NORMAN — You may recall my Feb. 10 column discussing “the cloud” and online file storage, “What’s the deal with the cloud?” and how the cloud is being used more and more to store everything we use and possess in our digital lives.
Using cloud services to store and share files has its upside; take, for example, the cloud service called Dropbox (www.dropbox.com).
Dropbox is ultra-easy to use. I like it. There are free versions which are good for most people, and paid versions that can meet most any need. I use the free version, myself. Dropbox allows you to store, share and synchronize files between a wide variety of devices, such as desktop and laptop computers, Android tablets and phones, iPhones, iPads, Kindles and Blackberry phones. Security is good, as your files are encrypted in transit and in storage, so even the people at Dropbox can’t read them.
Cloud services like Dropbox do have a downside, though: your files live on somebody else’s computer, over at cloud headquarters. If something goes wrong, those files could vanish forever. Poof, gone, kiss those babies good-bye. It’s happened before, to numerous cloud service providers. While the odds are with you that nothing bad will ever happen to your cloud-stored files, keep in mind that we live in an imperfect world. To put it nicely, stuff happens.
New products are here, though, for people who prefer to have more control over their file-sharing and synchronizing life, products which allow you to run your own cloud-like service. Two of those products are AeroFS (www.aerofs.com) and ownCloud (www.owncloud.org).
Both products are designed to give you a Dropbox-like experience, but with the responsibility and control of the experience lying with you, the end-user. Your files stay on your devices, and only on your devices, but you still have the ability to share and synchronize as you please.