UPDATE: Box.com has survived the test of time, while XDrive is no longer with us.
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.com and XDrive. The following is a comparison of the two.
Storage: One gigabyte (free); 5-15 gigs (paid)
Easy sharing with other people
Limitations: Ten megabyte maximum file size (for free accounts)
While Box.com 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.
XDrive - UPDATE: DEAD
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.com, 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.
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.com. Still, either program will get the job done.
-- Brian Bondari