Opinion: Online storage, whats the advantage?

StorageI have been reading a bit the last few days about the many companies which are offering online storage solutions to individuals. Many of them are offering unlimited storage space on the Internet for free. Though it is very generous of the companies to offer this, I can’t comprehend how any individual could greatly benefit from such a service. Am I missing something? I would love to make use of these services if it could offer me something that I don’t currently have.

My home computer setup lets me have access to ALL of my files, from anywhere with an Internet connection, all using basic Windows/MAC/Linux features.

  • I can use Remote Desktop to open or edit any files I have on my home computer, on whichever computer I am using.
  • I have mapped network drives so that I can access and download any files I need locally.
  • I have an FTP server setup which I never use, because using the mapped network drive is quicker and easier.

This was very easy to setup and can be done in less than an hour. It is always available to me because my home computer is always on. I have a decent Internet connection at home, so the speed is fairly fast.

The only advantage I have seen to online storage at this stage is that I will be able to turn my computer off and still access my files if I am out and about. What could an online storage solution give me that I don’t already have? 

Read on for more rambling…

Some companies may block ports so that you cannot use Remote Desktop or share your folders between computers outside of the companies network. Most companies will leave these ports open though as they are crucial to business.

Your company may require that you to turn off your machine overnight which will make it a little harder for you to set this up there. Have a chat with your IT centre and see if they will allow you to have a network share on one of their servers. There will likely be a positive response if you can prove your business case.  

Which files should I upload?

I can access all of my files and I am not restricted to the files I placed up on the online storage site as my documents folder is shared and password protected. When I am on the road, I don’t know which files I will need to access, so I don’t know which files I would need to store online. Depending on where I am, on a work trip I may need documents, but on a family outing, I am more likely going to want photos and music. I think these companies which offer unlimited storage would really balk at anything over 100GB, and I would not be able to spare the bandwidth to get it up there in the first place.

How secure are these services?

The next issue I have is with the security of these sites. If my files are on a hard drive somewhere in cyberspace, what is stopping staff from taking a peak. It has been widely reported online recently that computer technicians often take a peak at more than they need to.

Hackers would probably find it easier to break into my system at home to view files, but why would they bother? They are much more likely to want to break into a large online storage service which will give them access to all sorts of interesting files. Hackers are much more of a threat to online storage companies that they would be to my home network.

If it’s free, who pays for it?

Where do the sites get the money from to offer such a service? The connection to and from these sites must cost a huge amount of money, not to mention the storage hardware itself. I don’t think it is likely that advertising alone would cover the costs. Even if the sites do have a lot of advertising, I can’t see many of the visitors wanting to click on the ads. They are much more likely to get their files and get out of there. I hate to suggest it, but I would be paranoid that they were somehow profiteering off my data in some way or another. While this is very unlikely, I just don’t understand how it can be offered free.

Convince me why it is good?

If you use online storage, could you please let me know what advantages you see in using it?  For the non technical approach, USB keys are very cheap and store gigabytes of data. I would have thought that this would be enough storage space for most people. With over 100 online storage providers, I must have missed the point!

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