The world’s biggest search engine now has their fingers in a lot of pies, and in the past couple of months moved into the crowded marketplace of online file storage.  Google’s main competitors in this environment are established names such as Amazon, with theirCloud Driveor Microsoft with Skydrive, also the people who specialise in this kind of facility such as Dropbox.

I have been a pro user of Dropbox for several years, and would not be without it – the ability to seamlessly and safely back up all my files, and access them on multiple devices, together make it a no-brainer… So easy to use, you just create a folder within your ‘My Documents’ and set that to synch with Dropbox, and then you can access those documents on your smartphone, tablet or another computer, and very easily share folders and files with other people.  Other cloud storage services work very similarly, and like Dropbox tend to offer a limited amount of storage space for free, with the option to upgrade if you want to use it to store a lot of stuff.

It takes a while to synch it all up at first, especially with Spanish internet, but after that it just runs quietly in the background whenever you are online keeping it all backed up for you.  If your hard drive dies, or your laptop gets frazzled by an electricity spike, or you just get a new computer and want to transfer all your files onto it, it’s an extremely safe and painless way of managing all your data.  Your files are safely stored in ‘the cloud’ of distributed online servers, not on a backup discrete hard drive that could potentially be lost, stolen or damaged, and you can retrieve them at any time.

There are plenty of other services that offer similar provision such as SugarSynch and Carbonite, and also some local internet service providers offer cloud storage to their customers now.  If you have ever lost access to files due to a hardware failure or virus attack, you will know how important it is to have it all backed up, and that dreadful sinking feeling if you lose it.  And remember, a lot of your digital files are often things with very real monetary value, if you have a lot of media files like music or ebooks.  Some of these things it might be possible to restore from the retailer with account details, but it makes more sense just to keep your own backups of anything precious.  And the most precious things of all, like your own photos, cannot be retrieved from anywhere else if the worst happens.

So, what about privacy, is it safe to store your stuff in the cloud with a service like this?  And isn’t it only natural that people should be drawn to a name they trust rather than an unfamiliar company that only do this one thing?

Well, here is an extract from Dropbox’ security statement – written in refreshingly clear English, for a legal document:

 

“Your Stuff & Your Privacy: By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.”

 

And here is what Google has to say aboutGoogle Drive:

 

“Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).”

 

Whew! Can you see why a lot of people will NOT be storing any of their important files with the big G?  That final sentence, as I read it (not being an intellectual property legal specialist or anything) appears to give them the right to do pretty much anything they like with your data, even if it’s no longer being stored with them – so they can keep copies of it… for purposes they don’t even define.  Um, no, I *think* I’ll pass on that.

 

Google has the advantage on costs, not surprising given their market muscle.  They come in a fair bit cheaper than Dropbox, about $5 less per month, and it’s more scalable (up to 16 terabytes, that’s a LOT of storage), also they sweeten it with a bit of extra storage in gmail when you buy shared space. Google Drivealso integrates with the Google Docs suite of apps, so you can edit a lot of your documents as well as just storing them online.

 

But Dropbox offers you extra storage if you refer others, at quite generous rates – if you register for Dropbox via this link: http://db.tt/1v1pQqg  we will both get a bit of extra space for free.  Have fun checking it out,

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