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The promise and perils of replacing your hard drive with Dropbox

Jared Newman | July 15, 2013
Dropbox CEO Drew Houston talked a big game this week when he announced new ways for apps to save and load user data.

For that matter, what happens when other services like Google Drive follow in Dropbox's footsteps, and users have to choose between four or five cloud storage options just to use an app? Between dealing with storage limits and juggling multiple services, suddenly cloud storage requires a lot more brainpower.

Solvable dilemmas
"The potential for further headaches is obvious," said Josh Matthews, CEO of Apkudo, a firm that helps developers optimize their apps for Android devices. "But I think that there are really smart things that Dropbox can do to mitigate those headaches."

Android, for example, could offer deeper integration with cloud storage services, Matthews said, so users wouldn't have to sign into their accounts every time they install a new app.

Matthews also sees a bigger opportunity for companies like Otixo and Jolicloud, which offer a central hub for users to manage their cloud storage. That kind of service could become more useful as people begin juggling files between multiple storage services. To limit data consumption, Dropbox could provide a way for users to control which types of files get uploaded, and when, Matthews said.

Still, none of these solutions sound completely headache-free. We'll still have to decide where our files go, how often to upload them, and when to shift them elsewhere. And Matthews admitted that paying for cloud storage now seems like an inevitability. "We're swiftly heading towards a world where users paying for cloud storage is going to be as common as users paying for a phone bill. The interesting part is what happens along the way," he said.

That's not to say the hard drive isn't becoming more problematic these days. We are increasingly living in a world where juggling multiple devices--phones, tablets, PCs and even TV set-top boxes--is the norm. Relying solely on local storage isn't the answer, especially when we're using the same apps across multiple platforms.

But like every other overblown claim about the death of something in technology, Dropbox is not poised to replace the hard drive outright. Instead, it will augment local storage, making it easier to move between devices. We may become more reliant on Dropbox than ever, but rather than abandon our hard drives, we must instead consider, literally and figuratively, how much we're willing to pay for the privilege.


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