Online storage?

Subject: Online storage?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Whirlers <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2008 16:59:34 -0400

Nancy Allison wondered: <<I have two networked laptops at home... I
now have the problem that usually whatever I want to work on is on
the other computer. Also, having them both running simply to share
files between them once in a while seems like a waste of energy.
SOoooo, I am considering using an online "server" where I could store
all my file and have access to them from either laptop, and from
anywhere else, too, that has online access. This seems like possibly
a very good way to go.>>

It's great except for those times when your service provider is down
and you can't access the Internet, or when your storage provider is
down. Plus, there's the risk of getting hacked and losing the data;
if the data is confidential, make sure you choose a service with good
security (e.g., encryption and a full-time anti-hacker squad). If
you're working with large files, don't forget that the upload speed
will be slow enough to be noticeable; downloads may be fast enough
you'll never notice you're not working locally.

Summary: Online storage is great for backups (and you should have
offsite backups), but it's not so great for real-time access.

What you really want is a shared hard drive. If you're not willing to
use your second laptop for this purpose, you basically have two
options. First and easiest, if you'll really only be using one laptop
at a time, any good external drive will do; simply plug it into
whichever laptop you're using at a given time. If you think you'll
want to use both laptops simultaneously, you should investigate
what's known as "network-attached storage" (significantly pricier
than a regular hard drive -- about two to three times?). Basically,
an NAS device is a hard drive that shows up on your home network as
an independent entity, just as if you had a full-time file server,
and just like a file server, multiple computers can access it
simultaneously without causing problems. (I'm not sure whether these
devices come with file locking; if not, you'll need to figure out how
to prevent one computer from overwriting a file being used by the
other computer.)

Hard drives being fragile beasties compared with the rest of the
computer (i.e., they have moving parts), make sure to back them up
carefully. Copying the drive periodically to your laptop hard drives
is helpful, but if the roof falls in, fire elementals take a
disliking to your home office, or the crick rises, you'll lose all
your backups in a single fell swoop. So be sure to include offsite
backups in your strategy.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Online storage?: From: Nancy Allison

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