Online Storage Hosting for Travelers: Why you need to do it

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ June 24th, 2010. Updated on August 30th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » How to guides ....
Train going through a market in Lagos Nigeria

There are some places you really don’t want to be without back up copies of your passport. Just in case … (Market in Lagos, Nigeria)

Benefits of online storage

I’ve had online storage hosting for over a decade, it’s been invaluable to my traveling and photography. And, I consider it something few people take full advantage of.

In my previous article about online photo hosting we looked at why photo hosting can save your travel blog or photography website, and save you money. Is there a difference in photo hosting and online storage hosting? Yes.

The Difference

Dedicated photo hosting deals nearly exclusively with photographs only, both for back ups and for sharing. They also often offer e-commerce solutions to sell your work.

Online storage hosting deals with just about any file type for the purposes of backing up, and to a degree sharing.

What do I have to backup that’s so important?

This depends on your life & travels. But here are some examples that might help:

  • Photographs you don’t want to share or display, ever
  • Back ups of photographs
  • Passport copies
  • Scanned in certificates, diplomas and qualifications
  • Address books and phone numbers
  • Documents, spreadsheets, contact data
  • Edited or unedited video footage
  • Information you don’t want to share online but need access to
  • Backups of your website
  • Backups of your databases (WordPress/Joomla etc)
  • Backups of your smart mobile/cell data
  • Backup all the files on your computer

Can’t I just email myself all this?

Sure, email accounts like Gmail and Yahoo offer gigabytes of storage. You can simply email yourself passport copies, scanned in images of certificates, and upload photos. And, so long as it’s secure, it’s worth doing.

However, email storage isn’t specifically built as a backup storage medium. Uploading files one at a time, or even 5 at a time and not being able to view them without downloading again is pretty exhaustive.

Google Docs and now Bing’s Office online help, but I’ve always been wary of sharing so much on an email account. This is where online storage comes in.

Another factor I look at is that with email and travel. There is a remote chance when using public computers that someone may compromise your account. Especially if you are using it frequently and have many accounts linked to it – e.g. google account. With online storage you don’t have to login unless necessary.

The main advantages / disadvantages of online storage  over email

Advantages of online storage:

  • Batch upload everything at once, either through a web interface or, through an application
  • Many let you backup your backups
  • Pro accounts will post you out a flash drive, DVD, or hard drive of your backup should you lose everything
  • Faster to upload than email
  • More secure

Disadvantages of online storage:

  • Another password to remember
  • Desktop application can take a while to configure
  • The fear of putting all your files in one location
  • An added cost if you have a lot of big files to store

I heard there are security issues with online storage?

Hot Air balloons in Goreme, Turkey at sunset

And then, there are places you just don’t want to worry about where your important documents are (Goreme, Turkey)

There’s a risk with everything. Online storage has been hyped a lot by the media as being unsecure, yet it’s a huge industry. Choosing a good host is important here as it is anywhere.

One with a track record of longevity and a lack of problems is usually a good sign.

“In over a decade of using online storage I have yet to have a security problem.”

I don’t host passwords online, and I don’t put sensitive information to do with personal details online.

What to look out for in choosing an online storage provider?

Most online storage providers have different packages. It’s important that you know what you want to store first, and how much it all comes to in terms of space.

Unless you have amounts of over 20GB of photographs and video, the chances are you won’t even have to pay for online storage as many companies offer free accounts.

What you do need to be careful about is their terms & conditions. Many free accounts require you to log in every 30 days or you will lose your files.

“This can come as a nasty surprise to many people should they log in after 4 months and find they are locked out!”

Others only support computers with incremental back ups. Meaning they do not support external flash disks or drives.

Some only have desktop applications which are of no use if you are traveling without a laptop.

Read the terms & conditions carefully before choosing.

Does everyone need online storage?

No, you don’t have to have it. If however, you are traveling long-term. Or want to make a back up set of things you don’t want to lose. It’s certainly worth taking a look at.

In fact I would go as far as to say for long-term travelers you’d be pretty foolish not to have some sort of online backup medium.

