What is the cloud, and how will the NBN make it better?
- Services like Dropbox make cloud storage basic
- iCloud, SkyDrive and Google Drive as alternatives
- Faster upload speeds of the NBN needed
Telstra still has about 100,000 dial up customers out there. That means they have more customers on an internet connection that simply would not work in the here and now than many other ISPs have for anything at all.
But it also means there’s at least 100,000 people out there who care enough about being online to pay for it, who will eventually have to join the rest of the country with a broadband connection of some kind. And when they do, they’ll be assaulted with all sorts of stuff that friends and family will insist they need (iTunes! Bit Torrents! Steam! Valve! Et Cetera!) that they probably don’t need at all. Much of the internet ‘s current power and speed is exhausted on media and games. But the cloud is the one thing that people ought to get their heads around as quickly as possible, and find a way to use in their lives.
Click here to check out Internode’s Naked DSL plans – no line rental and faster upload speeds! Or call 1300 106 571
Click here to check out Optus’ Cable Broadband plans – faster downloads and uploads, no phone line needed at all! Or call 1300 137 897
What is the cloud?
Somewhere in the internet’s history (about 2004) Google launched Gmail. It was a revolutionary concept. Instead of having an email address linked to your ISP, you could have a web-based email service that not only came with many of the bells and whistles of a full desktop client, but which also came with a monstrous amount of storage (1GB then; 10GB now), so you never had to delete an email again. Unlike Hotmail, which was an earlier web-based email service, Google was provided by one of the world’s biggest and most exciting companies, and offered better security than ISP provided email (Hotmail was eventually purchased by Microsoft, making it the equal of Gmail for ‘will be here tomorrow’ cred).
Eventually people worked out that instead of storing documents and pictures at home, on hard drives that could easily crash or be stolen, it was safer to post these things to their own Gmail address, and store it…somewhere in the Google Universe where these things were stored. The idea of cloud computing was born.
Other projects, like [email protected] (in which playstations and PCs could log into a group activity to scan for life in the universe) further expanded the idea of using networks to collaborate in a big way and share resources, but file storage was the sweet spot.
In 2008, an enterprising student named Drew Houston got sick of losing his USB thumb drive all the time, which usually held his most important files and papers. He developed a cloud storage service called Dropbox, which has gone on to become the most widely used file hosting service. For $0, users get 2GB of space (which can be expanded by inviting friends and through other promotions) and can pay extra for large Dropboxes that will store thousands of files for teams and small offices.
Dropbox installs a folder on your desktop (or wherever you want to put it on your computer) that can be used as a general dumping ground for every file and picture you download or create. It will work in the background, usually at times of low internet activity, to upload these to a central server that can be accessed from any other computer. On the other computer, you could either install the software and voila – your folder will look exactly the same; or you can access the Dropbox website and view the folders through a browser, and download the appropriate files (and re-upload once you’ve finished editing them).
Dropbox was so simple, intuitive and clever that Steve Jobs allegedly made several massive offers to buy it before he passed away. Eventually, Apple tried their own alternative, iCloud, which comes with several features specific to iOS (the operating system for iPhone, iPod and iPad).
Now, almost every major internet player offers some variation on cloud storage. Microsoft, Google, Amazon – they’re fighting hard with little upstart Dropbox, and with other specialty service like Box, Sugarsync and Me.ga.
You drag and drop files into a folder on your desktop. On any other computer, they can be right there like magic. It’s all advantages! You also get the security of not having your files in one easy-to-lose-or-crash location.
The free model that many of these firms use to entice users provides more than enough space for many people, even over many years. So they’re starting to get desperate. Dropbox in particular is very persistent on grabbing all your photos from your iPhone automatically, which will quickly max out your free allowance and force you to either get one of the other services (which starts to dilute the effectiveness) or pay to upgrade.
But the real disadvantage, particularly in Australia, is that for cloud storage to work well, you need fast upload speeds as well as fast download speeds.
The ‘A’ in ‘ADSL’
Most heavy use plans in Australia rely on a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), or a broadband connection over a copper telephone line. The standard used here is Assymetric, meaning that it is faster when downloading than when uploading.
ADSL (and Naked DSL and ADSL2+) is easier to implement and suits most people who want fast downloads and don’t care about upload speeds. But when you’re trying to use the cloud for business, you can’t wait several days to synchronize several gigabytes of files to a central place. It’s easier to just post a thumb drive with all that data.
Cable provides faster upload speeds, but is expensive and only available to about 20-25% of homes.
Mobile Broadband tends to be symmetric – with almost equal upload and download speeds (especially 4G plans). But they come with very little data, making mobile broadband useless for this service.
The most overlooked selling point of the National Broadband Network is that it will provide faster download and upload speeds – up to 40Mbps upload, about 40 times the current average. And it will be able to deliver that to everyone. It has already attracted several companies to build a data centre to store the massive amounts of data people will be able to put into the cloud. Massive video files can be stored and easily retrieved with no lengthy waits.
Internode is the only ISP to offer ADSL2+ Annex M, a variation on ADSL that allows for faster upload speeds than usual – sometimes as much as 4Mbps. Call 1300 106 571.
Cable Broadband through Telstra and Optus are the other main options, but as noted before, can be expensive and hard to get.
If you need any assistance with finding the best plan for you in your area, call us on 1300 106 571