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Computer related questions => Free software links, and recommendations => Topic started by: happypaddler on June 15, 2011, 03:24:20 PM

Title: Cloud computing...
Post by: happypaddler on June 15, 2011, 03:24:20 PM
Hi all,

Not been around for a while - busy doing my PhD and not enough time to play... I have a non-camera orientated question, however I know that you are a knowledgeable lot and thought there maybe others who use cloud storage solutions.

I use a number of different bits of software (Scrivener and EndNote being the main two academic wise) and I need constant access to numerous .pdf journal docs etc that I keep referring to. I use both a laptop and desktop - both mac and currently use the iDisk function of Apple MobileMe to store all files - this system automatically keeps a copy of all files on both computers and the cloud, whilst at the same time it updates all three as and when I have been working on files, so both computers and the cloud always hold the most up to date files. Following the recent keynote by Mr. Jobs, it appears the revamped iCloud will not have the iDisk part that I currently use, or at least there was no mention of it. I'm hoping in due course it will be mentioned - probably as a paid extra (its not free at the moment). However if they get rid of it completely or it's stupidly over priced... I want to be ready with an alternative solution.

Apple have said we all have free MobileMe until the iCloud is fully rolled out in 2012 - I am therefore thinking this gives me time to trial a few alternatives to decide where to go, should I need to - rather than being forced to make a rash knee jerk jump to something that actually does not fulfil my needs. The other alternative is to set up a server at home and use that - though I'm not sure how that all works or how much that would cost.

So I guess I am asking for advice on two things - an alternative safe and secure cloud storage solution that will keep my two mac's in sync with all my files etc... and an idea of cost, plausibility and advice on how to set up a home server to do this task.

Thanks in advance...
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: Jonathan on June 15, 2011, 05:17:04 PM
Dropbox.

It works.  It's multi platform.  It's free.

http://db.tt/wkHWGOT
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: happypaddler on June 15, 2011, 06:55:39 PM
I have been using Dropbox for a while to sync a shopping list (and similar inconsequential data) between my wife's android phone and my iPhone and yes it works... but is Dropbox safe? I'm always sceptical of free when I'm trusting it with important, sensitive and confidential data (some of my research falls into this category as I'm in police station custody suites and interview transcripts/questionnaires etc need to be kept very very secure)  - though the free 2 GB is not big enough and I'd have to pay for more space, not that that should make a difference to it's security.
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: Hinfrance on June 15, 2011, 07:00:13 PM
Keep your confidential stuff in Dropbox inside a TrueCrypt (http://www.truecrypt.org/) container - takes a bit of getting used to, but is freeware and about as secure as you can get.
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: happypaddler on June 15, 2011, 07:08:21 PM
Thanks, I'll have a look and a play to see how user friendly it is.
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: Jonathan on June 16, 2011, 08:06:21 AM
Ah yes.  Dropbox is "secure" but as you know there's a difference between "secure" and "holding interview transcripts so they don't appear in the Daily Fail secure".

In fact I reckon it's as secure as anything on the cloud - i.e. buying another service won't get you more security.  Either use TrueCrypt or run your own service (which being web accessible could still be vulnerable to heavy duty attack).

If I leave my MacPro on by accident and turn on my MacBook at a friend's house, I'm constantly amazed that I can log in via the internet just like I can on my intranet.  I can even remote screen.  Mac Mini plus a really long password?

Re Dropbox costs - recommend it to people ;)  I'm at nearly 10GB on my free account now....
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: anglefire on June 16, 2011, 06:30:29 PM
I see I'm playing at it - I've only got 4Gb!
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: picsfor on June 17, 2011, 07:44:07 AM
And i'm at 5gb - strobist shoots have their uses  ;)

I don't know of anyone who tries Dropbox who doesn't get on with it. So handy to let people view pics for consideration or transfer.
As for security - is their any where that is "really safe" - only if it was an external hard drive that was unplugged from the computer and and only connected to the computer when it was wasn't connected to any type of network.

But it's all down to what you consider as sensitive.
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: happypaddler on June 17, 2011, 11:09:06 AM
I just read on the Scrivener forum (the software I use to write my thesis) that Dropbox causes issues with backing up whilst working on a document that is stored on Dropbox. I am sure I could get around that though, by saving the file to the desktop, removing it from dropbox then putting it back on when I've finished working. I would have to pay a monthly subscription as I would need the larger capacity asap when/if Apple can iDisk next year (though I shall start promoting it and try and get some more space for free in the interim).

I've just come across http://www.pogoplug.com/ (http://www.pogoplug.com/) which may be an option, with an initial outlay and the that is it. It essentially creates a cloud storage network and allows up to 5 EHD's visible as cloud storage. I can see many advantages with it, if it does what it says it does. Going to go look at some reviews.

Thanks all for the advice.
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: Markulous on June 18, 2011, 07:42:28 PM
I have been using Dropbox for a while to sync a shopping list (and similar inconsequential data) between my wife's android phone and my iPhone and yes it works... but is Dropbox safe? I'm always sceptical of free when I'm trusting it with important, sensitive and confidential data (some of my research falls into this category as I'm in police station custody suites and interview transcripts/questionnaires etc need to be kept very very secure)  - though the free 2 GB is not big enough and I'd have to pay for more space, not that that should make a difference to it's security.

I use Dropbox but only for making images accessible for others to download/print/publish and use SafeSync from Trend Micro for backing up my images (about 1/4 way through and up to 140GB so far!). Whilst I'm confident that the data is secure, I'm really not too fussed if someone does breach the system as they are just photos (but I'd be faintly surprised, being run by an antivirus company). However, I would question your letting any highly confidential info anywhere near the internet - I know people in banking, NHS, etc who never connect their system to a network, never mind the internet!
Title: Re: Cloud computing...
Post by: happypaddler on June 20, 2011, 03:19:25 PM
Hi Markulous, I know exactly what you are saying - the stuff I want to store is sensitive - but only until I have permission from the constabulary to publish. I'll have various files which are annonymised and only the person who is the subject of that interview transcript / completed questionnaire will know the information comes from them. Anything more sensitive will be on my laptop (which is what I use "in the field") and will be transfered to an EHD and off my laptop before I send the annonymised files to the cloud (I will be doing lots of boring stats analysis of this vast data set).

Anything that is really sensitive to the public at large i.e. on going investigations and anything directly relating to suspects themselves are off limits to my research - I'm looking at officers and other staff who work within the custody suite. The sensitive "field data" really is the small part of what I need cloud access to. The main thing is my ongoing theses its self (which I don't want to get out) and many many journal docs, bits of legislation, case law, and reports - which are all somewhere on the web already). As I work in different settings on different machines I want access to them all quickly and not have to worry that I do not have the latest/updated file.

If anyone does get hold of my files it will be my own work which is stolen - and perhaps the constabulary and some officers may be a bit embarrassed once my critical eye has been cast, should anyone decide my work is worth publishing before I do.

For dropbox users - I just read they had a security issue this morning - see http://www.tuaw.com/2011/06/20/dropbox-security-bug-temporarily-allowed-logins-without-authenti/ (http://www.tuaw.com/2011/06/20/dropbox-security-bug-temporarily-allowed-logins-without-authenti/)