Saturday, 5 September 2009

Storing your files on the www

I know that most people are rather sceptical about the idea of putting their documents on the www, but if you think about it, the www is far less likely to disappear than your hard disk and nowadays you can store a lot of data on sites such as Box or Dropbox for free.

Why bother?

Well, as I've already said, the www is not going to go phut or disappear - you may back up your files on an external disk or USB stick, but external disks cost money whereas these sites don't - well, if you keep the size of the files stored there to between 1 and 50GB (ADrive will let you store and share up to 50GB for free).

If you have a PC and laptop or files that are stored on more than one beast being able to update and sync files can be really useful. Ditto if you work together with other people and need to collaberate on the documents you are putting together. If A updates the document, B automatically sees the latest version without A having to email it to B.

I've just co-authored a book for Longman and whilst we were writing it I uploaded my materials to the Box. Everything was in one place, my co-author could see what I'd written and the editor could access the latest version of the manuscript as well as earlier versions.

I lost about three units and a couple of weeks' work when my hard disk died when I was writing another book, so it was reassuring to know that everything was stored on my PC and the www this time round.

I dare say someone could crack the passwords and get at those materials, but then I dare say someone could also hack my PC if they wanted to, but I don't think the data they'd find there would be worth the time or effort.


Anne Hodgson said...

This sounds very interesting. Which of the two did you end up using?

Anne Hodgson said...

Hi John,
Thinking over the whole concept of "cloud computing", viz storing all applications and files on the internet, it does seem that we would be giving up control. It's OK for work in progress, as in your case, but I think having data in storage someplace that you have access to continues to be vital. Just have a look at what Richard Stallman says:
""One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control," he said. "It's just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."

Anonymous said...

I ended up using Dropbox because it gives me control over who can view or edit my files - and which files they cannot view or edit.

Storing and sharing files on the www is not quite the same thing as using 'web applications to do your computing', although, to be honest, I don't really follow the Guardian reporter's argument.

I have all the files I want to share on my PC... and in/on a Dropbox server.

If Dropbox thinks I'm putty in their hands, I just hope they can make more money out of the materials that I've stored on their site than I can.

Suing them for plagiarism if they did distribute those materials, would be relatively easy.