The Norman Transcript

April 7, 2013

Be your own cloud file storage service


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — You may recall my Feb. 10 column discussing “the cloud” and online file storage, “What’s the deal with the cloud?” and how the cloud is being used more and more to store everything we use and possess in our digital lives.

Using cloud services to store and share files has its upside; take, for example, the cloud service called Dropbox (www.dropbox.com).

Dropbox is ultra-easy to use. I like it. There are free versions which are good for most people, and paid versions that can meet most any need. I use the free version, myself. Dropbox allows you to store, share and synchronize files between a wide variety of devices, such as desktop and laptop computers, Android tablets and phones, iPhones, iPads, Kindles and Blackberry phones. Security is good, as your files are encrypted in transit and in storage, so even the people at Dropbox can’t read them.

Cloud services like Dropbox do have a downside, though: your files live on somebody else’s computer, over at cloud headquarters. If something goes wrong, those files could vanish forever. Poof, gone, kiss those babies good-bye. It’s happened before, to numerous cloud service providers. While the odds are with you that nothing bad will ever happen to your cloud-stored files, keep in mind that we live in an imperfect world. To put it nicely, stuff happens.

New products are here, though, for people who prefer to have more control over their file-sharing and synchronizing life, products which allow you to run your own cloud-like service. Two of those products are AeroFS (www.aerofs.com) and ownCloud (www.owncloud.org).

Both products are designed to give you a Dropbox-like experience, but with the responsibility and control of the experience lying with you, the end-user. Your files stay on your devices, and only on your devices, but you still have the ability to share and synchronize as you please.

AeroFS is the newer of the two products, and is designed mainly for desktop and laptop computers running the Windows, Apple OS X or Linux operating systems. An Android app, they say, is coming soon.

AeroFS has a free version which allows up to four accounts to share files from the same “folder” location. Paid versions start at $10 per month, allowing 50+ users, with customized versions for larger groups of people. All the versions allow for unlimited synching between an unlimited number of devices. Security and encryption is top-notch.

ownCloud is a much more highly-developed, feature-laden product, offering a toolkit that can do just about anything in our increasingly sync-happy world. Files, calendars, contacts, photo galleries, everything has a place in ownCloud, which also has versions for Apple and Android mobile devices. You choose where your files live, and which computers control what. You can even use ownCloud to control remote cloud services like Dropbox.

Running your own private cloud service can have its downside, too. You’ll have to learn some things to make it all function properly. You’ll have to spend some time configuring all your various devices, setting up accounts and troubleshooting the whole shebang if something goes wrong. In other words, it will require a little work to make it all happen.

For serious computer enthusiasts, do-it-yourselfers, businesses and other organizations, the rewards of setting up your own cloud service can be great. Keep in mind, though, that it probably won’t be a three or four-click, budda-bing, budda-bang, all done-type process. If that’s what you need, you’re probably better off using something like Dropbox.

Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 405-919-9901 or davemoorecomputers.com.

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