Backing up your files is a pain. The old school approaches, like an external hard drive, require remembering to do it in the first place, and if you want the files to be really safe you have to bring that device to a friend’s house, or to work. And then remember to pick it up for your monthly back up. The modern approach is to use a service like Dropbox or Carbonite which runs in the background and stores copies of your files in the cloud, These come with a (potentially ) high monthly fee, if you are using significant storage.
Dropbox and some other services do allow users to share files and folders with other, which verges on being a social tool. For example, I can create a Dropbox folder of documents that I am sharing with the editor of my book. And those files could be shared on her hard drive if she was also signed up to Dropbox. But it’s not a peer-to-peer sort of sharing, and there is that large monthly fee: I pay about $30 per month for the most super duper Dropbox capability. My files are being versioned, so I can dig out last Thursday’s version of a report I am working on. I can delete files from my hard drive, and they still persist in the cloud.
Someone alerted me to Transporter, which is a just-about-to-end Kickstarter project, one that has raised $200,000 plus dollars. Transporter is a very different take on backup and sharing. As they say on the Kickstarter page,
Transporter is an online, but off-cloud storage solution for privately sharing, accessing and protecting all of your valuable files.
The premise is this: each user has a transporter — either with a built-in or attached hard drive — and these transporters can communicate. I could create a backup of my family photos on my sister’s transporter, and give her read access to the files. If my local hard drive crapped out I could simple buy a new one, and the family photos would reappear, copied back from my sister’s copy.
Note that in this scenario there is no necessity for the folks at transporter to act as a server-based intermediary, aside from verifying identities initially. And they certainly won’t be providing a back-up service.
Lastly, I could backup a copy of my personal tax records on my brother’s transporter, but in a private way. Yes, he’d have to agree to allow me to place that backup there, but I would do the same for him, and we both come out ahead.
The business model is again a sort of anti-Dropbox: no monthly fees, just the purchase price of the Transporter device, which was going for $149 at the Kickstarter, now sold out. It seems that you can still get it for $179 though, with no drive.
The peer-to-peer social backup and sharing might be sufficient for people who want to just do that mundane task of backing up in a distributed and social way. However, there’s no reason that Transporter’s capabilities couldn’t be integrated into work media tools and task management tools, just the way that Dropbox has been. I could assign a task to a colleague with a Transporter-hosted file attached. That task would be accessed through a web or dedicated client, and behind the scenes, the file would be ‘transportered’ from my device to hers.
This could decrease my storage costs, since many of the online work media and task management tools meter the storage used, and if Transporter becomes commonplace, they would have to rethink their pricing for people using that instead of cloud storage for files.
Lastly, the Transporter folks might want to build a small and simple task management/work management app themselves, and break into the social enterprise world.