Internet file storage is worth the price

Strom Tip: Internet file storage is worth the price

Category: Online file storage
Name of tool: My Docs Online
Company name: My Docs Online Inc.
Price: $25 to $310 per year, depending on the amount of storage needed
URL: www.mydocsonline.com
Windows platforms supported: 2000, Me, 98, NT
Quick description: Online shared file storage that is secure and simple

Strom-meter:
**** = Very cool, very useful

Key features:

Pros:
Upload and download files with a Web browser or using Window's Web folders options

Cons:
While competitors offer free services, this one is worth the price.

Description:

When I first heard about the various services that offered free file storage on the Internet, I thought it was a great idea. These services are basically a hard disk in the sky; one that you can connect to via a Web browser from anywhere on the planet and keep your most critical files safe and secure. For enterprise users who do a lot of traveling and don't want the hassles of a Virtual Private Network or saving their files to floppies, these services make a lot of sense. And for whatever sized business you are in, they offer a convenient and simple mechanism for providing off-site storage in case something catastrophic happens to your office.

Over the years, a number of companies offer this service, including Xdrive, Driveway.com, iDrive.com, Punchnetworks.com and Visto's Netdrive.com. But the one I keep using is MyDocsOnline.com. Despite its unwieldly name, the site is the best of the bunch. The way all of these services work is simple. You set up an account user name and password using their Web site. Then you login to the site and begin uploading and downloading files via your Web browser. With MyDocs you also get integration with Windows Web folders so you can view your Internet-based files using Explorer in much the same way that you view your local files and folders. (The Web site has clear instruction on how to enable this option with either a recent version of IE v5, Office 2000 or by using Windows 2000.)

MyDocs (and some of its competitors) offer additional ways that you can access your files through Web-enabled cell phones and other PDA devices. The company also supports AvantGo channels and OmniSky wireless Web access from Palms and Windows CE devices. This is nice, but not something that I have used much. Usually when I need a file, I need it on a "real" PC and want to work on it with the full complement of software such as Microsoft Office. Still, if you have to email someone a document, you can make use of this feature to send it from your MyDocs account via your phone, which is pretty cool.

The advantage OF MyDocs is that you don't need any additional software on a standard PC to grab your files from the Internet. Some early Internet file hosting services required special clients or pieces of software to work with their systems. I find the extra software to be an obstacle, especially when I'm on the road and at a borrowed PC and don't wish to start messing with its configuration. MyDocs does offer a special client using TeamStream's software, but you don't have to use it.

Another nice feature about MyDocs is that you can upload different versions of the same file with the same name. The service automatically keeps track of the timestamp on the file, so you can sort out which version is the most current. That makes it extra nice.

The disadvantage is that MyDocs is no longer a free service. You'll have to pay anywhere from $25 a year on up, depending on how much storage you want to purchase. This seems fair, given that you are getting something of value and you don't have to deal with pages that are cluttered with ads as is the case with some competitors.

Another downside to Internet file storage is reliability, and I am talking about corporate rather than the data networking kind. Given that these companies are in a very threatened part of the market (Driveway closed its doors earlier this year), you have a legitimate right to be concerned about what may to happen to your data. It would also probably be wise to have more than one backup of your files -- and not rely on MyDocs (or anyone else) exclusively to store the only copies of your precious documents. That is just good business practice. Of course, it could get confusing to remember which site has the most recent copy of your files.

All in all, MyDocs is a great service, and one well worth the small yearly fee.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

Bio: David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant, and corporate IT manager. Since 1995 he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at david@strom.com.


This was first published in May 2001
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