By some standards, I’m not a particularly aggressive consumer of technology. I buy a new PC every couple of years, and I have a bag full of USB sticks that I’ve picked up from different events, or bought out of desperation when I needed to transfer data without having access to WiFi or 3G. Until very recently, I’ve stored pretty much everything physically, either on a memory stick, an external HDD, or worse, on my laptop.
The problem with any kind of physical storage though is that things like this can happen:
In a world where pretty much every piece of valuable information that we have is stored digitally, from treasured photographs through to music, losing a lap top can be a fairly traumatic event, and one which can have a pretty devastating impact akin to a house burning down. You can replace the computer, but not the contents. With portable storage media such as USB sticks, the problem is similar, they are pretty fragile, but also eminently losable, leading you to run into problems – especially when you accidentally organise your pockets into the bin, and lose an SD card that had the holiday photos on it.
Moving to the Cloud
Not being online is now a pretty rare occurence for me these days. I have a 3G dongle, and access to WiFi hotspots, and if it wasn’t for the signal combination of iPhone 4 and Orange being a bit rubbish, my ability to check the web on the go would be pretty much ubiquitous. When you think about it, aside from a small amount of local storage in between connections, you simply don’t need to be tied to physical storage.
In addition to my time being increasingly spent with a connection to the web, it is also spent accessing the web from different devices. at work I have one laptop that I use throughout the day. In addition to this, I have an iPhone, and then at home we have two laptops and a netbook along with a Wii for internet access via the TV.
Although I have a network enabled hard drive and wireless sharing between my home laptops – one is on Vista, on on Windows 7, I’m also increasingly finding that using cloud services is more convenient to me. It means I can use whichever machine suits me at any particular time – in most cases this is the one that hasn’t been borrowed – and access all of my files without inconvenience.
The selling point of netbooks – particularly the ones running ChromeOS is that they can be lighter on tech, and have minimal storage – making them much lower cost. This is because all of the storage and software they need is online rather than off.
ChromeOS will be integrated very tightly into Google products – Docs, Picassa, GMail etc, and these are open to all users, but it’s also worth considering the Microsoft Office Live Suite, which is free to use, and at least as functional as Microsoft Works ever was.
Online Storage is so cheap as to be free – you get 2GB free with Drop Box, and Google Docs has 1GB, but the what appears to be the best deal for most of my needs is Windows Live SkyDrive: 25GB of free storage for images and docs. That’s more than I currently have on my hard drive.