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Any recommendations for FREE online file storage?

By LookinAround
Oct 23, 2011
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  1. I'm helping a community center setup Public Computers with free internet access
    • The computer workstations will be free to use on a first-come-first-serve basis
    • Each workstation will run XP Professional
    • Each user gets their own userid and a Limited User Account

    Users will be responsible for backing up their own critical data
    • I'm thinking the easiest/safest/cheapest method is for each user to back up their files to a free online storage service
    • Cheap (i.e.free backups) is important since users will include those without jobs as well as the homeless

    Other Requirements:
    1. Users aren't allowed to install any software on the Computer
    2. So, the file storage service must support a web browser interface with a simple user interface
    3. Minimum 500MB free storage
    4. Data encryption is a plus but not a requirement

    Any suggestions from the TechSpot community's collective experience is greatly appreciated! :)
     
  2. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 11,055   +970

    I'm thinking the best idea is to teach them how to use a flash drive, or heaven forbid, the DVD burner.

    I'm wondering if any online cloud service would allow a muli PC public computer cafe to obtain free accounts in their TOS.

    "Plan B", use DVDs with data encryption, and store them at the center. When a user, (dual entendre), comes by to log in, they ask the monitor for their disc. Better still, 2GB flash drives....Hit up Microcenter for a donation. You could ask people that join the program to buy a USB drive, if they were able t pay. But guess what, nobody would be able to pay.

    You could let them take the disc or drive with them, but that would most likely lead to a massive onslasught of, "how I lost my Windows disc" type stories.

    "Plan C".....NAS. I know Philly Community was using NAS in their photography program, but that was many earthly spin cycles ago. (HUGE network drives of perhaps 1GB or more).

    I haven't kept up with or anywhere even close to the times, sorry
     
  3. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 12,690   +335

    I've been using Dropbox since the beginning, I really like it. But I'm not sure how you could implement it, outside of just the web interface, for multiple users..
     
  4. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 4,378   +99

    Aye, another vote for Dropbox from me. 2GB of free storage they can sync with computers at home should be ideal. :)

    If everyone has their own user account Dropbox should be fine as its on a per-user basis anyway.
     
  5. learninmypc

    learninmypc TS Evangelist Posts: 5,447   +242

    Although I've never used it, Carbonite

    I hear is a very good program. Other than that, flashdrives or even an external harddrive should suffice
     
  6. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,286   +232

    Dropbox, Skydrive, Box.net... I've used all 3, in varying degrees, and they each have advantages. I use Dropbox to actively sync certain files so that I can access them easily from any of my computers, which is handy (but may be hard to implement in your situation). Skydrive is easy to set up with Microsoft (just need a hotmail account I believe), had a 25Gb storage capacity, but had some filesize limitations last time I used it (50Mb max size for a single file). The free Box.net account also has some filesize limits and a lower max storage cap, but is easy to set up and access from anywhere. We actually paid for the enhanced Box.net account at my last company, which removed the size restriction and allowed multiple logins so we could share storage and create a customer login account.

    If you know the filesize restrictions won't be an issue, I'd recommend Box.net or Skydrive. I think DropBox will be a bit more difficult to work with, as it really only works well when you have their app running to sync folders.
     
  7. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    Hey!

    Thanks to all for your recommendations. :)

    I'll be taking a closer look at each one.

    @captaincranky
    That was also a good "heads up". I now know to also check licensing if any providers also extend their free versions to non-profit organizations (as you pointed out: for the case of many, many user accounts all originating from the same IP - as that may otherwise look like a "business account")

    At some point future, I'll post back when i find things out

    Thanks to all again :approve:
     
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,515   +336

    I think this is an excellent idea and teaches 'responsibility' for ones data. No one will care more than the user him/herself and saving or using a flash drive as a primary/portable media is good practice. It also obviates the organization from complaints and/or responsibility :)
     
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    Re: USB flash drives

    I hear what you guys are saying.. And not long in the past, I would have thought the same basic thing

    But since I started volunteering and helping users at the local community Public Computer center, I’ve learned how much we all take for granted (me included).

    It’s been both a humbling and eye opening experience, so let me share. A large population of those who rely on public computers are
    • People who are homeless and/or job less. They have no computer at home (and often not much of a home either) They are looking for housing and/or learning to write resumes and send them out looking for jobs.
    • People of all ages who barely have or have very limited computer skills. Some are taking course at the center to learn BASIC computer skills, resume writing and job skills.
    • People who live in shelters or dysfunctional homes and/or must share their space with others where they must also worry about USB device damage, loss and theft. And for some, $15 for a USB drive is real money not a simple expense
    And, of course, even with the best intent flash drives still sometimes fail (like any other hardware). My larger goal is to offer a new course at the center (after fundamental skills) on “Creating a Backup Strategy that fits your budget and needs”. USB flash being only one option for keeping backups (including versioning) on
    > Local User Account (not relying on center backups)
    > Online File Storage (free and paid service features. pros and cons)
    > USB Flash Drives
    > Email (attach important docs to an email and send to yourself)
    > Burning CDs

    Any further input on the larger topic of Backup Strategies for newbies and those of limited budget and special needs also appreciated :)
    /* edit */
    p.s. re: any other thoughts about Backup Strategies... One strict requirement: whatever a user does can NOT require them to install any new programs as they are not allowed to download or install ANY programs / software from their user accounts
     
  10. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,515   +336

    Beware: Outlook keeps all email in one file (along with the Contacts, Notes, Tasks, & Calendar) which quickly can lead to a file > 2 gb limit. Yea there's a fix but that just postpones the pain into yet another day.