Where to find online storage?

There are many online storage companies out there. I’ve written a pretty big review of the most popular one’s on my resources page. Including photo hosting providers. I’ve tested and used them all myself, so it comes with what you get on this site, experience & practicality.

“As an example I give the full details of how one company destroyed all my data in 2008, and what I learned to prevent it from happening again.”

Some examples of companies I’ve reviewed are  Mozy, Amazon S3, and Humyo (safecopy)

I give the basic pro’s and con’s of each one that I’ve tested myself. Plus comparisons & a link to their websites that can save you some time in searching for them.

The review page is now live here: Online storage & photo hosting reviews (please be warned, it’s a quite a big review)

Meanwhile –

Have you considered using online storage when you travel?

How’s it worked out for you?

This is an additional article written to help others in travel & life, and to remind me of what I too have learned along this journey

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14 Great responses to Online Storage Hosting for Travelers: Why you need to do it

  1. This video (on the subject of backing up) is pretty wild:

    • -craig | It sure is. It’s a corporate high end deal they are using. I could just imaging trying to carry all that around. But still, nice to watch!

      -Renny- Yes Renny, online storage is good when you’re at home too. In fact, it’s a lot easier. Glad it was of help to you!

      -Trans-AMericas Journey- I know what you’ve been through. The same has happened to me. Hence I’ve written the review. I also touch on what to do in the even of a data loss that might be of use to you.

  2. Renny says:

    I think this works even if you are not traveling. I’ve had a break in and lost some documents from college. It took me 6 months to get them back.

    If I’d just scanned them in and had hosting like this then it would have saved me a lot of time and money.

    Looking forward to the review as I am going to get storage now for sure. Thanks for this it’s great

  3. I have been using online backup for a few years. The two main providers in this field (Mozy & Carbonite) have both lost considerible amounts of my data. Last year Carbonite lost more than 70GB of my backup. Lost may not be the right word, after a flurry of error messages in the interface, my data could no longer be retreived or showed up as being in my account. No explaination, no appology, merely a credit for my service when I demanded my money back if they could not guarantee my data.
    I am currently using Google Docs as Amazon S3 is too expensive for me to backup nearly 500GB+ of data.

  4. Ant says:

    Logical. Sensible. Easy. This is the kind of information I like (and need). Thanks.

    Isn’t it such a shame though that we live in this ‘back up’ world? If there’s one argument for retuning to pad and pen, it’s this. Don’t get me wrong, your info is great… I just wish we didn’t have to worry about it! Great work.

    • -Ant- Thanks Ant. Totally agree about pad & pen. This sort of thing these days takes up far too much time for my liking. In ten years we won’t have such issues, as bandwidth & new tech will make it irrelevant. But, for now, we have to make do I guess.

      -Carl- Putting your documents into storage is really important in my view. It doesn’t take long at all, and can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

  5. Carl says:

    I just use google at the moment. But it’s not got the options you mention here with storage.

    It’s really interesting to read about putting important documents into storage. Good job.

  6. ciki says:

    hi dave, cool article. I knew u were a smart guy. so, when can u start on mine :P

  7. I never did look at these services but maybe I should start. I love my 3 1TB externals and I don’t know why. Anyway, great article and thanks for sharing this.


    • -David @ Malaysia Asia- Yep, I have a 1tb too :) But with always being on the road, I need online storage too. Anything can happen to my hard drive, and if it does, all is gone!

  8. Giovanna says:

    Hi,Dave! I use Picasa for photos, and,but I don’t live on it,so understand can become a problem. Some Italians with little children are going to New Zealand,where it looks,new babies are well accepted. So go on with N.Z. Personally,I’d be tired with geologically instable places, but young people don’t care, California teaches. Good article this too,on line storage.

    • Hi Giovanna, good to hear from you. I know what you mean about geo unstable places. Build a life then see it taken away in a few minutes! But, yes, if I make it to OZ then NZ is too close not to visit :)

  9. Great article. The fact that it is quite a long post but I read every word – says it all.