Cloud-it-up! Using cloud services as your main data storage (Dropbox and Google)

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The basic power of a “cloud” is that it is an automatic, always-on, live backup of your data.  So if you make a change to your files, bingo, it copies up to a server.  You can then synchronize your data between multiple systems as well – which is a great step towards not being tied to one computer, one setup.

From a basic backup and access point of view, cloud systems achieve a great deal.  I had previously used file synchronize tools for years to do a similar function.  You still need to decide on the personal security level you need – and analyze if the cloud gets hacked what kind of exposure you have and if it is worth the risk.

But, if you do go for cloud services, there are many to pick from.  I currently use four cloud services at the same time:  Dropbox Pro, OwnCloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive.  

OwnCloud is the best of the bunch from a team point of view.  You have to run your own private server, and it requires considerable effort to set up and maintain.  But once it is cooking, the tool allows teams to work together in exceptional ways.  It does have it’s set of quirks, though, and the software is nowhere near as robust as Dropbox – but it offers a level of team collaboration that Dropbox cannot.

Dropbox Pro is the best of the client-based ones and has easily the best software of the bunch.  It is very responsive, handle’s renames and moves with ease, synchronizes multiple systems, and the paid version offers a staggering 2 TB of space.  It can also hook into your cell phones and auto-upload your photos (very handy!)  You can also configure each system to synchronize only specific folders – say for one system to replicate your photo library, but not your data files.

The only drawbacks with Dropbox are for group use (can’t reasonably share files with others without committing to the paid version) and the general issue that storing 2 TB of stuff on one drive is not optimal (and it just isn’t easy to split up your Dropbox onto multiple drives).  Still, this is the first and best one I’d use outside of OwnCloud.

Google Drive is also very solid.  It is also responsive but does have some problems with renaming and moving of files.  It once had to triple download my 17 GB of data and created three copies, so I had to delete two copies and wait for re-sync for my systems to stabilize.  It is just a few notches short of Dropbox.

Microsoft’s OneDrive is a pain in the backside.  It often fails on the sync, without any way to resolve it (I still have 4 files not synced, for months now).  And it requires being tied to your Windows login, which is just a pain in the rear when you want to set up another computer with access – or one with partial access but using a different Windows login. Many of my original problems in reliability from 2013 have been addressed by 2019, but I still avoid this service.

You can use more than one at once, of course, and I use all four for different reasons.  I have not, and don’t plan to, look into Apple’s iCloud. I get the feeling Apple would want to reformat my system and force me into a specific way of using my own files that fits their vision.  It is just the way Apple thinks, and I’d rather “think differently.”