Cloud services for journalists – Dropbox, Google Drive & Co.

Cloud servicesCloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive help journalists to back up information and make sure they can access it anywhere, anytime. We have prepared an overview of the popular as well as some lesser known cloud services. They’ll keep your data on the web and available anytime, even if your laptop has been stolen, you have lost your USB stick and your external hard drive has been destroyed in a fire…

Imagine this nightmare: you have investigated hard for weeks and collected a whole lot of useful documents, links, photos, videos and sounds. What if you lose them all? To make sure your valuable data will not get lost, you can resort to cloud services which are gaining popularity at breakneck speed.

Cloud services allow you to share big files without having to transfer them via email, which can be real torture. Everyone who has tried it once knows how excruciating it might be to try to send a dozen big files – each of them as a separate email since your email provider doesn’t let more than, say, 25 megabite through at once.

The research firm Gartner believes that cloud services will define the future of digitalization: by 2014, the personal cloud will replace the PC as the center of our digital life.

Today, there are dozens of cloud services out there, differing in the amount of free storage space, prices and platforms on which they work. The technology blog The Verge offers a fundamental, well-researched and detailed review of 15 of the most popular sync services, including Google DriveDropboxiCloud and SkyDrive. The authors of the review come to the following conclusion:

“Since Google Drive replaces and builds on Google Docs, it’s essentially a full-featured cloud document editing and storage suite. Dropbox is still the champ at syncing since it’s so reliable and on so many platforms, but if you’re looking for the best way to collaborate with others using online documents, Drive is the way to go. If you’re looking for the ability to sync and also backup multiple folders around your computer, SugarSync is head and shoulders above the rest”.


Dropbox is perhaps the best-known cloud platform. It lets you store up to two gigabite for free. You can also get more free space by referring a friend to Dropbox (500 MB per friend) or by following Dropbox on Twitter (125 MB). Real upgrades start from $9,99  a month, in which case you get 50 GB storage space. However, the Economist is not that sure about the security of Dropbox as the bloggers at The Verge:

“When information is not encrypted on the computer before being sent to a storage service, there is always the risk of a leak, either deliberate or resulting from a software glitch.”

For you, that means: Don’t trust Dropbox or any other cloud service blindly. When transferring files to the web, try encryption tools.

The cloud service SpiderOak has taken a different approach and guarantees privacy of the user’s data by the very fact that it lacks appropriate tools to hack into it. “even if your data is encrypted during storage, your password (or set of encryption keys) is often stored along with your data, thus making its easily decoded by anyone with local access to those servers. With SpiderOak, you create your password on your own computer — not on a web form received by SpiderOak servers”, says the provider. That also means that once you’ve lost your password, you will not be able to restore it and get access to your data again.


Most services offer only up to 5 GB free space, but there are a few exceptions to that rule.Microsoft’s SkyDrive is a smoothly working service offering 7 GB of free space. You can also use various social media features and share your files across your social networks.

The Russian service Yandex.Disk offers even more – 10 GB. However, you first have to download the desktop client and invite a friend. The service is currently in the invite version. The service will soon be available in English as well.

For those of you who know German, Deutsche Telekom’s Mediacenter offers most free storage space. After signing up you will get access to 25 GB and a free t-online email address. The design isn’t intuitive enough, but the amount of free space compensates for it.

More links

I have created a stack on Delicious with links to most popular and lesser-known cloud services as well as a couple of additional articles. To have a look, go to the page “Cloud services for journalists”.

Source: DW Akademie Asia

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