Category Archives: Online Storage

MyBloop.com – Unlimited Storage and Bandwidth (Online Storage Series)

Now and then an online storage provider comes along and offers features so unrealistic (for free) that one wonders how on earth that company will survive. Nine times out of ten, they do not, and their domain names soon join the endless wasteland of spam parking.

Along comes MyBloop, a free online service that offers supposedly unlimited file storage. According to their FAQ, there are absolutely no limits on storage, bandwidth, or the number of files you can store. Eat your heart out, XDrive.

Let’s take a look at some of MyBloop’s features:

  • Unlimited Storage
  • File upload limit – one gigabyte
  • Multiple file uploading and downloading
  • Nothing required to install
  • File organization – create your own folder hierarchy
  • Ability to delete, rename, and mark files as private
  • Ability to stream certain file types (MP3, FLV, WMA, WMV)
  • File sharing, searching, social networking, and more!
  • All for FREE

Uploading

MyBloop currently offers two ways to upload files – either through their web-based interface or via their open-source Blooploader utility. Uploaded files are limited to one gigabyte, though supposedly this limit will be removed if you purchase one of their upcoming Pro accounts.

I’ve stuck to the Flash interface, which is really slick.

Even within the web interface, you can queue multiple files for upload. You can also select to send each file to a specified directory.

All uploaded files are shared publicly by default. However, you may opt to make a file private either upon upload or at any other point by editing its attributes from within the file manager. Note: I found that I was only able to change sharing attributes through their older HTML interface. Since the MyBloop team is still developing features, perhaps this is an issue they will address soon. Or maybe I just missed something! 🙂

Downloading

MyBloop also aims to be one of the premiere sources for finding shared content on the Web. To that extent, they have implemented searching and social networking within the site. You don’t even have to be a member of MyBloop to search their stockpile of amassed content. Try it now: go to the MyBloop homepage and search for whatever you like. Downloading, streaming, and linking are all encouraged, even for non-members. Which brings me to my next point….

Not ALL file types are allowed for direct download (by other users). At present, music files can only be streamed, not downloaded (for legal reasons). Still, the MyBloop Player is pretty capable, including playback controls, shuffle, repeat, and volume manipulation. It even handles playlists. Here I am listening to some streaming Mozart:

Just for the record, I’ll quietly observe that lesser-known audio formats (such as OGG) are not recognized as music, and are thus available for direct download.

MyBloop aims to be a one-stop shop for all your file hosting and sharing needs. I must say, they do a pretty fine job. Since I started using their service, I’ve begun to rely on them more and more. I only hope that they withstand the test of time.

Considering that they’ve been around since 2005 (BETA), and had their initial release in 2007, I’d say they’re off to a good start. The future is still uncertain, and no one knows what features will be added (or removed) by the upcoming Pro accounts.

Interested in more about MyBloop? Check out this video. It should tell you everything you need to know in 5 minutes.

Good luck, and happy uploading!

Note: MyBloop is currently only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More countries should be granted access soon.

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Dropbox: Mini-Review and Invitations (Online Storage Series)

Dropbox logo

At long last, I have found the online storage solution of my dreams. Dropbox is a service (currently in public beta) that not only seamlessly backs up your data, but can also sync it across multiple computers. Best of all, it all happens without you having to lift a finger.

Why am I so excited about Dropbox? First of all, I classify online storage into a few different categories:

All three types of services have their uses, and Dropbox tickles my fancy (am I allowed to say that?) because it handles all three types with aplomb. To make it even better, Dropbox works on both Windows and Mac systems, and a Linux client is currently in alpha.

Usage

Get this – actually using Dropbox takes almost no effort on your part. Once you install the Dropbox client, it creates a My Dropbox folder inside your Documents. Any files or folders that you put inside the My Dropbox folder will first upload to the Dropbox service and then sync across to any other computers that you have linked. The green check mark next to a folder or file means that it has been successfully uploaded and synced.

