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A right old Rice pudding! Dropbox drops the bombshell

I’m a great fan of synchronised cloud storage – providing that:

(a) it’s reasonably secure (two-factor authentication, underlying encrypted file/object storage system, limited staff access)
(b) the syncing is intelligent (no multiple copies of the same file – the sync client and server can work out what’s the latest version and give it to me)
(c) offers versioning (go back in time to restore a particular version of a file)
(d) auto backup of photos and videos from an iOS device
(e) ability to view files on an iOS device
(f) applications can connect to it to be able to work with files stored within it

Dropbox is one of these services that ticks most, if not all the boxes. I’ve been syncing my 1Password password data with it for sometime across multiple Macs and iOS devices and it’s been great.

It Just Works(tm).

I have been critical of Dropbox in the not-too distant past when they’ve had serious security problems (also see this), but having been reassured of their commitment to security through the use of a decent two-factor authentication system and a very strong password, I’ve trusted them sufficiently over the past year with my data.

Until they announced that Condoleezza Rice was joining their board of directors.

Given Ms. Rice’s previous role within the US government, it seems both a suitable and highly unsuitable choice of partner. But nevertheless it’s a cause for concern. Even more so, Dropbox must have known that this would have stirred up controversy, but did not make much of an attempt to satisfy customer concerns during the initial announcement.

So it’s now time to leave them for pastures new.

Microsoft’s OneDrive is very good, but takes forever and a day to move data from a desktop machine to their datacentres (and vice versa). It does not offer two-factor authentication. It’s iOS app does, however, allow me to auto-upload photos and videos – but seems rather flakey. It doesn’t do much sitting in the background and I find myself having to open the app to push the data to OneDrive. Thanks to my Office 365 Home Premium subscription, I have an extra 20Gb (bringing total use to 45Gb). Another bonus is the use of Office iOS apps – editing proper Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the fly.

Google Drive has been Dropbox’s closest competitor for a while. But progress has been slow. I took a look at Drive when it first launched and wasn’t suitably impressed, and when revisiting Drive a while later, it started to show some stability improvements.

Google recently announced a massive price drop for Google Drive storage. 100Gb of data now costs $1.99, 1TB costs $9.99 in comparison to the old prices of $4.99 for 100Gb and $49.99 for 1Tb. As I use Google Apps for Business (paid), I’m not automatically entitled to take advantage of these new prices. Google Apps users are still on a much higher tier. But enabling Individual Storage within my Google Apps dashboard gives me access to the super-duper pricing scheme.

One MAJOR advantage of using Google Drive (apart from that both desktop and iOS apps use two-factor authentication) is that because I have a Spanning Backup account, everything stored within my Google Drive will be backed up alongside the rest of my Google Apps data – regardless of however much space I take out with Google.

So I’m trying out Google Drive with 1Tb of storage. And so far I’m rather impressed. Upload/download speeds max out the connections, and there appears to be no upload errors anymore.

I’ve stopped syncing 1Password data through Dropbox and am now using an alternative means (not Google Drive). I do hope AgileBits consider officially supporting Google Drive one day alongside other sync systems.

I have considered using OwnCloud to host/sync my data – but really needs a decent dedicated server running an encrypted filesystem with fully redundant disks to make it useful for my needs.

There is Kim Dotcom’s Mega service which offers 50Gb of free fully-encrypted storage. But there’s currently no sync clients available (but they are promised soon).

That said, I’m sure my employers will no doubt come up with a service that can do all these things and more, and do it better than many of these other services to boot.

  • Chris

    Interesting little read Martyn. Knowing you’re involved with Memset, do you know if there are any plans to upgrade the Squirrelsave service? I’ve been using it for about 4 years now and am generally very happy with it. However, the market seems to have moved on with many other services offering a greater number of features, whereas the Squirrelsave service appears to have sat still. This has recently started me thinking about making a move, but with a lot of data stored it’s no easy task.

    • http://www.drake.org.uk Martyn Drake

      Difficult for me to comment unofficially, Chris. What features are we talking about specifically?

      • Chris

        Thanks Martyn. I appreciate your position – would it be better for me to raise a support ticket for these queries?

        In terms of features, I like the idea of a private encryption key which many other providers are now offering. Also, it’s the dropbox killer features like synchronization between desktop, laptops and mobile devices and the ability to share files with a friend (photos for example). I have been looking at Spideroak which does these things. They recently ran a promotion offering unlimted space on their personal accounts which was tempting.

        • http://www.drake.org.uk Martyn Drake

          You’d get more or less the same answer, I’m afraid – very difficult for a company to lay out its future plans – in part due to competition and secondly we’d be held to it ;)

          However, know that we do have some interesting plans on the horizon for a number of new features but for now we’re generally concentrating on fixing bugs and adding subtle new features which should make backing up more flexible. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary at this time.

          I am in complete agreement with you with regards to the private key issue – I personally really like that SpiderOak has the “zero-knowledge” policy. That’s something to be commended. And because SquirrelSave is a UK company, it would certainly appeal to many (and especially those overseas in the US) if we were to implement a similar principal.

          I wouldn’t call Dropbox, Google Drive, LiveDrive or the many other derivatives “a backup service” as such, Their sole purpose is to really just sync (with the possibility of sharing files) between different computers. Backup, to me at least, involves archiving data away to one or more destinations. The keyword being “archiving”. When I’ve used backup and sync services combined, I found it to be an unholy mess.

          • Chris

            Thanks for the update Martyn. It would be interesting to know if a private key option is something that’s coming…!

            I’m starting to think about using Google Drive for the relatively small subset of my data which would be useful to sync between my devices. Have you considered using any of the encryption type of applications such as boxcryptor, viivo or cloudfogger? Or do you think that’s an unnecessary level of security? Insync is an interesting app which adds a few interesting features to google drive, but doesn’t do encryption.

          • http://www.drake.org.uk Martyn Drake

            We’ll try and keep people up to date on new features from the next release onwards.

            In terms of encrypting data in the cloud (sync) – see Michael’s comment above. http://www.viivo.com/ is free (with paid options available) and works rather well. Needs a few more features to make it outstanding, but can’t complain otherwise. And it’s from PKWARE, developers of the classic PKZIP product. Oh the happy memories playing with that in MS-DOS back in the 90s..

  • Richy B

    I’m actually giving Copy a try ( https://copy.com?r=VWyM82 ) , but I know there is also Box (but they don’t have a Linux client :( ).

    • http://www.drake.org.uk Martyn Drake

      Copy is VERY similar to Google Drive – or at least, the Mac client operates in a very, very similar fashion to earlier versions of Google Drive. Nice web-based interface, but offers nothing that Google Drive already does.

  • http://www.adeepbite.com/ Michael Allen

    have your guys tried viivo. it works with all the major cloud providers.

    • http://www.drake.org.uk Martyn Drake

      Yes – tried it last week. Has potential, and very easy to use. Once they’ve added filename scrambling, should be a good option for those encrypting data with cloud-based sync services.