In the last year or so, the concept of storing large volumes of personal data online has begun to take hold among mainstream computer users. Online data storage has become abundant and cheap just as consumers have migrated to high speed data connections. While most people are still not comfortable with managing their files online – In my opinion this has more to do with clunky access to online files than with privacy – services like Mozy and Carbonite have ‘revolutionized’ the concept of data backup. Bill Burnham, however, provides some sobering thoughts about the rush to online data storage.
I think Bill is correct that we haven’t reached the online storage ‘holy grail’ yet. Services like the two I mentioned above are really nice and easy to use, particularly for those who don’t have the patience or foresight to backup on a regular basis. In fact, I use Carbonite to maintain a backup of my primary computer. I also, however, maintain an imaged backup of that same computer on another disk drive that is connected directly to it, and not dependent on internet connection speeds. Maybe I’m paranoid, or just the victim of previous backup disasters, but I like the added security of having the two pronged approach. Anyway, I think the online backup process will continue to improve and still should be used by those who don’t have any other standard approach to maintaining a reliable (albeit slow) backup process.
Carbonite is really easy to setup, and run….set it and forget it. The downside to a service like Carbonite is that it doesn’t offer remote access to the files that it backs up. The backup is done in an inaccessible, (and I’m assuming) proprietary format that can only be accessed to restore files, not to access them for general use.
This second part is where my frustration lies with the current set of online services. I’d like to be able to access my entire file structure in a manner that doesn’t require installing some proprietary software onto the PC that I happen to be using at the time. I’ve heard rumors that Carbonite may be introducing accessibility features in an upcoming release, but right now those are just rumors.
In the long run, as my Office 2.0 migration plans shake out, I plan to build and manage all my critical files directly on the internet through applications like Google Docs, Zoho Spreadsheet, Gliffy, and the like. In the meantime, I will continue to rely on a combination of Carbonite and local backup to keep my precious files safe.