Rich Mackey

When it comes to utilizing your online storage nobody better at giving you hints than Rich  Mackey. He’s been all over the map both for business and within the online storage  community. His advice comes from years of trial and error and success!

What brought you into investigating and utilizing online storage? I’d always dabbled with Google Docs and Zoho, and played around with DropBox a little, but I had to get serious a few years ago when I was traveling a ridiculous amount for work. Often on five planes in one week. At the time, I was carrying a work laptop, personal laptop and iPad. All that
weight led to severe lower back problems.

I worked with the IT department and ditched both the work laptop and my personal laptop and got a MacBook Air that I used for both. While my aching back improved greatly, the downside was I went from a combined 1.5TB of laptop storage to a 256GB SSD in the MacBook Air. It was traumatic.

While portable hard drives were one option, I also wanted to take just my iPad on short trips (1-2 days) which meant I needed access to files on that device. Syncing files through iTunes (seriously Apple?) wasn’t an option. So after cleaning things out and archiving what I could, I turned to online storage.

You like to save cash on these services while also giving yourself supreme coverage. Any hints?

It’s really pretty easy.

1. Find the deals and jump through the hoops for the extra storage. It’s totally worth it.
•When Amazon launched their cloud service, they ran a promotion to upgrade you to 20 GB of storage (From 5 GB) if you bought 1 album – which was as little as $4.99. That was a no brainer. Also, Amazon is unlimited storage for all music now – so I have my music stored there. Their Android app is great so I can stream all of my music and I don’t pay anything to store it. (And I still have the 20 GB of space for other things, if I want.)
• Dropbox has done 3 or 4 promotions that I can recall. I participated in 2 of them. One was extra space for downloading or logging into their app on Android or iOS. They just recently ran a promotion for up to 5GB free for auto uploading from your camera
(again, for a new feature). I’m a photographer so I maximized that in about 2 days. As I was double checking some things for this response, I noticed they have a social media promotion where you get up to 640 MB for connecting Twitter/Facebook ( so I just did that. I also had to log in on Android since I just switched from an iPhone and I got 250MB for logging in from a new mobile platform.
•SugarSync does some similar promotions to DropBox. They have a few “getting started” tasks that, if you complete, you get several MB free.
• Then there are these once-in-a-lifetime easy promotions. Box did one to give you 50GB (seriously) just for connecting the new mobile app. Done. SkyDrive is running one now where you just have to click a link when you log in to get 25GB of space. Took me all of 2 minutes to click that link and integrate it. You just have to watch for these promos and do them right away. They’re usually mind-numbingly simple and the payoff in space is great.

2. Referrals – and this is a two way street. When I wanted to sign up for SugarSync, I reached out to a friend whom I know has the service and asked for his referral link. He gets a bonus and *I* get a bonus for signing up with a link.I would encourage anyone to seek out a referral link BEFORE they sign up (mine are all on my blog). Even just tweet or post on Facebook you’re looking for a referral. Someone will help out – and you’ll get a bonus. I probably get half of my space through referral since I always share my link whenever anyone asks me. And if I write about storage, I share the link on  Twitter/Facebook/blog/wherever.

3. Don’t be afraid to game the system a bit. I use Google Apps for my business and personal email. That means I get a cloud drive for each of those email addresses (and I can have 10 email addresses for each). So that’s 20 Google Drive accounts x 1GB = 20GB. I can keep different things in each of the 20 but can share them all with 1 main account for my personal and 1 main account for my business. (I don’t currently use it like this as the docs here are so small I barely use 1GB per account, but theoretically, you could). (I also have 5GB from my regular GMail account, which I can integrate as well.) This is all 100% legitimate per Google’s terms. And all 100% free.

4. Sign up for everything, ask questions later. You can always delete an account if a service is terrible, but I generally jump into a new service. Test it out and if I like it, find a way to integrate it. If not, I’ll let it sit and watch for improvements.

Which products do you find the most reliable? Useful? Why?

I use them all for different things – it also helps me keep organized so I don’t have documents in 5 places. Overall, I haven’t had any issues with any of them.

Amazon is solid for music and has a decent interface (the Android app is really the key here for me – I don’t have to keep music on my phone).

Google is the king of reliability with Google Docs, which is now Google Drive. I’ve never lost data – and in fact, have had data saved via autosave after a browser crash. I keep all of my spreadsheets and word docs there.

I use DropBox for photos now – the integration feature was key. I keep a back up portfolio there as well as the last 5 photo shoots I’ve done so I always have access no matter what. It integrates well with Android and my iPad, so I can share samples on the fly without carrying a laptop.

The one I’ve found the least useful, and I hate to say this since I’m a huge Apple fanboy, is iCloud. I’ve tried it from Mac to iPad and it just doesn’t work. So I’ve abandoned it.All it really pointed out for me is how well Google Docs/Drive works.

What’s the most important variable to consider as a consumer? Small business?
Access. Access. Access.

You need to be able to get the right documents in the way that’s right for you. I look at whether I need to edit a file or just view – and that will help dictate which service I use. Also how well the app functions and whether it integrates into other services like Evernote or a mobile office app. If I can’t access my data, there’s no point in me putting it in the cloud. I’d rather keep it on a thumb drive (which usually has more limitations but I can
generally find a computer to make edits.)

Access was what pushed me to Crashplan over Mozy for online backup. I lost a hard drive – and 3 months of photos 2 years ago. I hadn’t done a back up in a while so it was just lost. Crashplan’s app allows you to access ANY file on a mobile device or your computer – without restoring the entire database. That just works for me. They had some issues with speed as they became more popular, but I stuck with them. And haven’t had a bad experience.

Do you ever worry about security?
All the time. I use 6 or 7 online storage services regularly and none of them have the same password. And all of the passwords are fairly complex. I keep up on alerts and if anyone has a security breach they’ll fall to the bottom of my list. I try to take necessary steps to protect my data though.

These days, I’m more worried about losing my data than someone hacking into it. Though thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.

The Internet is filled with options for online storage most at a low cost, what’s the dividing line between these services?
For me, it’s accessibility, interface and how fast I can maximize storage. If I can’t get at my data and interact with it easily, I’m not going to use your service. Or, more likely, you’ll fall down a tier.

Otixo has made that a little less important since I can use their service to integrate ALL of these into a WebDAV drive with folders for each service, but even there, the throughput is fairly low. I could eat that up fast. So I have to access most items via their native apps. If there was one service I would pay for right now, it’s probably Otixo. The price is low and it
integrates multiple other free services seamlessly.

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