Pros and Cons of Life on the Cloud

Posted by Jeff Werth
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Is it time to toss your flash drives?
Photo Credit: Trashing a Flash Drive by Lisa Werth

As journalists, our writing and information are vital to our existence, and we need a trusted system for file storage. Yet, we rarely think about where and how we store these files until something bad happens.

When I started graduate school, I stored my schoolwork on a single USB flash drive. It made it simple to transfer files among home, work and school. After a few scares about losing the drive, I decided I needed a plan if I lost it.

On a whim, I saved versions of my school project files on Google Docs – now Google Drive – to try out using a cloud-based storage system. This proved fortunate since I lost my all-important flash drive later that week. Taking a deep breath, I retrieved my files from the cloud and went back to work.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a few pros and cons to share about working with cloud-based storage.

Pros of Cloud-Based Storage

  • It’s available everywhere you have an Internet connection including various computers, smart phones, and tablets. Just log on to your account, download the files and start to work again.
  • It provides peace of mind. There are no worries about where you put your flash drive. Services have redundant systems to keep data safe.
  • It provides opportunities for easy collaboration. Most cloud-based services have public dropboxes where people can leave you a file without passwords.
  • It allows you to keep all your files in one spot. There’s no more wondering which flash drive a file is stored. Of course, you can still lose files if you forget the name.
  • Many services have free options, which allow you to try them out. However, there are limits on the amount of storage.

Cons of Cloud-Based Storage

  • Internet connection decides your ability to work. When you don’t have Internet service, you’re out of luck. Waiting for slow connections isn’t fun either.
  • It doesn’t work for high quality photo or video work. The data requirements are too high, and you don’t want to spend that much time uploading and downloading enormous files.
  • Since your data is on the Internet, you are susceptible to people hacking your account. Be careful about your passwords.

There are a variety of different services from venders such as Google, Dropbox, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. I suggest trying different ones until you get a workflow that works for you. I use Dropbox as my main cloud-based storage because I like its file synchronization, but I also use Goggle Drive because it works well for collaboration. Even though I use these services, I still keep a few flash drives and a 500 GB portable hard drive … just in case.

Have you ever thought about how you keep your computer files? Do you throw them on a flash drive and forget about them or do you have a file storage system? What is your “Plan B” if your system fails?

Photo Credit: Trashing a Flash Drive by Lisa Werth

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10 responses to “Pros and Cons of Life on the Cloud

  1. You know, I need to take your advice, here, Jeff. Last year, I was at 11,000 words in a big feature when a rare Mac Word virus destroyed the entire 21-page document. Never got it back & had to start from scratch. What did I do to make sure this never happens again? Nothing. Haha, and then what happened just two weeks ago when I forgot to save my speech and it got overwritten? I had to start from almost-scratch. I really don’t know why I haven’t looked into any of the options you’ve listed. On my winter break to-do list pronto!

    • Wow, Meagan, I can’t imagine what I would do if I lost a 21-page document. I would imagine I would unleash a litany of swear words that probably wouldn’t stop for days. I can understand that it’s hard to think about these situations when things are going well. I didn’t think about backups or anything like that until I was working as a video editor, and I had to find space for new projects. It makes you feel much better when you have a plan.

      I think the best type of system for you might be something that automatically backs up a folder where you can save your documents. That’s what I use. I just keeps all my documents in sub-folders. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. Good luck.

  2. Good advice, Jeff. I have used google.docs, but I don’t always, and as you point out it is a good idea to be proactive about a backup system, instead of thinking about it after the fact when it is too late. It’s probably easier to find and retrieve those files then the back up and transfer system I end up using a lot of the time – my gmail account by emailing documents to myself.

    • Thanks. Being proactive is always a good thing. Too bad, we don’t usually think of it.

      Google Drive – what Google docs is now – has a file synchronization options that looks pretty slick too. That will keep your files synced between your main computer and another computer you would normally use. You also have access to a web-based view of the files, so you can just download/upload the files you need. I think it’s easier to retrieve those files from a website than messing around with emailing the files all the time. Since you just want the files, it’s a hassle to deal with email serves.

  3. I also use Google Drive, specifically for documents that I want to share with others for things such as group projects, lists, or sign-ups. I also recently have been exposed to Dropbox, and while I haven’t used it yet, I intend to. I am still a bit hesitant to switch over to cloud-based storage entirely – like you mention, the reliance on internet and the possibility that it can be hacked prevents me from completely switching over. Additionally, it’s much easier to share large amounts of files at once via a USB, versus over the cloud. For example, I recently had a friend share a bunch of her music with me. From what I have been able to gather, it is a while lot easier to do this with a USB drive than it would be to over the internet.

    • It seems like a lot of people like to use Google Drive for collaborating, but they don’t put a lot of other items on the sites. I understand your hesitancy in completely trusting the Internet, but I think keeping things in several locations helps. That’s why I like Dropbox because it stores a version on my computer at home, online, on my laptop, and on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about using things.

      Like you mention, it’s hard to move bulk data to a cloud service. I still have a large hard drive for big projects with lots of pictures or video. Apple does offer a service (Amazon, as well) where they will sync your music files and other things purchased on the iTunes store to any Apple device. That’s nice, but it does confine you to the Apple Eco-system.

  4. True Life: I’m an addict of Google Chrome and Google Drive. I love that it keeps all of my settings on whatever computer I’m on through my gmail account. It’s so convenient! I use it a lot more for collaborating on projects and for work than I do for personal storage but on occasion I’ll save something on there. For the most part I save things to my desktop and email them to myself. Probably not the brightest idea… Otherwise I’ll save files to my external hard drive because it has so much space that it won’t fill up like a typical flash drive.

    • I’m glad that you enjoy using the cloud. It sounds like you have been having some good experiences.

      I don’t usually like emailing files to myself because it clutters up my desktop and my email accounts. If I need a file away from one of my base computers or devices, I just log into Dropbox and download the file. It works well. The downside is I have to remember to upload the changed file, but I usually remember.

      Even though I use my cloud a lot, I still keep plenty of drive. I guess I’m just a worrier, but I have lost drives and such many times. It’s never fun.

  5. I use a combination of flash drives, Google Docs, and Dropbox. I try and save my most important documents on each one, so then I have multiple back up plans if one of them falls through. I am also looking into getting a external hard drive soon. I have heard they aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

  6. It sounds like you have a nice setup. There’s lots of redundancy, and that’s a main consideration.

    As for portable hard drives, I use a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1 TB drive. It’s a nice size, and I found it in Best Buy last year for a steal. It was also one of the better rated portable drives at the time. I would stay with brands like Seagate or Western Digital. They make solid drives with good transfer rates. I hope that helps.

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