I recently saw an article about an online service called insync that intends to eat Dropbox‘s lunch because they’re connected to Google docs and are much cheaper than Dropbox. Where have I heard this story before. Listen, as a veteran of the online storage wars, it’s gonna take more than being cheap. In fact, unless I can access the latest version of my documents/files at local storage speeds, forget about it.
Speed: I’ve used and spent good money on services like Pogoplug and the woeful MobileMe iDisk and nothing is more frustrating to having a fast new computer and have to watch the spinning-pinwheel of death because all system processes are slowed down to the slowest connection, the Internet connection to the remote hard disk. Dropbox wins because you are working with local storage and only at boot-up and after saves does Dropbox jump in to put the latest version in the cloud.
Most Recent Copy: This may be a first world problem but I don’t want to have to think about where my most recent version of whatever document is stored. I’ve done the floppy-disk/USB-stick/mini-external hard drive shuffle hoping that I saved the right copy to the right disk. Sooner or later the most recent version is going to get over-written by an older version. And I don’t want to have to download anything to work on it. I just want to go to the folder with the document, click, run and save. Period. Any “solution” that requires that I download a version from the cloud to my device, work on it, save it, then push it up to the cloud, is just replicating, the “copy-copy-where’s-the-most-recent-copy” game. No. That’s a non-starter.
Blocked Ports: Generally the first two reasons are enough for anyone to bail on the online storage game. This third one is really ugly and makes one realize that the reason most folks don’t even bother with this space is because getting stuff to work can be much more difficult than anyone is willing to deal with. I love the idea of accessing my files via the Internet from any Internet-connected device. My ISP, apparently, has a different thought about such services and I’ve never been able to get Pogo-plug (version one hardware and more recent software versions) and Back-to-my-Mac to work, I believe because as soon as a connection is made my ISP blocks the ports needed to make the service(s) work. Thus, any service that requires that I have a tunnel from my files on my home computer to my cloud connection is only as good as the link that my ISP allows, and that generally doesn’t work. I’m sure that there’s some secret incantation that might make these services work. I don’t want to find out that my connection doesn’t work when I’m trying to access my work/files from clear across the country. Fail.
Local Backup: One fear of working and storing work in the cloud is only having one copy on the latest version … in the cloud. Things do fail in the cloud. And things do get “accidentally” erased online. So, because the latest version of the files are stored locally using DropBox, one unexpected benefit is that when time-machine backs up my work I have that latest version backed up where I might have a backup solution working (one at work and one at home). That’s a plus.
I use Google Docs for all of my work documents, but I’ve used the files and folders GUI so long that I don’t know if I can adjust to having them only exist in a google doc where they can get lost or accidentally erased. Also, anything that requires that I download a version to work on it goes back to the Most Recent Copy dilemma. No go. So, if Insync can deliver on all of these things AND be cheaper than I might give them a look. But only being cheaper isn’t going to fly with me.
Insync: Wave ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’ to Dropbox by Daniel Cooper/Engadget. http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/04/insync-wave-bye-bye-bye-to-dropbox/ retrieved 1/9/2012.
CloudOn Brings Free Cloud-Hosted Microsoft Office Functionality to iPad by Eric Slivka/macrumors. http://www.macrumors.com/2012/01/03/cloudon-brings-free-cloud-hosted-microsoft-office-functionality-to-ipad/ retrieved 1/9/2012.