Web Storage review: the World Wide Hard Drive

Running a computer without a hard disk isn't easy, especially when it comes to file storage options. But a proliferation of new Web 2.0 options has made it a lot easier to keep your files stored and organized online without needing specialized software or a technical knowhow. Web storage options fall into basically two categories: storage centric and sharing centric. it's obvious that if you're looking for a hard drive replacement, storage centric is the way. There are a whole host of services for you to try out, here's a short list: AllMyData, Box.net, eSnips, Freepository, GoDaddy, iStorage, Mofile, Mozy, Omnidrive, Openomy, Streamload, Strongspace and Xdrive.

Now, not all of these are suitable for the purpose of a hard drive free system. For example, Xdrive's free version gives you 5GB of space, but lasts only for a month. For me, paying for storage is not something I'm ready to do at the moment. Then there is AllMyData, which brings ideas from file-sharing to web storage: you get webspace only if you give a part of your own hard drive for others to store their files on. Not only can i not use this service, but I don't think storing your data on computers that aren't dedicated to file storage is a good idea. Streamload on the other, takes the word "storage" very literally. Everyone gets a whopping 5GB of space for free, but there's a catch, your bandwidth is limited. In the free version you can only download 100MB a month. So it's good if you want to stash away your whole hard drive, but doesn't quite cut it for a hard-drive-less machine. I'm currently using a service called Openomy, which gives a free 1GB of storage and uses a simple tag system to organize your files.

The leader of the pack, in my opinion and for my needs is Omnidrive. It gives you 2GB of space, with no bandwidth or file size restrictions and has an open API, allowing you to integrate it into your applications. But what takes the cake is a technology which allows you to open, edit and save back a file to their system, without actually downloading it onto your hard drive. This is a great feature to have if you've lost your hard disk. I haven't tried it out yet, because it's still in private beta, but one of their support staff got back to me after i asked for an invitation and told me that i'll get an invite in a few days. I'll check it out then and i sure hope it lives up to expectation.

There is one more storage option that deserves mention: Gmail. For many people Gmail's huge 2.5GB inbox is far too much for just simple email. There are a number of tools out there that allow you to use your Gmail account to store files. However I wouldn't recommend this unless you're desperate or just can't help experimenting. It's not that I doubt the quality of the tools, but rather that Google has been known to make random changes to it's code internally and one of those changes might break the tools you're using, And why go to all that trouble when there are far simpler and more reliable options out there? But if you are interested in Google's file system, then go take a look at this article. Hope this has been informative, and if know about anything that can aid my quest for hard-drive free computing, do leave a comment.

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Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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