Dropbox or Ubuntu One - Two Great Services

The Internet now offers computer users the ability to use remote servers for file storage purposes. Using the cloud computing concept, servers allow files to be saved in a secure location. Files can then be automatically synchronized between the creating computer and any other computer as needed. Each of the popular services offers several advantages over the simple storage of files on a local hard disk. Dropbox and Ubuntu One are two similar services which offer both free and paid service. Each has particular strengths which are described below.

Dropbox Free Account Details
Dropbox installs on Windows allowing the service to operate just like any other folder on Windows. Users drag files to the Dropbox folder and the service takes care of copying them to the cloud server. The company offers free accounts that have 2GB of storage. (A GB, or gigabyte, is 1 billion bytes, or characters. This amount of disk space can hold 1000 high resolution photographs.) This amount of free space may be adequate for storing many user created documents or presentations. While Dropbox can store 1000 or more photographs, users will quickly exhaust their free quota if they use it for photo storage. This is even more true of videos. Very long movies, or HD quality, will use a lot of space. Not many of these media files will be kept in the 2GB of free space offered by Dropbox. Dropbox does offer free extensions for each user. By inviting friends to sign up for Dropbox, a user is automatically given an additional 250 megabytes, (0.25GB), of free disk space. A maximum of 12 friends can be invited, giving the Dropbox user up to 8GB of free space.

Ubuntu One Free Account Details
Ubuntu One also installs on Windows. The service operates as a control panel. Users select the particular Windows folders that should be copied to the cloud. Each free Ubuntu One account comes with 5GB. This amount of storage will hold perhaps 2500 high resolutions photographs. There is no enhancement program that allows an increase in the free amount of disk storage.

File System Basics
The local hard drive on every computer is the weakest component in the box. Disks are mechanical devices with motors, gears and electronic circuitry. They operate in a harsh environment at very high speed and with practically no tolerance for errors. Being mechanical, they are destined to fail at some point. Luckily, disk drives are very reliable, generally. Most computers get literally years of service from each installed disk drive. Still, accidents happen, data loss can occur, viruses are rampant in the world. Every computer user should use a backup strategy on a regular basis. This can be an alternate disk drive, perhaps a DVD backup or a cloud server such as Dropbox or Ubuntu One.

Dropbox Premium Upgrade
Users who the find free Dropbox account too constraining can opt for a premium account. Several enhanced levels of disk storage are available. For $9.99 a month, 50GB of disk space is available. This is a substantial increase over the free 2GB amount. For $19.99 a month, the premium account can have 100GB of offsite, cloud storage. Each of these premium account options offer a prepayment discount. By paying for 10 months, the premium account holder gets a full year of service. Dropbox also offers a team disk storage option. For $795 per year, a 5 team members will share 1000GB among them. Additional blocks of 200GB can be added as more users are added to the team.

Ubuntu One Premium Upgrade
Users who find the free Ubuntu One account too constraining can subscribe to a premium upgrade. The service offers a level of simplicity. Each 20GB addition of disk space costs $2.99 a month. Prepayment of a year costs $29.99. Many users find that they require more space than the free 5GB amount but not a great deal more. By signing up for 20GB Ubuntu One additions, users can closely control the exact amount of cloud disk space that they need to pay for.

Using a Cloud Backup Service
Users of either the Dropbox or Ubuntu One cloud service should be aware of the time required to initially save files. While a fast Internet connection is needed, there are significant differences in speeds that will affect load times. For example, many Internet accounts have different download versus upload speeds. Since most users download much more information from web pages rather than upload anywhere, many Internet accounts emphasize download speed at the expense of uploads. This can mean that downloading files to your computer is quick while uploading is very slow. Both Dropbox and Ubuntu One recognize this fact. They upload files in the background over the course of many hours, or even days. Eventually, the disk files will be saved to the cloud backup server. Once they are safely backed up, subsequent updates will be much quicker. As well, downloads to additional computers will run at full download speed as well.

File System Backup Options
There are a number of backup options that can be considered for each computer. Each has particular pros and cons.

  • Use a DVD device to backup - this provides a safe backup mechanism. DVD media disks are used to store files. Once used, the disks are permanent so no possibility of update is possible. It is not possible to perform a complete DVD backup without user involvement.
  • External hard drive - for perhaps $100, a large external disk drive can be added to any computer for backup purposes. This device will be prone to eventual failure as well. There is little likelihood that both the main and external drives will fail at the same time. Since the external drive is stored with the computer being backed up, both can be lost in the event of fire or theft.
  • Cloud backup using Dropbox or Ubuntu One - each of these services provide secure off site backup of your computer files. The files are automatically synchronized. Because the cloud servers are physically located great distances away from your computer, your files are well protected from the effects of fire or theft.