Delete a file on one computer, and it will be deleted first on Dropbox and then on the other linked computers. This is an incredible way to not only make sure your files are continuously backed up, but to also make sure you always have the latest version of your files across multiple computers. Imagine taking your laptop to a coffee shop to get some work done, and when you return home, ALL the data you modified is available on your desktop computer. Nice! No more e-mailing files or dumping everything onto a flash drive.

Even if you only have a single-computer setup, Dropbox is still an effortless way to keep your data backed up.

For those worried about security, Dropbox currently uses the Amazon S3 service to store files. All files are encrypted with AES-256 and all communication occurs over SSL.

Other Features

In addition to being an all-encompassing storage and sync solution, Dropbox has other tricks up its sleeve. For starters, there’s a versioning system for keeping track of changes to a file (or grabbing an earlier version in case of an emergency). There’s also a nifty web interface, a photo gallery, file sharing capabilities, and more! Don’t just take my word for it – check out the screen cast below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcS9w9dpKNQ

If you can’t tell, Dropbox is undoubtedly my favorite online storage service, not only for its features, but for its sheer simplicity. It’s a service that I have no trouble recommending to others.

Dropbox Invitations!

As I mentioned, Dropbox is currently in beta and requires an invitation. Their beta service provides 2 GB of free storage, and beta users will have slightly more storage capacity than the regular free amount once they drop beta status. So, act now!

TipsFor.us currently has 0 invitations available. Simply post a comment below and we will e-mail you an invitation. First come, first serve! All invitations are gone, folks. Sorry. You can always join the waiting list for the beta. If we receive more invitations, this post will be updated.

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Free 100 MB Remote Drive – Who.hasfiles (Online Storage Series)

who.hasfiles logoI recently started using who.hasfiles.com – a free, 100 MB remote file storage service. Before you start scoffing and lambasting me with insults for what seems like a pitiful amount of space, allow me to explain why I think who.hasfiles is worthwhile. While it is true that 100 MB does not go very far these days, especially when compared to some other free online storage services (such as Box.net, XDrive, and DropBoks), it is the manner in which you access files on who.hasfiles that sets it apart from the rest.

Remote Drive Mapping

Most online storage services are web based, meaning that you must access them through a browser. By contrast, who.hasfiles allows you to map your storage space as a remote drive from within your operating system. You don’t have to install anything. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X are all supported.

who.hasfiles instant mapperThere are specific instructions for each operating system on the who.hasfiles website. Since I run all three major operating systems in my household, I’ve been able to test accessing my storage space from all three platforms. It works.

Windows users can use a nifty instant mapper application to quickly set up access to your 100 MB. The application requires no install and can be deleted afterward.

Usage

Because who.hasfiles integrates directly into your desktop, it also offers the ability to edit and save files directly on the remote server. Need to do some quick editing to an OpenOffice document or spreadsheet? Open the file directly from your mapped storage space! There’s no need to copy the file(s) directly to your hard drive, edit, and then re-upload them. Nice!

Because only 100 MB is available for free, don’t expect to upload much of your MP3 and movie collection, though there are paid upgrades available ($1 per gigabyte per month)*. Here are a few uses that I’ve found for who.hasfiles:

  • keep an updated copy of your bookmarks handy
  • store a KeePass database that you can easily access from any computer
  • backing up important documents
  • quick-and-dirty file sharing between computers

While who.hasfiles focuses on simply storing files, not embedding them into blogs and sharing them with the world, they DO offer a basic sharing service between members.

who.hasfiles sharing

Of course, I’d love to see who.hasfiles offer more than 100 MB for free, but considering the easy integration into the desktop from any major operating system, I can’t complain about the stingy amount of space. For now, I just treat it like a glorified floppy drive (remember those?), or maybe like a networked USB flash drive from 2001.

*Note: in addition to increased space, encrypted access to the storage space is part of the paid plan.

