The Internet of 2015 has changed greatly since the Internet of 1995; and in no area is this more apparent than in file hosting. Twenty years ago, to access even the most basic of hosted files required a FTP (file transfer protocol) client, which often involved using expensive and complicated software. It usually meant lots of wait time depending on your connection speed. Short of having a dedicated T1- or T3-line at your home or office, file transfers were often a test of patience.
However, the most daunting aspect of file sharing was the ability to access them remotely. Unless you had a workstation – with the proper software – available to obtain your files, you often needed to carry a floppy disk, most of which had the capacity of 1.44 MB. To get a sense of how small that capacity is, the instructions for how to fill out your income taxes, available at the Internal Revenue Service website, is 2.9 MB.
An early effort to provide file hosting to the masses was Yahoo! Briefcase. Introduced in 1999, Briefcase offered 30 MB of remote file storage. While this is modest compared to the terabytes of storage offered by many companies today, the ability to load larger files onto a local computer and access them anywhere in
the world gave users options previously unavailable. This service lasted for ten years, and by the time it was discontinued, numerous services offering much more space came onto the scene. One such company is Dropbox, which, as of June 2015, has an estimated 400 million registered users.
Today, while FTPs still play a prominent role in the backbone of the Internet, and are still crucial in areas such as web development, consumer and business users have more rapid, robust, and user-friendly options. From OS-linked services like Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive, to stand-alone services such as Google Drive, even novice computer users can access the cloud for most of their file hosting. Each service is different, but most major companies offer the following features:
Gigabytes of basic storage with options to purchase terabytes;
Worldwide access with just a login and password;
Automatic saving of files;
Access to files on mobile devices;
Ability to download files onto a computer or mobile device without a FTP client; and
Real-time sharing and editing of files with others.
Cloud-based computing may be one the most dramatic technological advances in the past 20 years. No longer bound by personal storage options, users can now have a comprehensive work environment without storing a single file locally (or even have the traditional desktop or laptop computer).