Cloud Storage

Since the late 90’s I’ve been to various conferences where Microsoft, Google, IBM, HP and others have always talked about your profile, your data, and everything you do to be decentralized. You will work behind any workstation, and your data travels with you. Of course, technology had to catch up, bandwidth had to become available and affordable. But a few decades later and we’re still at the infancy of what we now call cloud storage, cloud computing, web apps, mobile this and that, whatever!

And yes, I say infancy because it’s clearly at an early stage. While internal storage has become ridiculously large and cheap, the old fashioned hard drives are becoming the bottleneck now that we have massive amounts of ram and cpu’s and gpu’s with multiple cores. Solid state drives are taking over and catching up quickly. Allowing for affordable consumer devices such as the iPad to have 64 gigabyte storage.

But do we need more? These children of the future of “how we deal with our personal data” is going to collide, test each other and with the idea of instant on, always on, and with a household no longer sharing a single profile on a single desktop computer. But instead each individual having a mobile solution alongside multiple desktops or laptops in a single household, we’re going to desire more and more that whatever we have, create, share, and need; Is going to have to be everywhere. On any device, at any time.

Smaller, faster, and easier to use for everybody interfaces on operating systems and computer systems, gadgets and mobile devices allow for anybody to take a picture, share and communicate, write documents, collaborate and publish, etc. With the blink of an eye. Storage doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Comfort, consistency, unified UI, expectations, privacy, and social connections require an instant on device, with an always on connection to everything else, with everybody else.

Providers, or even companies like Apple Inc. are offering an all in solution with their services and operating systems. You don’t even have to think about it. Update an address on the phone during a conversation with a friend. Come home and send an email to your aunt that the number has changed. The address book has the latest number. iCloud for example has been used to sync the contacts in the background among any device connected to your account. Not only that, we’re now capable of using their cloud solution to send free text messages if the receiving end has a device running the same service. And it doesn’t matter on which device you are to receive the reply either.

Writing documents, and collaborating with groups hasn’t been this easy with services from 37signals, Dropbox, or since recently SkyDrive by Microsoft and Google’s Drive.

One thing that’s clear. It won’t be long before we realize that everything that we’re doing has been shared with companies that make billions of dollars by using their services for our convenience, to help us sync and share data in return for our preferences and behavior. And it’s clear that the size of our internal storage drive doesn’t really matter.

They’re children, in a sandbox, and they’re trying out what works for them, what works for us, and how they can all work together. For the us consumers it shouldn’t matter in the future which cloud solution we’re using. How much storage they’re offering for free, or what features they offer that makes it easier for us to share data. We’re their tools, we are their product to play with, and we’re loving it.

I for one can’t even imagine how I managed to be on the Internet since the early 90’s without tools like 1Password or Dropbox.

But it’s all a bit silly during this sandbox period isn’t it? Sure, I have my internet hard drive on one computer. And I know via the local area network I can connect to the hard drive on the other computer and access more of my data. And I once found out about Dropbox and have been using it since to share data publicly with friends. Or in private with close friends and family. But since recently it seems that every app for the web or mobile device comes with their own sync or share service. Their own shortening URL. And thankfully they’re slowly supporting syncing over iCloud from Apple Inc. or via Dropbox. And it seems that because one big company introduces a cloud drive that every big corporation has to jump the bandwagon and pick up their piece of the Internet.

My desktop therefor used to have an icon for the hard drive, networked drive, sftp mount to my web site, and an icon for the dropbox public folder.

Since this year the whole side of the screen is filled with icons and the toolbar has received a few more. I am sure booting up the computers now means slower internet because of the syncing, and longer load times because everything in the world has to connect to everything else.

I now have multiple hard drive icons, multiple network icons, multiple dropbox folders, and multiple cloud solutions. Each with their own pros and cons, each with variou features, each with various pricing and purpose. And I love it, as much as I dislike it.

Google has Google Drive, a 5 gigabyte free storage solution with an affordable option to grow. A nice side effect is that if you pay a few bucks a month that your Gmail quota increases as well. A con: If I am paying, could you please remove all the ads? A plus that’s also a negative: I don’t fear that this service will dramatically change. I can’t really imagine at this point that Google Drive will be acquired by say Yahoo or RIM for example. On the other hand. I do fear that if I ever lose access to my Google Account that I will lose everything, from mail to my data in the drive, to whatever other service Google is offering. To top that, it also won’t be the first time Google has discontinued a great product just when you got used to it. (I miss you Wave).

I think it’s worth to note that it seems at the current time that whatever you upload, is theirs:

Dropbox has Dropbox, which in my opinion at this point is THE solution for everybody, on any device. It currently comes with 2 gigabyte free storage, but I haven’t run into a upload limit yet (SkyDrive used to have 20 or 30 megabyte per file for example. Completely unusable because of that if you ask me). For a bit of money you can get 50 gigabyte or more. And to top that, it goes on top of whatever you already have. Plus, you can constantly get free storage with beta testing, referring people or following them on social networks. My current quota is 90 gigabyte for example. Read this document to find out how I have done that. Cons about Dropbox: Well, data in public directories are easy to guess, they are still quite young as a company and I fear they might sell to say Facebook or alike. There has also been concern about privacy and security. Personally I believe this lies in the hands of those who use Dropbox.

