Look around you. You’re surrounded by gigabytes of storage! Some that you know of and most that you are completely unaware of. Your Notebook hard drive, the Tablet you own, a portable music player, your USB drives, your external hard drives, your phone memory – it’s reams and reams of storage floating with movies, songs, documents and pictures. It’s almost impossible to think of life without all this. Yet just a few years ago anything close to what we have today would have sounded like insane science fiction!
It wasn’t always like this
The first hard drive was the IBM 350 Disk File inside the 305 RAMAC computer. It was put together with fifty 24-inch discs with a total storage capacity of a whopping 5MB.
And the first HDD to have more than 1GB capacity was the IBM 3380 released in 1980. It was the size of 5 refrigerators, weighed 250 kg and the price was an economical Rs 78,32,000 (yup, you read that right, 78 lakhs!). Today it would cost you about Rs 100. Time to thank your lucky stars and all the Gods of Technology (no, no not me)!
But as always, technology is once again playing its magical hands. Disruptive new forces are going to make what you use today look pretty foolish in the next few years. And proof of that has already come in the form of an all-new war that has been unleashed directly in the heavens above.
Most techies call it cloud storage, but that’s actually a very unfortunate phrase as it tends to confuse normal users. Think of this all new storage system as data that you send high up in the sky, where it resides safe and sound waiting for you to retrieve it back again as and when you want it.
This data is omnipresent and doesn’t care what device you use to put it there or pull it back. The only job it has is to give it – wherever you are – whatever device you use – and whenever you want it. Sounds like heaven, right? There are now three big contenders for providing you this heaven.
Dropbox was the original. It changed the game, it made heaven (cloud) storage simple, easy, consumer-friendly and made people understand the power of such a simple idea. Once you download the Dropbox software, it creates a folder in your directory.
Anything you put in this folder syncs to your Dropbox account. You can automate certain folders to sync on their own, pictures appear in a special shareable folder and collaboration with multiple users works well.
You can access files from anywhere in the world and literally on any device (phone, Tablet, PC, Notebook, even your Smart TV). It changed people’s lives and saved many a skin. No more drudgery of uploading to a USB stick or emailing files to yourself. Dropbox was a revolution but Dropbox just got two heavy bricks dropped on its head.
Enter the Dragons
Enter Microsoft and Google, the two heavyweights of the tech industry. They wanted a piece of the data pie in the sky. MS drove in hard with SkyDrive and Google roared in with Google Drive. Each can do most of what Dropbox can do plus quite a bit more.
First Google Drive. It gives you 5GB free (Dropbox has 2GB), has a better web app with preview areas, a very powerful search system, can open Google docs online, uses Google’s Optical Character recognition on scanned documents and pictures (type Taj Mahal in the search and it’ll show you your uncaptioned pictures of the Taj), has live document collaboration and is fast in sync up and down.
SkyDrive has bigger ambitions. It gave away 25GB free accounts but has recently pulled back (still gives 7GB) and does most of what Dropbox and Google Drive do. The killer feature is ‘Fetch’. Even files you didn’t upload to SkyDrive can be ‘fetched’ from your computer’s hard drive back home.
Mobile apps for almost all OS platforms are either already in or on their way. If you run out of space then you can buy more space at pretty reasonable prices (SkyDrive is the cheapest) and there are hundreds of apps that use the power of this storage and seamlessly integrate and save data straight to them.
Which one is right for you?
Who wins? Well, as of now it’s Microsoft that has stolen the thunder, with Google nipping right at its heels. Dropbox will need to up the ante a bit as these two have come out with all guns blazing.
So, which one would I recommend? THAT is a slightly silly question. Obviously all three! They are all free, give you a combined bounty of 14GB of storage and each has their own super features. It’s rare in life to get a piece of heaven for free. Here you’ve got three!
Rajiv Makhni is Managing Editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, CellGuru and Newsnet 3.
Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com /RajivMakhni
From HT Brunch, July 22
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