For better or worse, we’ve become ‘always-on’ professionals. We want access to all our data, all the time and we want it now. In the past, data housed on an office network or personal computer could be very difficult to access remotely. With the advent of Cloud storage, however, accessing that data has become much easier. With nothing more than an Internet connection and access to a computer (or tablet or smartphone) you’re good to grab your data from the Cloud, no matter where you might be in the world.
There are security issues to consider—of the Internet connection used to access your data, and of the Cloud provider itself. It is possible that those issues may keep you from housing confidential client data in the cloud, but the Cloud is here to stay. Its incredible convenience makes it impossible to ignore and even more impossible not to use. The question becomes which cloud provider are you going to use and what data are you going to store there?
Dropbox That Doc
Dropbox is the best-known cloud storage service. While its competitors may offer more free storage, Dropbox’s auto syncing feature, cross-platform abilities and web access is hard to beat. Dropbox allows you to store 2 GB of data for free (with up to 100 GB available, depending on pricing plans), but that 2 GB limit is a minimum—you can easily up your storage limits by connecting your Dropbox account to your mobile devices and by completing the website tour. And, if you don’t mind annoying people, there is a referral program that provides additional free space in return. While Dropbox is intended for individual users, the newly announced Dropbox Teams is aimed at businesses, projects and groups. Teams starts at $795 for five users and 1,000 GB of storage; additional users cost $125 and get 200 GB each added.
Dropbox’s neatest feature, auto-syncing between the Cloud and your devices, means you always have access to your data, even without an Internet connection. How does this work? After you install Dropbox client, a local Dropbox folder is created (under My Documents for Windows users). Whenever you save a document to the Dropbox folder, the program grabs a copy and tosses it up to the Cloud. Dropbox monitors the folder, syncing any changes between the folders on every Dropbox-connected device. If you make changes offline, Dropbox syncs the changes as soon as the computer is connected to the Internet. It works beautifully.
Dropbox also allows you to share your data, if you choose. It creates a public folder (where you can store those charming pet pics to share with unsuspecting victims) or you can choose to share a non-public folder by invitation. Once shared, the data is copied locally to that person’s Dropbox folder and they then have a two-way sync to the folder (until it is unshared). To learn more about Dropbox features, you can take the tour.
Dropbox Isn’t the Only Cloud in Town
It’s getting cloudier all the time. Here are some other document storage options.
- Box.net (5 GB free with additional paid storage available. LinkedIn integration. IPad and IPhone users get 50 GB free through November.)
- SugarSync (Minimum $4.99 per month for 30 GB storage with other plans available. Offers a 30-day free trial but no free plan.)
- Microsoft Sky Drive (25 GB free storage with no paid plans. Must create a Windows Live ID.)
- Amazon Cloud (5 GB free storage with additional paid storage available. Must create an Amazon account.)
- Apple iCloud (A work-in-progress currently limited to music, e-books and apps. There is no web client, access is through iTunes and storage limits are still unclear.)
If you’re looking to store some data in the Cloud, one of these services might be what you’re looking for.
Note: For more insight on Dropbox and security issues, check these recent posts on the Oregon Law Practice Management Blog and ABA LTRC Site-ation blog.
Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Vivian practiced law at Barriston LLP (formerly Burgar Rowe PC) primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”
Illustration courtesy of DropBox.
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