Recommendations for computing cloud services

21 posts in this topic

Posted

Hello! I am quite new to posting on Toytown, so if i have missed something obvious that was posted on a thread somewhere, I apologise in advance. I promise I did look around a bit before posting this question.

 

I have been living and working here in Berlin for the past two and a half years ago, and I am currently looking for a good provider of cloud computing. I notice my current ISP, 1&1 offer cloud services for 39€ a month - is this a good option?

 

I want to use a cloud solution because myself and my partner want to:

 

a) have our important business data and current work project folders backed up and safe (at present we physically back up to an external hard drive once a week - yawn)

 

B) both have access to work on and update key documents which are kept in a shared location - so we don't have the problem of different versions of the same document floating about

 

c) give access to some of our working documents to third parties and assistants who work with us

 

so what should I do? Obviously going with the services offered by my current ISP is the simplest solution, so my preferred option - but is there anything I should know or think about?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Mark

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Posted

Your requirements seem fairly straightforward so I would have thought Dropbox would suffice. You get something like 4GB free and there are other ways to increase this (such as recommending others).

 

Tim.

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Posted

Skydrive offers 7GB for free and is becoming more and more integrated into the Microsoft world, especially Windows 8 and Office 2013

I actually use all of Skydrive, Dropbox and Google Drive as well as the 25GB I get for free with my ISP (Deutsch Telekom), so end up with almost 50GB for free. Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on my requirement.

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Posted

I have to second the suggestions from fathert and YL6, both good options for what you describe. You mention cloud computing in your topic, which is a very different concept to cloud storage which you describe. Cloud computing is where you actually want to perform compute in the cloud, like Amazon Web Services, OpenStack or Rackspace Cloud offer. What 1&1 are offering is a virtual server that their marketing department have labelled as "cloud". It is a product designed for operating a Linux or Windows server on the Internet, not storing files that you require.

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Posted

 

at present we physically back up to an external hard drive once a week - yawn

PS Keep doing this, it may be boring - but is a safe backup option. Keep an additional copy of important data on your new cloud storage as backup, since external hard disks fail too.

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Posted

It sounds as if your data is already of or could over time acquire substantial value if your business depends on it...

You might like to think about not placing your data into the hands of a third party because after all, whichever party you choose might suffer a natural disaster (fire, earthquake, flood), a political difficulty (where are those servers exactly?), a technical or hacking disaster or might even go belly up without much warning.

A possible alternative is to place your data onto a remote hard disk (or several in some sort of disaster-tolerant RAID configuration) owned by you or all of you on premises owned by you or all of you, accessible via the Internet or attached to your local network.

In this latter case you might for example site the remote disk (or array of disks) in a remote room (cellar? loft? garage? outhouse?) that receives its 230V AC from the same circuit as your office. In this case the remote storage would be connected to the central computer via (for example) Devolo dLAN 500 units with backups automatically performed at intervals with data transfers encrypted/decrypted on the fly and the recorded data itself of course also encrypted.

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Posted

Goodness! what a wealth of information - and so quickly! Thank you so much for taking the time to help. I shall give it all some careful consideration. Flushed with success at this first attempt at communicating with the technically savvy ex-pat community, I will try this: Any recommendations for a technically competent english-speaker willing to come to Potsdam who can help me with things that are slightly beyond my technical know-how: such as setting up a network for our many home computers, printers, laptops and tablets, and optimising our tv & satellite to get English stuff. I am happy to pay,but we are not the Rockefellers, so I don't want to shell out a fortune. I am however, thoroughly fed up with having to struggle to make myself understood with my completely inadequate German!

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Posted

 

It sounds as if your data is already of or could over time acquire substantial value if your business depends on it...

You might like to think about not placing your data into the hands of a third party because after all, whichever party you choose might suffer a natural disaster (fire, earthquake, flood), a political difficulty (where are those servers exactly?), a technical or hacking disaster or might even go belly up without much warning.

Fair points, although I don't know about the others that YL6 mentioned, but Dropbox will synchronise your data between all the machines you install it on so your data also remains on your PCs as well as their servers. I run it on my home server where it's backed-up as well as on my various others PCs and phones. To be honest though, I think the chances of Dropbox (or any other storage service) losing your data is probably much less than you overlooking your backups or otherwise screwing up. Dropbox also maintains older versions of your documents for a certain time, so if you want to go back to a previous version, or indeed a deleted version then you can.

 

Security is also a potential issue, I don't think all the reassurances they give you about encryption are worth the paper they're not written on so I use Truecrypt for anything sensitive.

 

Tim.

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Posted

Thanks again.

 

I was told today to avoid using dropbox because if I store my data there, I will cede the intellectual property rights to all content to dropbox. Is this correct? I was a little dubious, as I can't imagine anybody would use it if that were the case.

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Mark

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Posted

As stated before, it's cloud storage you're after. Or, even more general, redundant storage.

You have a few options:

1) Data stored on PCs and backed up regularly to an external device (e.g. a NAS) located in your LAN.