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File Dropper – 250 Gigabytes of Free Online Storage? (Online Storage Series)

File Dropper logoNeed tons of space to store files online? How about 250 GB, all for free? Is it too good to be true?

Maybe.

A new startup called File Dropper claims to offer their “Gold” plan – a whopping 250 GB of storage space – for free, provided that you register before May 15, 2008. Otherwise, their regular plans start at $0.99 a month for 5 GB of storage. Users who register before May 15 will receive a lifetime account for free, not just a trial account.

Signup

Many of these services disappear as rapidly as they appear, but if you want to register, please use their special link. They claim that this special offer is for members of social bookmarking services such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx, etc, but anyone can register.

As a thank you to the community we are offering free accounts on filedropper.com to bloggers as well as members of Digg, Stumble, Reddit, Mixx, Del.icio.us. To get your free account fill out the form below to receive to get $10 monthly account (250 GB) absolutely free. Accounts created before May 15th will have lifetime membership for free.

Registration is quick and painless, requiring only username, password, and e-mail address. I used a randomly-generated password (thanks KeePass), and my dedicated “spam” e-mail address, but I have not received any e-mails from them yet. So far so good.

Usage

The main interface of File Dropper is startlingly simple, which is not surprising given their claim of simplest file hosting website ever.

Once you choose to upload a file, you are presented with an interface that allows you to upload one file at at time. The maximum upload size is a staggering 5 GB! Here I am, uploading a test file:

File Dropper Main

There is even a progress bar to show you how much data is remaining. Once the upload is complete, File Dropper displays a download link that you can use to share with others.

Warnings and Caveats

I want to like File Dropper. I really do. However, I am suspicious. I’ve seen far too many similar services offer outlandish claims and then disappear into the night. I genuinely hope that File Dropper sticks around for the long haul, but pardon me for doubting.

Therefore, I would not trust sensitive information with them. Their TOS is quite sparse, and even mentions the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. So don’t think that you can store your collection of “ripped” movies on their servers and get away with it forever.

By contrast, a service such as DropBoks has a very strict Privacy Policy, which is currently lacking on File Dropper. Dropboks states:

All files that are uploaded to the DropBoks system are never viewed by any member of the DropBoks team, ever. Neither are they provided to any other party at any time.

On the other hand, my beloved DropBoks only offers ONE gigabyte of free storage in comparison to 250!

File Dropper 2038Of course, there is always the possibility that File Dropper will not withstand the test of time, and will disappear in a few short weeks or months, taking all your precious files with them.

I’m supposedly a paid member until January 18, 2038. So, lifetime to File Dropper apparently means 30 years. I don’t know about you, but I certainly hope to still be alive in 2038. Maybe they are anticipating the Year 2038 problem.

The only other problem I see is that in 30 years, I probably won’t care much about the files I’m currently uploading!

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Getting Cozy with Mozy – Brainless Online Storage (Online Storage Series)

mozy-logo.png To continue my foray into the world of free on-line storage, today I will take a look at the Mozy on-line backup service.

First of all, what is Mozy and how is it different from other on-line storage services? Like its competitors, Mozy allows for the backing up of one’s data on their servers. Think of it as an external hard drive for your computer that resides off-site. I am a fan of off-site storage because I know that my data is safely stored even if a bomb falls on my house.

Mozy differentiates itself in that it is not a stand-alone service like Box.net or DropBoks. Rather, it requires that you download a small software package and install it on your Windows-based computer (update: Mac OS X is now supported as well). If you use Windows exclusively then this is a boon; if you hop around between multiple operating system then this will be a drawback. I’m still hoping for a Linux client, but I’m not holding my breath.

What, then, are some of the benefits? For starters Mozy offers two gigabytes of storage for their free plan, which is quite reasonable. For those interested, they do offer an “unlimited” plan for $5 per month. I am content with the free plan. I have not found a limit on file sizes, which is also a benefit.

