If you browse the Web with any sort of regularity, it may surprise you how many different pieces of hardware are involved in the simple process of summoning a website. Contrary to what you might think, when you type in www.gmail.com or www.hotmail.com your computer isn’t actually popping over to Gmail or Hotmail directly. Instead your request is going to hop and jump, often in an entirely random fashion, over several computers across the world before hitting the email provider of your choice.
If you have a little free time today, why not try out a program called “traceroute” to check this yourself. Traceroute comes pre-installed with most PCs. Just call up a DOS prompt (click Start, then select Run, then type “cmd” and hit Enter) and “tracert” followed by the complete Web address of any site. For instance, “tracert www.twitter.com”.
The program will then tell you, up to a maximum of 30 hops, how many devices it hops across before reaching your website. For instance, a quick traceroute test now tells me that it takes 17 hops from my laptop to the Twitter server in the US. This included one jump to my wireless router, three jumps between various machines belonging to my Internet service provider and then across the world.
Truly captivating time-pass for the geek-inclined.
So, when you are hooking up so many computers across the world just to poke someone on Facebook, how come you still can’t hook up your work computer to your home computer to share data or documents? Why do you still need to scurry for that beaten up old pen drive whenever you need to transfer files between any of your multiple computers?
Share anywhere: Cloud apps allow sharing across all your computers.
It is time, as they say these days, to go “cloud”, baby!
Till very recently, hooking up two computers in the same room, leave alone across two locations, could drive casual users up the wall. For all the talk of the networked world, getting computers to talk to each other in a civilized manner could be a huge pain in the USB port. You needed to make a bunch of settings, some entirely unfathomable, just to share a folder between computers.
But that is all in the past. There are a bunch of great applications out there that let you share data between different computers without requiring anything more sophisticated than a working Internet connection. And a few minutes to set things up.
SkyDrive, for instance, is Microsoft’s online storage service that gives you a mammoth 25GB of storage for free. You can store all types of data on Microsoft’s servers, and even share and make some of this data publicly available. But now with a new add-on called SkyDrive Explorer, it is even easier to use. SkyDrive Explorer creates an additional drive on your computer, like one of your hard drives. This drive allows you to access your 25GB storage as if it were a drive on your PC. Install SkyDrive Explorer on your work and home PCs and voila! it is as if you have the same drive accessible from both computers. Whatever data you drop into your SkyDrive folder is miraculously accessible from both machines (just give enough time for the data to sync across machines).
Spideroak is another online service, albeit with just 2GB of free storage, that also allows instant data sharing like SkyDrive. But it comes with native multi-computer sharing and you don’t need to download any add-ons.
But the great granddaddy of all such apps is the excellent Dropbox service. Dropbox also give you 2GB of storage and is accessible from computers, from the Web and even from iPod Touches, iPhones and other mobile phones. So assume someone in the office emails you this excellent recipe for gooey, rich, low-fat brownies. You immediately drop it in your Dropbox folder. Moments later it is synced across the Dropbox folder in your home PC and on your iPhone.
While commuting home, you peruse it on your iPhone. And when you reach home, you print it out from your PC. All you did was one copy-paste. So why not make 2010 the year all your devices started sharing information? Start with Dropbox.
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