Tech Journal: Access Your Computer Files Anytime, Anywhere
Your files are everywhere. Digital photos and music are on the home computer, your documents are saved on the laptop and the files related to the project you are working on are stored on your office desktop.
Wouldn’t it be nice, and also productive, if you could access all your documents, photos, music and other files from any computer or mobile device without having to use USB flash drives or DVDs?
A popular approach would be using an online file storage service – like Dropbox or Windows Live Mesh – and uploading all your important and frequently-needed files to the web (also known as the cloud). Once the files are online, you’ll be able to access them from any other computer as long as it is connected to the Internet.
There are however certain downsides to cloud-based storage solutions. One, they only offer a limited amount of storage space which may not always be enough for all your files.
For instance, a free account with Dropbox offers two Gigabytes of storage space, though you can upgrade to 50GB for $9.99 per month.
The other limiting factor is how do you decide which files and folders should be sent to the cloud. You may have uploaded your entire “My Documents” folder online but what if you want to access a file that’s saved on the desktop of your office computer? And even if you have opted for an account with adequate storage space, uploading gigabytes of data to the cloud can take several days, if not weeks, on a good Internet connection.
An alternative solution would be to set up your own personal cloud using software like Tonido or Pogoplug. You won’t have to upload any files to the web, yet you’ll be able to access them all from any other computer or mobile device. The files will get served directly from your computer and thus there are no storage limits to worry about – you’ll have access to each and every file no matter where they are stored on the computer.
Pogoplug works something like this: You first install the Pogoplug software on your computer and then mark the folder or folders that you would like to access remotely. Once the initial configuration is complete, you can access the files of this computer from any other computer via the Pogoplug Web site or with the help of mobile apps that are available for iPhone, iPad and Android phones.
You can also install the Pogoplug software on multiple computers and access all their files on your mobile phone or the desktop browser under a common web interface. Pogoplug is available as a free download for Windows, Mac and Linux systems.
Tonido offers similar features as Pogoplug but in addition to iOS and Android, its apps are also available for BlackBerry and Windows Phones. However, a limitation with Tonido is that it requires you to create separate accounts for every computer, which isn’t very convenient.
These personal cloud services access data directly from your computer, so users have to ensure their computers are always switched on and connected to the Internet in order to access files from other machines. Cloud storage based services, on the other hand, have no such limitations.
If you have a limited number of files and documents that you would like to access from other “remote” computers, cloud-storage services like Dropbox are the way to go. However, if you have large amount of data or if your hard-drive is in a fairly unorganized state with important files spread across multiple folders, a personal cloud service like Pogoplug could be a better choice. And remember, make sure that you don’t share your credentials with anyone, otherwise they too would be able to access your computer from their browsers.
Amit Agarwal authors Digital Inspiration, a popular tech and how-to blog.
You can reach Mr. Agarwal at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @labnol.