Monday, February 19, 2018

Free "cloud storage" is very valuable to authors and others

If you've used a computer for more than a few months, you've probably suffered from the horror of a lost data file. A file could be something as unimportant as a list of a few phone numbers or as vital as a list of passwords, irreplaceable photographs or the manuscript of a work-in-progress ("WIP").
You know, of course, that files should be backed-up regularly. However, if you back-up a file onto the same computer as the one where the file was created, a hard drive failure can wipe out both the original and the backup copy. Solid-state storage is more reliable than hard drives--but still not perfect. Nothing is 100% reliable. Neither are people.

Over the years various devices and services have been used for backing up. My personal choices have included floppy disks, tape drives, portable hard drives, duplicate internal hard drives, thumb drives, memory cards, iPods, CDs, DVDs and probably others I've forgotten.

In recent years companies including Microsoft, Carbonite and Dropbox and have sold off-premises "cloud" storage. Prices range from under ten bucks per month to hundreds of bucks, depending on the storage capacity and optional features.

Cloud storage offers important advantages beyond mere safe storage at a reasonable price:
  • There is nothing for you to misplace (except perhaps the password).
  • You are not responsible for maintenance and repairs.
  • The cloud should be immune to fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, bugs, burglars and terrorists.
  • You can store a file at one computer and retrieve it at another one (as with a network).
  • You can allow multiple people at multiple locations to retrieve stored files ("shared access" or collaboration).
  • You can have automatic backups at time intervals you select.
OK, now that I've convinced you to use cloud storage, I'm going to tell you how to get it for free. In fact, you probably already have free cloud storage but are not using it.

When you send an email, a copy of the message remains on the server of the email provider for many months, or maybe many years, or maybe forever. If you use Google's Gmail or another free email service, the storage is FREE.

Since early January I've been working on a book about Donald Trump. I work on it from two PCs in my home: one in my basement office and one in my second-floor office. Even though the PCs are on a network, I periodically email the current version of the manuscript to myself. I can easily resume work on it anywhere I have internet access, and the latest version and earlier versions are at least 99% safe.
Whenever I access Gmail, Google tells me how much space I've used and how much is left. I've currently used 2.82 GB (18%) of 15 GB allocated to me. If I am prolific enough to approach the limit I can delete ancient emails and book files, or buy more space. One hundred gigs will cost $19.99 per year and a terabyte costs $99.99 per year. Even if not free, the price is right.

Cartoon at top from

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