Here is how a typical backup scenario works: install the software and set your configuration options. There are a lot of potential options, but in a nutshell you will want to set your file system paths and tell Mozy what types of files you want to archive. Set your options and let Mozy do its thing. See the screenshot below.

mozy-main.png

There are also options for scheduling backups – you can choose between “automatic” backups when your computer is idle or a more standard daily/weekly scheduled backup time. I appreciate the options for bandwidth throttling and thread priority. If I am busy working at my computer when a scheduled backup begins, it will be transparent rather than bogging down my machine. Nice.

The first backup process will take the longest. Once it is complete, subsequent backups are “differential,” meaning that only changed files will be archived. Even if a file is open when a backup kicks in, Mozy will still send it to their servers, which is slick.

Once you have archived files on Mozy’s servers, you can find and restore them in two different ways. Since Mozy integrates itself with the Windows operating system, you can simply browse to “My Computer.”

mozy-explorer.png

By browsing “Mozy Remote Backup” you will find a file structure exactly like that of your computer, starting with your hard drive and extending to your deepest sub-folders. As handy as this is, it comes up short in that you can only view/restore files to your computer. There is no option to add more files through the Explorer interface. I understand that this is not the expressed purpose of the software, but it seems like it would be a natural extension for those interested. Unfortunately, it is curiously absent. For the record, Xdrive does offer this option. Hopefully the creators of Mozy will add it in the future.

Nevertheless, using the Explorer extension is handy for restoring files. Right-click on a file or folder and choose “Restore.” That’s it. Your files will be restored to their designated location. Keep in mind that this will overwrite the originals (if they exist).

mozy-restore-explorer.png

mozy-restore.png

A second way to access archived files is through Mozy’s web interface. Log into their web site and click “Restore files” on the left. Select the files that you want to restore, and Mozy will contact you with a link to download the files. In this manner, files that you archive can actually be accessed on any other computer with any operating system, but the backup process must be done on a Windows or OS X machine.

mozy-web.png

In summary, Mozy offers quite a lot in their free package. For users of MS Windows who are looking for a “set and forget” method of backup for critical files, Mozy is a slam dunk. Once you make the initial configurations, Mozy takes care of the rest and you can rest assured that your data is archived in at least one other location. For users who switch between multiple computers and/or operating systems regularly, a stand-alone storage site is more appropriate. For users in this category, I still recommend DropBoks for its sheer simplicity and Box.net for its elegant interface.

Pros:

  • Two gigabytes of storage for free
  • Automatic file backup option – set it once and forget about it
  • Differential backups – only backup changed files
  • Encrypted file transfers (for security)
  • Easy, versatile file restoration

Cons:

  • No support for platforms other than MS Windows (a Mac version is available as well). Linux users are currently out of luck.
  • Operating system integration is for viewing/restoration only.
  • The plethora of configuration options can be intimidating at first.

Visit Mozy now.

DropBoks – Online Storage Simplified (Online Storage Series)

dropboks.gif

One of the largest complaints I have about on-line storage services is that most of their interfaces are cluttered and confusing. Of these, XDrive is among the worst offenders, but is certainly not alone. On the other hand, one of the slickest interfaces I have seen is the service provided by Box.net. This is currently my favorite service, but while I easily understand the interface, I still had difficulty teaching one of my non-computer-savvy friends how to use it.

For sheer simplicity, the free on-line service offered by DropBoks is hard to beat. Simply create an account, and then you get one gigabyte of free storage complete with a 50 MB file size limit. This bests Box.net’s upload limitation of 10 megabytes.

The interface is starkly simple – there is a “Browse” button to upload files, and a “trash” icon to allow for the deletion of files. That’s mostly it. Here is a screenshot of a file upload in progress:

dropboks_uploading.png

The simplicity of the functionality complements the starkness of the interface. You will not find any options to create folders or “tag” items here – uploading and downloading files forms the bulk of the available operations. Some people will find this restricting, but others (like my non-savvy friend) will appreciate the simplicity. In fact, I’m willing to bet that anyone whose computer literacy exceeds that of a drunken cockroach can successfully use DropBoks. Want to upload a file? Click the “Browse” button. Want to download a file? Double-click (or right-click) it. Want to delete a file? Drag it to the “Trash.” Piece of cake.

