My Search for Cloud Storage-Weighing the Options
I’ve been meaning to write this blog post on my search for reliable cloud storage since mid-July. So why am I just getting around to it in early October? Because it was a lot more complicated that I thought it was going to be. My initial thought of unveiling my ideal choice for cloud storage just never materialized because to be honest, the perfect cloud storage solution just doesn’t seem to exist.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great storage solutions out there, but each of them has something about them that keeps it from being the be all, end all solution. So rather than being an unveiling, this post is more of a journey into the cloud and what exists there.
My search began in June, when the purchase of my new laptop brought the realization that I needed a more cohesive plan for my cloud storage. Being a virtual service provider, I had accounts with all the major players; Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive and some of the not so major ones like Glasscubes but all of them were simple free level accounts. Those accounts had been sufficient for my needs in the past, but now that I was once again going to be mobile with a new laptop, I felt it was time to move the majority of my files to the cloud where I could access them from whatever device I wished.
I started out looking at the services I already had accounts with. I knew I was looking for the following:
- At least 200GB of storage
- Under $20 per month
- Integrated resident folder for ease of access and addition of files
- The ability to upload large files
- Strong Security
I probably researched a few dozen cloud services, but narrowed that research down to seven contenders that I seriously considered. The final seven were Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, Glasscubes, SugarSync, Microsoft SkyDrive and Bitcasa.
I explored Microsoft SkyDrive because I recently signed up for Office365 and thought that being able to integrate my cloud storage would be the most ideal. Sadly, Microsoft doesn’t give me, as an Office365 subscriber, the option to easily upgrade my current SkyDrive account, nor did it appear I could go beyond the 100GB storage level without jumping through a ridiculous amount of hoops. I love having Office365 but Microsoft really needs to work on the connection between it and SkyDrive. Right now they operate almost as separate units rather than integrating seamlessly. And businesses like mine who use 365 would benefit from a quick and easy way to add storage space without sitting on the phone with representatives. SkyDrive was the first service crossed off my list.
The next one knocked off the list was Glasscubes. Although the storage space and price were right, it lacked the resident folder on my desktop that would make accessing and adding files quick and easy. Plus, it really is geared more toward project management, and although I liked the concept, all I really needed was straightforward storage.
Sugar Sync had great features, and I know lots of people swear by it and its security. Still at $25.00 a month for 250GB of storage, it was really more than I wanted to pay as a small business sticking to a budget. It was the third service to get the axe from my list.
The lack of encryption for my stored files (at least at the level I was looking to purchase) also put both Google Drive and Box.net out of the final race. Although I had no plans of storing my client files in the cloud, I still wanted the peace of mind knowing that the files I was going to be placing there were secure.
That left me with Dropbox, which I was already using and familiar with; and the newcomer, Bitcasa. It was a well-known fact that Dropbox had some security issues in their history, but I knew from experience that it was easy to use. With a Dropbox folder sitting on my desktop and even an app for my iPhone, it was easy to not only access and add files but also to share them with others if the need arose. It was also at the upper end of my budget and gave me the bare minimum of space that I was looking for.
On the other hand, Bitcasa was a relative newcomer to the cloud storage arena. The fact that my files would be encrypted on my own computer before being stored on Bitcasa’s service appealed to me. I would be the one with the encryption password, meaning no one at Bitcasa would have access to it. Rather than a folder, Bitcasa would be loaded as a drive on my computer, still making accessing and adding files simple. Bitcasa also gives the option to mirror files, which allows access to the files in a mirrored folder, but doesn’t allow changes to be made to them except from the computer where the file actually resides; not something I pictured using, but it could come in handy in certain situations. And let’s not miss the fact that I would get unlimited storage under budget which was a huge selling point for me.
Still, there were drawbacks. First, Bitcasa doesn’t have an option for sharing files yet. They are constantly working to make changes that subscribers want, so I would imagine it will be an option somewhere down the road, but as of this writing it’s still in the future. Second, the web application doesn’t open as many file types as more established cloud storage services like Dropbox. Finally, some privacy advocates have a problem with Bitcasa’s high security claims due to the way files are stored. (The reason Bitcasa can offer unlimited storage is because they only store one instance of any file, meaning if someone already has uploaded a copy of the Beatle’s “Let it Be”, they won’t waste space uploading your duplicate version which is exactly the same. If that sounds confusing, read this article where they explain it much better than I can.)
So which service did I choose?
I decided to go with Bitcasa. The lack of file sharing didn’t affect me much, as I still have other options for sharing files, as well as ways of sending large files. Those privacy advocate fears were unlikely to cause problems for me either, as the files I’d want strong security for are unique to me. The only files that might overlap with someone else would be stock images and I’m ok with that.
One thing I’ve learned through my search, when it comes to cloud storage, it all depends on what your needs are. While there may not be one service out there that offers it all, chances are you can find the one that fills your particular needs.
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