I’m terrified of hard drives. Scared to death of them. They’re fragile, they’re prone to disconnecting with a knock of the USB connector, they make odd whirring noises and they’re the right size to lose with ease…
So if I can’t stand the things, why have I bought so many external hard drives in my time? Because I have back-up anxiety, that’s why. I back up my files from my laptop to a hard drive, and immediately start to worry that the hard drive will play up or vanish. So I back up my back-ups. Surely there’s an end to this merry-go-round of file preservation?
For me, online cloud storage is not so much a revelation as a chorus-of-angels-godsend. It lets you store your most important files online to the cloud, where they’ll stay snugly and safely till you need them.
It gets better. Cloud storage lets you access your files from any computer, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet. Change a file on one device, and the latest changes will show up on all the others. You can even share files and collaborate on changes with some cloud storage services.
Silver linings all round?
It’s not all fluffy white happiness with cloud computing, for sure. For one thing, there’s the expense. You can buy a 1 terabyte hard drive for £50, but the same amount of cloud storage will cost you over £300 a year with Google Drive or Dropbox.
Comparing cloud storage prices is a baffling business. Providers list their prices for inconsistent storage amounts, and some list monthly charges, others yearly; some in pounds, some in dollars. We did all the hard work of comparing prices and found huge differences between the charges for services like Dropbox and SkyDrive.
That said, you can get started with cloud storage absolutely free, as most services give you a decent free allowance of two to seven gigabytes. That’s enough for thousands of digital photos.
There’s also the privacy concern some have about trusting their files with a name like Google, whose T&Cs often leave a murky feeling around rights to use the content you upload to its services. That said, Google also stipulates that you retain ownership of anything you hold intellectual property rights to.
And even if Microsoft, Dropbox, Google and the like don’t care two hoots about my files, I certainly do. That’s why I breathe a lot more easily knowing that my most important documents are backed-up online, and not at the mercy of another failing hard drive.