Choosing a Remote File Access Service
The Web is full of one-stop solutions where you can drop your files and let someone else sweat the details, with more coming online all the time. Here are a few of the standouts.
Dropbox is a straightforward service with a long track record. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and offers apps that tie into iPhones, iPads, Androids, BlackBerrys and Kindle Fires. Customers begin with 2 gigabytes of storage and can accrue more via customer referrals or purchase up to 500 GB by going pro. A business variant with version control and some team management and collaboration options starts at 1,000 GB (no expansion limit) [sources: Dropbox; Meece].
iCloud offers the inevitable "one nation under Apple" solution for the company's core customers, but PCs running Windows Vista or later can get in on the action too. If your Apple device is fairly new (and if not, what's the matter with you?), then a wizard is probably walking you through the process even as you try to read this article. In addition to providing access to content on all of your devices (particularly iTunes and App Store purchases), iCloud keeps track of where you left off in your iBook or Safari browsing, and can even lock down and help track a stolen device. Users begin with a free 5 GB, but can purchase more space (up to 50 GB as of October 2011). Music, TV shows, apps and books bought through the Apple Store do not count against this limit, but storing non-iTunes music costs extra [sources: Apple; Meece].
Google Drive aims to set users free from any platform entanglements while simultaneously drawing you -- and your data -- deeper into the Googleverse. It works on Windows (Vista or later), Macs (Snow Leopard (10.6) or later) and Android devices (Eclair (2.1) or later), as well as iPhone and iPad (iOS 3.0+) and offers 15 GB free with pay plans expandable to 16 terabytes (that's right – we said terabytes). Like Microsoft's Skydrive (below), Google Drive allows users to create spreadsheets, docs and presentations online, and supports file sharing and collaboration with 30-days' worth of revision tracking. What really sets it apart, though, is access to Google's powerful search capabilities [sources: Google; Meece].
Microsoft SkyDrive leverages its strongest assets as well: namely, the ability to collaborate, with version control, on Word docs, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations without converting them to an open source or other file format. The service also grants you access to remote computers running Windows, so you can grab photos or stream video from your home computer to your device. Microsoft starts you off with 7 GB free, with options to upgrade to 200 GB [sources: Meece; Microsoft].
Those are just a few of the many options available to you. Take your time and search out the solution that fits your particular needs.
Author's Note: How Remote File Access Works
In light of recent revelations of NSA snooping and rubber-stamp FISA courts, to say nothing of third-party data gathering, I'm very curious to see how these remote data access and cloud servers will play out -- particularly once the RIAA gets involved.
- Apple. "Apple to Launch iCloud on October 12." Press release. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/10/04Apple-to-Launch-iCloud-on-October-12.html
- Apple. "iCloud." (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.apple.com/icloud/
- CBS News. "Will Google Own Your Files if You Use Google Drive?" April 26, 2012. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-57421836-501465/will-google-own-your-files-if-you-use-google-drive/
- Dropbox. "Dropbox."(Oct. 21, 2013) https://www.dropbox.com/
- Google. "Google Drive." (Oct. 21, 2013) https://drive.google.com/
- Johnston, Casey. "Google Drive Files Can End Up in Ads, Even Though You Still Own Them." Ars Technica. April 25, 2012. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/04/your-google-drive-files-now-in-googles-promo-materials/
- Malave, Ted. "Alleged iPad Thief Takes 'Selfies,' Owner Downloads Pictures through Remote Access." WPTV, Scripps TV Station Group. Sept. 29, 2013. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://kfor.com/2013/09/29/alleged-ipad-thief-takes-selfies-owner-downloads-pictures-through-remote-access/
- Meece, Mickey. "A User's Guide to Finding Storage Space in the Cloud." The New York Times. May 16, 2012. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/technology/personaltech/a-computer-users-guide-to-cloud-storage.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- Meredith, Leslie. "Google Drive Policy About Owning Your Data No Worse Than Rivals." TechNewsDaily. April 25, 2012. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/google-drive-policy-about-owning-your-data-no-worse-rivals-735239
- Microsoft Corp. "SkyDrive." (Oct. 21, 2013) https://skydrive.live.com/
- Stone, Brad. "Amazon Erases Orwell Books from Kindle Devices." The New York Times. July 17, 2009. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html
- Thomas, Keir. "How Digital Rights Management Could Ensure Cloud Security." PC World. Feb. 3, 2011. (Oct. 21, 2013) http://www.pcworld.com/article/218620/is_drm_the_answer_to_cloud_security.html