The Shopping Club

Goodbye, Zip Drive

Dear Andrew,

Yes, you’re right. It’s pathetic how antsy I get when denied the right to check my e-mail hourly. Lest people blame this on the Internet, I should mention that I used to check my regular mailbox pretty incessantly when we were in college together. But I will concede that my e-mail fetish is probably a minority affliction.

My fear of a hard-drive crash, on the other hand, is not. One solution is to buy some sort of backup drive, costing around $100. But, this being the Internet, the alternative is to get tons of free online storage space at companies like FreeDiskSpace, I-drive, idrop, ibackup, Driveway, and FilesAnywhere. The stingiest of the bunch give you at least 25MB of storage, whereas FreeDiskSpace.com gives you up to 300MB if you fill out a lengthy survey. (For most users, size won’t matter, since even 25MB is a lot of space, and it would take pretty long to upload just that amount of information from your hard drive.) The interfaces are all simple as can be. You just select a file on your computer, and click “upload.” This file finds its way to the company’s Internet server and can only be downloaded by someone with your password. It took me around a minute to upload a 10-page Microsoft Word document on most of these sites.

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Another big advantage of these services is that they allow you to access key files when you’re away from home. You can even share files with people all over the country, if this strikes your fancy (music files, for instance). The rate-limiting factor, for most people, will of course be that uploading and downloading files takes longer than is sometimes convenient. But if you imagine that it takes several hours to write a 10-page document, sacrificing an additional minute to memorialize it is hardly out of line, blah blah blah. (I worry that Mr. Notify and Ms. Reminder are having a baleful effect on me.) At any rate, to a cheapskate like me, it beats paying $100 for a Zip drive, which would turn into a puddle of unreadable blue goo anyway in the event of a house fire–yet another thing to worry about.

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My concern is that, as a customer paying zero dollars per year, these companies don’t have an enormous incentive to keep my data intact. I’m pretty confident that my file will be safe when Tom Green wakes me up tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., but will the company itself even be around in a year? On the other hand, even if the company’s existence is certain only from month to month, that’s enough to see me through a house fire and a hard-drive meltdown.

Well, I’m eager to hear how you’re finding Dialpad.com, the service that allows you to place free long-distance telephone calls. I called people in Washington, D.C., and Saint Louis, Mo., tonight. Washington, D.C., reports that I hung up on him each time I called (I never heard his voice). St. Louis says I sounded clear as a bell, though her voice faded out once or twice.

Best of luck,
Bruce

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