Virtual Storage Lockers

Websites let you keep personalized photos, music, video, and documents online

Computers are vulnerable to hard-drive crashes, virus attacks, theft, and natural disasters, which can erase everything in an instant. With online storage, you can store data in a secure, remote location for safekeeping, so that in the event of disaster your data is retrievable.

Today, Web users can place personal and business data online in virtual storage lockers. While the concept isn’t entirely new (for example, online banking occurs in a secure space), users have essentially decided to begin uploading personalized data to turn portions of the vast Web landscape into a specific digital cabinet in the cyber sky. Instead of placing a few files online, you can actually opt for a virtual vault.

Online storage enables cost-cutting business measures such as off-site data management. It can help you digitize records and remove paper and clutter from your home or office space. Remote access to items stored online also means relying less on physical hardware space.

“Historically, consumers have been pretty horrible about backing up their data,” says Jonathan Steuer, a vice president and general manager for Iconoculture Inc., a Minneapolis-based cultural trend research company. “[But], consumers are having data storage issues that they’ve never had before … more of their assets are digital (i.e. photo content, MP3 files). As people accumulate more stuff, there is a notion of wanting to protect those [items]. It’s really part of the Web 2.0 world that we’ve seen building for a long time.” Consumers might have an easier time breaking bad habits once they become aware of the online back-up options available today.

As technology management helps to push the Web to the next stage, a variety of Internet-based tools have arrived in the marketplace to position services to consumers. Companies such as the Los Angeles-based ElephantDrive (www.elephantdrive.com), Utah-based Mozy Inc., (www.mozy.com), and Xdrive L.L.C. (www.xdrive.com), based in Beverly Hills, California, are just a few targeting both businesses and individual consumers. Their sites offer virtual storage solutions that include file sharing and data management capabilities. Prices range from as little as $5 a month to $350 for yearly subscriptions. With Xdrive, AOL users can even get 5 gigabytes of free online storage. Visit each site for system requirements.

You can store virtually anything you desire online, from family photo collections, home videos, and music to financial documents and business files. Online storage also allows you to take your data with you. Tools such as Google Apps (search “Google Apps” at www.google.com) allow access to some office applications as long as you can find an Internet connection. Microsoft also has an online office applications suite called Microsoft Office Online (http://office.microsoft.com).

For small to mid-size businesses (SMBs), online storage might even prevent certain types of litigation by solving compliance-related issues. “[There is] an increasing amount of consumer compliance regulations,” Steuer says. “A lot of requirements are pretty onerous for small to mid-sized businesses or for businesses that have grown up quickly. [Companies] are finding out that [storage] is the kind

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