Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 17:34:03 -0400
Sender: The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From: Bob Rankin
Subject: TOUBUS - 12 Oct 99 - Free Disk Space
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
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Free Greeting Cards, Polls and more fun at http://www.TOURBUS.com !
TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: FREE ONLINE DISK SPACE
Hello, fellow Bus riders. I'm Kevin Savetz, a free-lance computer
tech writer. Usually, I'm scrunched in the back of the bus with all
of you (I'm the one in the Pac Man t-shirt reading over your
shoulder) but today Bob is letting me ride up front and take the bus
on a little tour. So, we'll take a look at services that allow you
to store files online. Are these online storage spaces useful? Or
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FREE ONLINE DISK SPACE
Storage space services are the online equivalent of those
self-storage locker businesses. With both, you get a certain amount
of space in which you can store your stuff. Once you have a key (for
the online version, a password) you can store items and take them out
again as needed. You can make files private (so only you can access
them), semi-private (so only people to whom you've given a password
can access your files), or open to the public, accessible to anyone.
A Web browser is all it takes to upload and download files -- these
services usually provide slick interfaces for navigating your online
directories, transferring, and deleting files. Some of these sites
functions enabled in your browser.
Why would you want to store files online? Here are a few ways it
could prove useful:
* Off-site backups. Making backups onto tape, floppy, or CD-ROM is
important, but what if those backups are lost in the same robbery,
flood, or fire that claims your computer? If you store your most
important files on the Internet, they'll be safe even if your
* Sharing files. Several online storage sites allow you to share
files with others, either by making them available to the public or
by giving passwords to colleagues whom you want to access the
files. This can be a good way to distribute files -- pictures from
a party or MP3 song files -- without messing with e-mail file
* Load up your iMac. Moving files from an old computer to a new
iMac, which lacks a floppy drive, can be tricky. A solution is to
upload files from the older computer to an online file storage
space, then download them again to the iMac.
* PDA assistance. If you use a personal digital assistant -- which
typically lack floppy and hard drives -- online storage spaces can
be a convenient way to move files to your home PC or share them
* A central place to store files you need often. If you need to
access certain files from multiple Internet-connected computers, it
can make sense to store them on the Net. That way you can fetch
them no matter where you happen to be. This could be a big
advantage for business travelers.
A plain old Web site might be a better option for some of these
tasks, such as making files available to the public. A storage space
can be the better answer for sharing private files, making backups,
or when you simply need more space than free Web servers offer.
What About Speed and Security?
There are several uses for online storage, but don't throw away your
floppy drive yet. Storing files online also has drawbacks. Most
notably, storing and retrieving files is only as fast as your
Internet connection. If you have a 56 KBPS or slower modem, you
already know how long it can take to transfer 2 or 3 megs of data --
imagine the time you could spend filling 25 megs. If you've got a
lightning-fast cable modem, it is less of an issue, but still, saving
files to the Net is much slower than putting them on a floppy disk.
Security is another important issue. If you're using the Internet to
store private backups of your personal diary or tax records, you
definitely wouldn't want strangers to get access. Read the Web
site's policy on the security of the data that you store there. Make
sure you store private information in a directory that isn't
accessible to others. For keeping private info private, your best
option is to use encryption software to encode your data before you
upload it. (If you need to download the backup later, you'll simply
need to know your code to decrypt it again.)
Of course, if you're using the storage space to distribute MP3s of
your garage band's tunes, you would want others to be able to easily
find and download your files. In this case, security isn't an issue.
What about cost? Many storage space sites are free. As usual,
you'll see banner ads on their sites and may have to put up with the
occasional commercial e-mail from these companies. Some of the sites
offer extended services for a fee, such as extra storage space and
With so many file storage sites to choose from, which one should you
use? Compare the features of the sites for yourself -- security of
files and amount of storage space should be top considerations. One
storage site that I checked out was offering a less-than-generous
three megabytes of space -- a trifle. Many more offer about 20
megabytes, while the most generous offers 50 MB.
Ready to give online file storage a try? Here is a roundup of some
of the services that are available:
- IDRIVE (www.idrive.com) offers free, secure online disk space,
accessible from any Web browser. It provides private and shared
file areas, as well as a public space you can use as a Web site.
(If you don't need to store files, but do need a huge Web site,
this can be the way to go.) The "sync" feature allows users to
upload an entire directory with one click.
Most idrive users get 25 MB of space, but through their partnership
with the music site MP3.com, you can boost it to 50 MB for no extra
charge. Here's how: visit MP3.com and save any downloadable song file
to your idrive. (A quick way to do it is to click the "Daily Top 40"
link from the MP3.com home page, click on an interesting song title,
then click "Save to i-drive".) If you don't have an idrive account
yet, you'll be able to register. Once the MP3 file is copied to your
i-drive account, your storage space will be bumped to 50 MB.)
- FREE DISK SPACE (www.freediskspace.com) also offers 25 MB of free
storage. The amount of storage space is upgradable in 5 MB chunks,
up to 50 MB, for each friend you refer. This service has several
splinter sites: FreeMacSpace, FreePCSpace, FreePDASpace,
FreeLinuxSpace, and FreeMP3Space -- these are all the same animal,
each wrapped up to please different kinds of users. (For instance,
the FreeLinuxSpace site touts sharing of open source software,
while the FreeMacSpace arm explains how it can assist users with
floppy-less Macs.) But it's all one service -- if you choose to
share files, you can share them with anyone, no matter what
computer platform they use.
- FREEDRIVE (www.freedrive.com) offers 20 MB of free storage, and
emphasis sharing files with colleagues. When signing up, it asks
for more personal information that the other services (such as your
occupation and interests,) so that they can send users a weekly
commercial e-mail message. This isn't my favorite thing, but at
least they are honest about it.
- X:DRIVE (www.xdrive.com), which offers 25 MB of space. As with
the other services, you can access your X:drive files via a Web
browser on any computer. A unique feature of X:drive is the
ability to access the online storage space from within the Windows
95/98 file manager, just like a floppy or hard drive. It basically
makes your online storage space a network drive. For this feature,
you need Windows and special software. When your X:drive starts
filling up, you have the option to purchase additional space.
- FILEHOME (www.filehome.com) isn't a free service, but offers
power functions intended for business users who need to share
files. You can buy from 25 to 100 megabytes of space, with
single-user access or allowing multiple people to access the files.
Other features include e-mail notification when one of your
colleagues modifies the files in a shared storage space.
Carefully read the information provided about a service before you
sign up. Some that I checked out (and haven't listed here) didn't
seem to stack up, offering a pittance of storage space, or no mention
of the amount of space until after you signed up. One site said "We
are not a backup service and reserve the right to delete your files
if you don't log in for a month." With so many online storage sites
to choose from, there's no need to mess with any less-than-personable
Free Disk Space: http://www.freediskspace.com
Kevin Savetz can be reached at email@example.com, or you can
visit his website at http://www.savetz.com/. That's all for now,
see you next time! --Bob Rankin
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