To treat your internet-enabled network drive as a substitute for Dropbox is to totally miss the point of “offsite” backup.
A Network Attached Storage drive is designed to connect directly to your modem/router via an Ethernet cable, rather than connect to a single computer via a USB cable. The benefit of this is that the storage space is available to all the devices on your home network, making it a handy place to store file backups along with your multimedia library.
These days even entry-level network drives offer remote access features. Set one up in your study, connect it to your home network and you can access its contents from across the internet when you’re away from home. It’s a handy way to play your music and movie library when you’re on the road, as well as access your document backups.
These internet-enabled network drives are often referred to as a Personal Cloud, because in some ways they behave like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive. The difference is that your data is stored “onsite” where you have total control over it, rather than “offsite” in someone else’s data centre. If you crunch the numbers, in the long run it’s cheaper to buy an internet-enabled network drive rather than pay a few dollars every month for a cloud storage service.
When you look at it like this, there seems little point in signing up for a cloud storage service rather than setting up your own Personal Cloud. But when you pay for a service like Dropbox you’re not just paying for the storage space. You’re also paying for access to an enterprise-grade data centre which is designed to be more reliable than your home network drive.
A key strength of the cloud is that it offers “offsite” backup to keep your data safe if your home is struck by fire, flood or theft. If your only backups are on a network drive in your study, sitting alongside your computer, then you’re at risk of losing the lot. When it comes to irreplaceable files such as family photos, you need to keep a copy far away from home to ensure it survives any disaster which might claim all your possessions.
Also keep in mind that when you’re running a Personal Cloud at home, the uploads might be counting towards your monthly home broadband allowance. You’re then paying for that data again as you download it on your mobile devices. You’re also at the mercy of the speed and reliability of your home internet connection – which might not be able to send data to you as fast as a large data centre.
The idea of the Personal Cloud has some merit and you might find that it’s a handy way to access your files on the go. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a fully-fledged substitute for a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive. Whichever cloud you embrace, it’s vital that you still keep offsite backups of your most precious files.