    An email client like Thunderbird saves mails into folders\%subject%.msf and *IF* one is well organized with many folders with multiple subjects, the file size problem goes away and you trade the space issue for a procedural control for backups (ie where to find it and what level of the tree to backup).
     
  11. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    Thanks for the extra helpful info jobeard :)

    I should've also provided the following information
    > We're thinking of limiting each Local User Account to 100MB (or 200MB) of local disk space (that's right, Megabytes)
    > 100MB should be enough to accommodate user storage for things like resumes, housing and job applications (which is the primary purpose of the Public Computer center)
    > People who need larger disk for pictures, media etc. need to find alternate storage space
    > I'm thinking of recommending people use email like Google or Yahoo so user email file storage is on someone else's disk
     
     
  12. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    update: I just received a reply from Dropbox. They're out of the running as a file storage site :(
    p.s. for anyone outside the U.S., a "501(c)3" is the designation for a qualified non-profit charitable organization in the US. The center i'm helping is a 501(c)3

    Here's the reply I received from DropBox marketing/licensing
    /* edit */
    Oh. Though on second read, perhaps i should email them again. I think they only key'ed off my stating we're a 501c3. We don't need file storage for the org but rather the individual users of the computer center. Who knows, maybe they'll consider that different
     
  13. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    Update Nov 7, 2011

    Thanks again to all for all the feedback. I've looked further into all your online storage recommendations and learned more detail I thought I'd share. I've looked further into: Carbonite, SkyDrive, Dropbox and Box.net for use with Limited Access User accounts on Public Computers

    Carbonite
    1. Only available as a pay service
    2. Requires a program install for it to run
    #1 is a disadvantage, #2 rules it out

    SkyDrive
    Admittedly I haven't tried this one out yet but from what i've read
    1. Doesn't integrate well with XP (is more intended for Vista / Win 7 users)
    2. Comes with other Windows Live features (including chat)
    #1 rules it out as all the center's Public Computers run XP.
    #2 also rules it out as any type of "chat" is prohibited usage of these Public Computers (so i also want prevent chat programs)

    Dropbox
    I use and like Dropbox myself to sync specific folders I keep on my Desktop (I agree, it's pretty handy and sweet for that!) BUT
    #1 IMO: Its browser User Interface (UI) sucks. Its UI is rather "busy" looking and i think confusing to try and explain to newbies
    #2 IMO: As soon as you create your DropBox account it immediately prompts you to install Dropbox software (also not good for the case of Public Computers and a pain to explain to newbies they should keep canceling its prompts
    #1 and #2 make it a pain for use on Public Computers i think

    Box.net
    Wow! @Vrmithrax, Thanks for that recommendation!
    #1 It's quite easy to create an account (although i don't like it asking for a phone # I can overlook it since otherwise it really all seems great :) )
    #2 Seems the simplest user interface via a web browser. For what i've tried so far playing with Box.net browser UI, it's very simple to use and easy/intuitive to explain to newbies
    I just don't know yet if they'll have an issue with multiple users creating Box.net accounts from the same, shared, single IP address

    fyi: ADDED NOTE about DropBox:

    Something new i learned about DropBox: Are Dropbox users aware that if you share someone else's Dropbox folders, it counts against your free space limit?? (not an issue for my Public Computer problem, but fyi to all DropBox users)

    Meaning
    You start with 2GB free space
    > If you share someone else's 1.5GB folder THEN
    > You're only allowed .5GB for your own stuff

    DropBox only allows you (Your Own Account Size Limit) - (Size of Shared Folders to other user accounts)
     
  14. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 12,690   +335

    Yes I am aware of that dropbox "issue" you speak of. But it makes sense to me, you are still getting access to x amount of their stuff, so its really yours too, makes sense it counts against your free space.
     
  15. LookinAround

    LookinAround TechSpot Chancellor Topic Starter Posts: 8,398   +169

    Oh. On second read (and as you explained it) you're right! Makes sense
     
  16. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 12,690   +335

    Now, where you can get into 'trouble' is if you share a folder with some friends, and they toss in a large amount of data into it. Sure you can delete it, but you might find yourself low on space until its deleted. But, a little fun fact, you can delete it, and its really still there, kind of. Somewhere in your C:\users\whatever it is in windows 7 there is the deleted things from dropbox, this is there to allow dropbox's undelete feature to work (I guess so they don't have to hold everything on their servers). I found that out when my limited space C partition kept getting low on free space.
     
  17. marinkvasina

    marinkvasina TS Enthusiast Posts: 262   +9

    External HD or flash drives way betther than this online storage thing.
     
  18. selvan777

    selvan777 TS Rookie

    I've no experience using any but saw no mention of this one which appears to be quite good for FREE: beecloud.eu

    If you do end up using it, please report back with your thoughts... thanks.
     
  19. kslogan

    kslogan TS Rookie

    dropbox or mediafire.

    great yet FREE
     
  20. bgandy

    bgandy TS Rookie Posts: 29

    I am a Linux nerd so I personally use UbuntuOne

    Yes it has an app for windows, but it would seem that if every person will have there own user account, you could install the app for all users.
     


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