For those interested, all file transfers are encrypted over HTTPS (SSL).

While I still enjoy Box.net for its added functionality and beautiful interface, I have a growing appreciation for DropBoks. It is now my most recommended on-line storage service of choice, especially to people of dubious computer skills. For the record, their free service is provided without ads, though they encourage small donations ($3) to help keep the service running. That’s fair. I hope they are able to stand the test of time.

Related article: On-line Storage Options

Two Online Storage Options (Box.net and XDrive)

To continue my recent interest in using multiple computers more conveniently, I’ve been seeking a new path: on-line file storage. I recently covered a way to store and synchronize Firefox bookmarks, history, and cookies (Google Browser Sync), and a way to write and store word processing documents on-line (Writely).

Today I will share a couple of ways to store regular files on-line.

If you spend much time hopping between multiple computers, such as work/home/other, sometimes it’s just convenient to keep certain files stored on-line. You always know that there will be a copy available if you need it. Even if you do not use multiple computers regularly, on-line storage is handy for archival purposes. If your computer crashes, you can rest assured that you have backups of your critical files. Let’s face it: keeping regular backups of your files is just smart, and there’s no excuse these days for NOT having backups. Hard Drives are rather inexpensive now. One can also “burn” backups to CD/DVD. On-line storage has the advantage of being off-site; in the unfortunate event that my house burns to the ground, I *still* have backups of my critical files.

On to business. There are quite a number of free file storage options available. Two that I’ve discovered that I like are Box.net and XDrive. The following is a comparison of the two.

Box.net
Storage: One gigabyte (free); 5-15 gigs (paid)
No advertisements
Easy sharing with other people
Limitations: Ten megabyte maximum file size (for free accounts)

While Box.net only offers a moderate one gigabyte of space for free, this amount should be plenty for the casual user. To make that space more attractive, Box.net offers a very slick flash-based interface. I had no trouble at all understanding how to use my allotted space. For ease-of-use, Box.net earns top honors. The largest downside is not in the amount of space, but in the restriction on file size for the free accounts. Ten megabytes is ok, but not stellar. I like to create password-protected archives of certain folders, and the resulting archives are often larger than 10 MB. I can get around this somewhat by splitting the archive into separate files, but this is somewhat inconvenient. Still, for free, one can hardly complain. Plus, there are no advertisements at all in Box.net, which is a nice benefit.

box-net.png

XDrive
Storage: Five gigabytes (free); 50 gigs (paid)
Slightly more cumbersome sharing
No limitation on file sizes
Somewhat cluttered interface

XDrive certainly offers more space for free, which is great. There’s also no limitation on file sizes that I’ve discovered. Earlier today I uploaded a single file that was over 350 MB without any trouble. These benefits come at a slight price, however. After using Box.net, the user interface for XDrive just seems clunky, and certainly more difficult to understand at first. Sharing files/folders is slightly more cumbersome as well, though not that much more difficult. Perhaps the main drawback of XDrive, in my opinion, is that it is a service provided by AOL. Yes, that’s right, AOL. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, as one who feels that the AOL software package is practically a virus, this leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth. However, one is not required to install any extra software at all, so this point is negated. Also, if you already have an AIM screen name, you can use it to sign in for XDrive, so AOL integration can be seen as a good thing, depending on your perspective.

xdrive-pic.png

Final thoughts: Both services provide a great convenience for free: easy off-site backups that are accessible from anywhere, using any operating system. Personally, I use both services, though I wish I could combine the storage space and file-size capability of XDrive with the slick interface and ease-of-use of Box.net. Still, either program will get the job done.

Happy storing, and if you know of another free service that you like, feel free to comment below.