One big plus for Dropbox over their competitors is that you have a copy of your dropbox cached on your computer. If you are not on the Internet you can still add to dropbox, edit, create, delete, etc. Once you’re connected it will just sync up. I doubt Google Drive does this. And if I am wrong and they do have an offline solution, I bet you there is some documentation to read and steps to follow as I am sure it isn’t turned on by default.

I already mentioned Apple Inc. They have iCloud, they don’t really offer a hard drive mounted folder because they focus on having your data synced between systems and devices. And allow third party apps to use this service to make things easier. And I love it. Sidenote: Photostream is completely useless. It’s like; Everybody knows it’s limited, but we want to like it. Anyway. I’ve found the share folder and made an alias. I’ve put the alias on my desktop. Any file I put in there gets synced to all my devices. Thank you for the 5 gigabyte. But it’s clearly not enough to use it as a rolling backup solution for even just one iOS device. A big con (negative). Pro: It all works quite well, and it’s awesome that they use this for not just one or two apps, but all their core apps and allow third party apps. It turned the iOS operating system into the next generation operating system.

Microsoft has SkyDrive, and I am sure whatever it was, it has already changed. I read information about 25 gigabyte storage, but now you have to pay. People losing data, and stuff not being synced. I see I have 7 gigabyte free, and I doubt I will ever pay. And to be honest, I doubt I will have this for long. It’s great for sharing documents for their eh. Yeah never mind. I don’t use Microsoft products really, and I wanted to use this as extra 7 gigabyte backup for an encrypted file as a secondary backup solution. But already got nothing but errors as it turns out I currently can’t use a file over 30 megabyte. This is 2012 people. We have 10mbit or better upload streams, and no traffic limits. And I don’t see the difference between cutting a 45 megabyte file up in 2x 27 .zip for example. When that’s simply as much work as burning it to a rewritable disk or uploading it with dailup.

What I want in the future is that all these companies work together, define who and what they are, and integrate with each other. If I buy a Google phone outright without a contract, I want certain data from my dropbox to be available on the Google Drive. And if I work on a web project with a friend who has a Windows tablet that I can share from my Google Drive this project to their SkyDrive. This means that despite competition that Google might get my money for extra quota, and perhaps my friend with the Windows Phone might pay for extra SkyDrive quota. I mean, each company will still earn their money.

But it shouldn’t matter which service we use or who we’re sharing with.
As much as it shouldn’t matter to us now if we store it on our internal drive or in the cloud.

I have no problem to test new services, I have no problem sharing data with corporations that don’t tell me that I am their product and what they’re doing with my data (including my behavior, etc). After all I can decide to only share with them what I feel is not an issue to share. I know there are always bugs, security breaches and what not. I know not everything is transmitted encrypted or stored securely. They are as imperfect as I am. And it’s a learning process for us all.

But I know I am biased. What works for me: I don’t break by trying to fix it. And what doesn’t work, is hard for me to try again.
Dropbox is in the top of the list, and they have my money. I use them so many times per day. And I hope they won’t fuck me over.
Microsoft is at the bottom of the list, they will not get my money, and probably almost none of my data.
What I am hoping for is iCloud to mature to a point that I might consider uninstalling Google Drive, or even consider discontinue using Dropbox. I am hoping Google does the same.

If you ask me now “how do I share a file with my mom, a gallery of pictures, or work on a project with my friend” I will tell you: Dropbox has the solution for you and those who you want to share with. With public links, privately shared folders, and you can pay for additional quota if needed.

If you ask me to use Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive or iCloud, I will reply that you should not bother with SkyDrive unless you are some enterprise person that ..yeah I have nothing. And leave Google Drive on the side for now to let it mature. And use iCloud if you have a Mac or an iOS device. There’s nothing wrong with the calendar, bookmarks, etc to sync automatically.

To me, it’s clear that despite decades of discussions about ‘taking your data with you, the computer won’t matter’ blah blah, that we’re there now, finally. And that it’s still so early, so very early in the age of cloud computing. For both the companies and the consumer. But I am glad using my phone, tablet, laptop and computer is made so much easier thanks to better syncing over the cloud, thanks to services like Dropbox and secure password management like 1password. But come on now big companies, hire a hotel and get together. Discuss the options to work together and push “in the cloud” to version 2.0 where “quota” shouldn’t matter and where services are unified.

Okay, I am done. I needed to get all of this off my chest and out on paper. But I do thank you for reading it.

Dropbox | 2gb
Google Drive | 5gb
Apple iCloud (see my blog entry about how to mount the directory) | 5gb
Microsoft SkyDrive | 7gb