Online Storage Meets Local Storage
More and more users and small businesses store their data on external storage devices or NAS boxes, because it's more flexible when there isn't a dedicated fileserver. However, storing digital assets, project files, accounting information, user data or other important files doesn't end with copying contents onto a hard drive based storage product. A single hard drive may fail, and thus does not provide protection for your files. If you want to deal with storage right, you will have to go for a product that stores data redundantly (usually based on RAID and two or more hard drives), or find an online storage provider that takes care of data safety. One interesting idea that crosses traditional storage with online storage is the zBox by Zettabyte, which is offered as an online-enabled product called Zettabits. It stores data on a storage box on site, but allows you to synchronize selected folders with an online service.
There are numerous online storage, backup and file sharing services on the Internet, which differ widely in terms of features and cost. There is Box.net, Freepository, IBackup, iStorage by Iomega, Mediamax, Mozy, Omnidrive, Streamload, XDrive and many others we might not be aware of. All of them offer various storage services and features, and most offer up to several gigabytes storage for free (though with limitations.) We haven't looked at all of them in detail, as we're dealing with Zettabyte's product this time, but the main questions in general certainly are:
- Is my data safe and secure at an online storage provider?
- Is it possible to integrate the service with the way I like to handle data?
Overly suspicious users will probably never store their most important data on an online storage account; it remains your decision whether or not you feel confident to go in that direction. (Serious storage providers will, of course, do all they can to ensure both data safety and security.) The second question can be answered by only a few storage providers, which allow you to map the Internet storage location to your desktop just like you can map an FTP location into your computer. The value of this, however, largely depends on the speed of your Internet connection.
The future clearly lies in ubiquitous storage solutions, where you simply store your data, not necessarily knowing where and how it is done, and access it from anywhere using all sorts of wired and wireless networks and devices. This concept still trips over security issues and the matter of available bandwidth. Only a locally installed storage device can give you enough performance to deal with many gigabytes of data within a reasonably short time. This is not going to change very soon unless you're lucky enough to have access to some brutal Internet line with high upstream and downstream pipes.
A company called Zettabyte realized that it makes a lot of sense to combine a traditional storage product with online storage services. The storage box serves the way you are accustomed to, and it is available 24/7, while the online storage holds a backup of your latest data, which also allows you to access your data on the road without having to set up any remote access to your office or network.