The Case Against Storing Your Files Online

February 3, 2009 by Diane Vigil in

I occasionally hear people talking about using webmail (reading, sending, storing email online at an ISP or Google or Yahoo or Hotmail or …), and I never understand it. Sure, it's accessible from "anywhere" but if that online location is not controlled by you, then what happens when something happens? I'd heard fairly recently about Google shutting down someone's email account — which apparently meant, to that user, that among other things, his business emails were gone. And if those were business emails, how do clients email him? (Let's set aside the fact that using a free, pretty much untraceable email address for business purposes would seem to be an odd practice, at best.)

I've also heard about people storing their (digital) files online. Thing is, if something is online, it can be gotten to by outside parties. And then, again, we have the "what if" scenario.

Here's a small example of this in Back from the Dead, and bear in mind that the writer is beyond what you'd call "computer savvy":

About a month ago, I received a text message from Ben at _____.com saying that he couldn't access the server all day.

Long story short — I went back and forth with tech support all day, and eventually found out that the hard drive had failed crapped out spectacularly.

I didn't have backups. I quietly resigned to fate. Three years worth of email archives for my entire family. Web sites. Blogs. Photographs. Friend's web sites. All kinds of little things. All gone. Forever.

Luckily, this sad scenario played out well, but I suspect that most people would lack the immediate knowledge necessar to pull themselves (or their data files) out of such a problem. Even the writer of the above blog post had a bit of luck.

For the rest of us, I heartily recommend downloading your email, and creating backups on external hard drives, DVDs, or whatever it takes.

As I always say: Too many copies is better than none.

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