, or use the mobile web browser to edit documents.

If you need to store a few very large files, Amazon's Cloud Drive might be worth checking out. You get 5 GB of storage free but the file sizes can be up to 2 GB. And even better, if you buy an MP3 CD from Amazon (after you set up your Cloud Drive account), your free storage allocation goes up to 20 GB. You can play music files from within the browser, too. Big drawback: You can't synchronize your cloud files with those on your desktop or mobile device, as you can with Dropbox, Box.net, SkyDrive and Google, and there are no collaboration features.

There is Mobileme which is an Apple product in which you can have your "basics" synched with your iPhone: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, iDisk and a "Find my iPhone" app if you have an iPhone. It costs $10/year and for what I know, you can drop any appointment, contact photo in any of your email accounts and it gets synched to all your email accounts, contacts and calendars. So if you get an invite in a hotmail account your gmail and Yahoo!! accounts get updated and also your mobileme account which could be considered the "master" account. You only need to sing on with Apple. Sorry I cannot give very precise description as I have only had it for a couple of days but you are welcome to check at the master site.

There are definitely advantages to cloud storage. The ability to access your data from different locations, without making multiple copies, is the most obvious. Cloud storage providers also back up the data regularly - unlike many individual users who are always forgetting to do backups.

That sounds really great - well, except for a few great big "what ifs." What if your Internet connection goes down? If your files are stored locally, you can still access them - work on a Word document or a spreadsheet, view a PDF file, play a game, look at your pictures, play your video - without being connected. If they're all in the cloud, you're out of luck. What if your Internet connection is alive but it's as slow as molasses? We've all experienced that, especially when traveling, and if our data must be accessed over the 'Net, it could be a frustrating experience. What if the cloud provider's server goes down or gets hacked or loses your data or its authentication system messes up and won't let you log on or ... There are too many possibilities of problems on the other end for many of us to be completely comfortable with cloud-only storage.

Now which "product appeals to you"? Instead of getting into details I have given the description of some (I definitely cannot claim that these are all the options: no European product is included and certainly Asian possibilities are also available).

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Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari is a former electoral officer of the United Nations Organization. Contact him at gui.voting(at)gmail.com.

Tomado de: http://pvnn.com/technology/11apr2011/the-cloud-and-local-storage.htm

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