Gathering clouds

In a previous article, I recommended using cloud storage to make your files mobile and to provide a means of backing up vital files and data. For file back-up, the idea of cloud storage is appealing as it fulfils one of the main tenets of secure back-up by providing off-site storage should your premises or house be desimated by fire or flood.

Fire and Flood

Don't let this happen to your data

All well and good, until recently when there was a huge stushie over file sharing company Megaupload which was shutdown by US officials on 19th January 2012 and charged with conspiracies to commit racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering. The background to the case is that Megaupload were allegedly encouraging users to upload and share popular files leading to copyright infringements including software, video and music piracy. Whatever the outcome of the case against Megaupload, it has already had an effect on the online storage industry and some similar cloud providers are restricting or closing down their service including FileSonic, FileServe, FileJungle, UploadBox and UploadStation.

For your average and genuine user, the concern of this is that the many legitimate companies that provide a useful and innovative service may be tarred with the same brush and put at risk by this action.

So where does that leave us ……?

The Silver Lining

My advice is not to be put off using cloud storage for both personal and business use but to use it as a convenience rather than rely on it as an absolute necessity. This means keeping a local copy of your files and all the best cloud storage providers will have a synchronisation utility to do this automatically, giving access to your files even when you’re offline. For extra security, sensitive files can be encrypted using an on-the-fly encryption utility such as AxCrypt and TrueCrypt can be used with Dropbox to create a secure container. The great thing about Dropbox synchronisation, unlike with many other services, is that it only transfers the part of the file that has actually changed not the whole file, so you won’t use lots of bandwidth to update your TrueCrypt containers.

Dropbox offers 2Gb of free storage but if you’re looking for more, then I can recommend 4shared who provide a generous 15GB of free storage. I’ve been evaluating their service for a while and I like the web interface, which is much better than that from Dropbox and more like a proper file manager. 4shared also provides two free programs to synchronise your files with your PC, ‘4shared Sync’ synchronises the whole 4shared account, while ‘4shared Desktop’ is similar to an upload/download manager and allows you to synchronise a particular folder. I’ve emailed 4shared a couple of times with general questions and their responses have been quick and helpful. It stands out from the rest and is worth a look.

 

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