Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pros and Cons of Online Digital Storage

There are a variety of websites that allow free storage of data online. Whether it is word documents, flash files, video, pictures, etc... there is a service on the web for even the most discerning user. The common options you will find are:

  • load your data for anyone on the web (or account members) to see and use
  • create your own communities and allocate who can see your data
  • load your data for storage and your own personal use.
I have talked to many of my colleagues to see what they are using and many of them are nervous about these types of services.
Who are the faces behind these services?
Who is managing and has access to your private data?

A few years ago one of my students came to see me. She had a disagreement with a couple of other girls. The girls altered her photograph and then loaded it to a open community website. The picture and the things they wrote about her were quite rude. She was devastated and so were her family and wanted the picture removed immediately. We tracked down the girls but they denied any part in this. The next step was to try and track down the web service to have it removed. The website ended up being hosted in Russia but goodness knows by who....we never were able to get in touch with the "owners" of the web service. Several weeks later the guilty parties finally fessed up and took the picture down.

Remember: Anyone with a bit of know how can setup a server, a webpage and look like they are a respectable company.....

It is important that you research the web services prior to you revealing your private information either during the sign-up process or by using the service to upload and store private data.

It is about trust. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal: - Pushing Paperless: The Pros and Cons by Eleanor Laise discusses how "online storage practices vary" within the financial world.

Pros and Cons....
You don't have control of your documents....they are on a server somewhere in the world.
You will have access to your documentation from any computer with an Internet link - anywhere in the world.

A lot of companies work in "BETA" which means its free for now until they can figure out if enough people will use their service then they may start to charge for it.
Blogger is an example of a company that kept their service free...bravo!

As educators you need to be very wary if you want your students to access this information as many of these websites also have a lot of adult content on them.
Another option for students to access information/work from you 24/7 beyond your Intranet or CMS.
Some online services to investigate if you are looking for this type of service (there are many, many more to choose from):
Do a bit of research about the company/services. Send some emails to their customer service and search for the company online. You will be suprised how much information you will find out....

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