Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cloud storage for personal files made safe

Utilise various services: As different Cloud services are suited to different types of files, it makes sense to spread your files out over several different Cloud storage providers. — Illustrations: MUHAMMAD HAFEEZ AMINUDDIN/The Star

Find the best space for your personal files on the Cloud.

In the movie Creed, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character looks baffled when a young boxer snaps a picture of a handwritten exercise regime with his smartphone instead of just keeping the paper.

Balboa gets even more confused and looks skywards when the young boxer tells him it’s stored on the Cloud so that the information won’t be lost even if he loses his handphone.

It’s hard to deny the rising importance of Cloud computing in our daily lives, as most of the content, services, apps, and even enterprise systems today reside on the Cloud.

Most of us are probably aware of or have used services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.

These services, also known as public Cloud, requires little effort from you other than having to sign up for them.

Most are free and offer up to 15GB of space – if that’s not enough you can subscribe for a nominal sum to bump up storage space.

As these services are mostly operated by tech giants, you don’t have to worry about any of the technical stuff, but on the flipside, you don’t have much control over it.

If you wish to create your own Cloud, it’s now easier than ever as the price of devices and components ­needed to set up such a service have fallen a lot.

Also known as private Cloud, it allows you to keep your files within your own servers and manage them as you see fit.

It takes a bit of investment and know how – our accompanying story will help you decide if you should go for public or private Cloud.

Here we will explore the best public Cloud services so that you can pick one (or two or three) that meets your needs best.

Free and easy

Almost all the public Cloud offerings have a free option – they differ mostly in the size or additional services offered.

Our pick for the best free Cloud service is Google Drive, as you get 15GB without having to spend a single sen.

More importantly, Google has tied Drive to its online services such as Gmail, Photos and Keep, as well as ­productivity tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides.

So all your photos and documents will be synced automatically and will be available from one place.

If 15GB option is too limiting then you can opt to subscribe. For US$1.99 (RM8) a month, you get 100GB of ­additional space.

If you just want sheer volume then try out Mega which offers a whopping 50GB of space for free.

It doesn’t set a limit on file size like most of the other services, but we found the data transfer speed to be a bit slow.

Space for shutterbugs

It goes without saying digital cameras and smartphones in particular have made it easier than ever for everyone to shoot photos.

The real problem, however, is in managing your photos and finding a place to store them.

Most back them up to a desktop or laptop and while it’s better than not backing up at all, is not a good solution as all hard drives have a finite lifespan.

If you don’t have redundancy then you need to find a better solution in the Cloud and we recommend Flickr.

It gets our vote because it offers 1TB of space for free, which should meet the requirements of most users.

Photo size is capped at 200MB while video at 1GB for a single file which is reasonable.

It also has smart photo management which will automatically sort out ­images according to groups such as animals, people and buildings.

Free users will, however, see ads and will not be able to access the ­desktop app for uploading photos.

Like most services, it doesn’t support the uncompressed RAW file format which is preferred by photographers who use DSLRs.

If you like keeping your file as RAW, you will need a service like Amazon Cloud Drive which allows you to upload an unlimited number of ­photos, including RAW files.

Its Unlimited Photos plan will cost you US$11.99 (RM50) a year which is not too bad as RAW files take up a lot of space.

The unlimited offer doesn’t extend to other files, including video – for these files you are limited to only 5GB.

If you need to find space for your videos then you will have to opt for the more expensive plan called Unlimited Everything which costs US$59.99 (RM240) a year. This service, while expensive, lets you upload to your heart’s content.

Cross platform

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to own multiple devices running on different platforms.

If you have, say a MacBook Air for work, Windows PC at home and Android smartphone, you need a Cloud service that supports as many platforms as possible.

While the dominant operating systems – Windows, OS X, Android and iOS are usually supported, other operating systems such as Windows Phone and Linux are often overlooked.

Thankfully Dropbox doesn’t do that – it supports almost every platform, including the ones mentioned above. If you want an alternative, try Box, as it also works on many platforms except Linux.

By Lee Kah Leng The Star

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