Plus: data available very quickly; you don't depend on Internet access to reach it; multiple versions of data can be stored (so that if you make a mistake in a particular file, you could go back to a previous version; most NAS management software allows you to share files over web so that they are also accessible from a remote location; flexibility in terms of storage space (if you need more, you just add as many disks as available slots in your NAS device)

Minus: cost of the NAS device (starting 300 euros for the box alone, plus the cost for the disks - minimum 3 recommended, around 120 EUR for a 3 TB one); disaster risk (if your office is flooded, catches fire etc you lose all your data); lack of redundancy for power, ventilation, connectivity (thinking of a typical office setup, not some NORAD-type shelter); possible cost of the backup software (e.g. Symantec Ghost)

 

2) Same as above, but with the NAS device hosted at a datacenter

Plus: you gain redundancy for the power, ventilation, connectivity aspects; possibility of using a shared backup system (so your data is backed up by the datacenter provider to a remote location, thus ruling out a disaster risk)

Minus: all of the above and on top of them: cost of hosting; dependency on Internet or WAN (from your office to your ISP) access; slower access speed (as data travels back and forth across the Internet / WAN.

 

3) Datacenter-provided (shared) storage service

Plus: no investment in hardware required; access to shared backup & restore services

Minus: cost of space; possible lack of flexibility regarding storage space (i.e. you may have to buy a 'package' of XX TB)

 

Generally speaking, I would avoid free services if you're hosting business-critical data. They can close unexpectedly, be taken over, change TOS etc. In your situation, I would go with a paid provider, not necessarily 1&1. Checking this website out, I noticed prices are really chips - starting at $3.95 a month for personal accounts.

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Posted

@OP: Regarding a NAS solution, these days they are very cheap and easy to set up for people with little IT experience. I bought a 1Tb one, plugged it in to the wireless router that came from by internet provider, switched it on, and it was all up and running. And installing the backup software that came with it ensures you stuff is backed up in the background like Dropbox. No yawn. Silent, small, and perfect for non techies. And for that price you can buy a 2nd or 3rd one as your needs expand. Or as airwave suggested 1 big fat multi-disk one.

I'm not saying all NAS solutions are as easy as that, but with a bit of advice you could pick the right one that you'd need no outside help.

 

Another alternative to Dropbox is Ubuntu One with 5Gb free. If you have more than one cloud provider, it is not so tragic if one goes down.

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Posted

 

PS Keep doing this, it may be boring - but is a safe backup option. Keep an additional copy of important data on your new cloud storage as backup, since external hard disks fail too.

 

Also, I have yet to hear of anyone doing a bare metal system restore from a cloud backup. In other words, do a complete clone of your internal drive, don't know about Windows, but SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac are pretty good.

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Posted

Nice idea, but anyone with a slow internet connection who needs rapid redeployment of their system after a critical failure aren't going to find that much use.

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Posted

But the whole point of cloud services, if you expect to rely on them at all is to have a fast internet connection, and a major selling point for backup to the cloud is that your data survives flood, fire, earthquake and theft at home. If you don't have a fast internet connection then you don't rely on the cloud.

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Posted

Not that it's not all good advice, but the poor OP must be confused as hell, he only asked for a simple strategy for keeping his business data backed up and for sharing it with his partner and occasionally other people, by the end of this thread he'll be building his own data centre ;-)

 

I still think the best option for what he asked is Dropbox or Skydrive etc., they do exactly what was requested and as his data is synchronised across his machines there is no chance of the storage provider disappearing with all his data.

 

 

I was told today to avoid using dropbox because if I store my data there, I will cede the intellectual property rights to all content to dropbox. Is this correct? I was a little dubious, as I can't imagine anybody would use it if that were the case.

That resulted from a change made to the terms and conditions of Dropbox ages ago which seemed to imply they own your data, they've since been amended, however, there's always a risk if you place your data in the hands of a third party, whoever it is. If you use something like BoxCryptor then all of your data will be encrypted before it is sent to the cloud.

 

Tim.

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Posted

hmm...

 

much food for thought here. Thanks again everyone for taking the time to advise, it really is much appreciated.

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Posted

 

Your requirements seem fairly straightforward so I would have thought Dropbox would suffice. You get something like 4GB free and there are other ways to increase this (such as recommending others).

 

Tim.

 

I use dropbox and I do like it, but there are a couple of issues I have found;

 

I find that it's slow. It seems not to use all of your internet bandwidth (even when its idle), and it takes a long time to sync if you have large amounts of data. I transferred a 2 GB file between 2 PCs (in different locations) via dropbox this way once and it was a mistake, I can appreciate that uploading is slow but the download speed is what got me. Next time I will just use a USB stick.

 

In the past I used Livemesh (now being discontinued for skydrive) and what I liked about mesh was that you can sync a folder outside of your dropbox folder. This was especially useful for applications which require their own local directory and own file structure in a specific location (moving them might break the app), but which you might want to sync, if only for backup purposes. Dropbox currently doesn't support this.

 

However, all in all I like it and am using it more and more.

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Posted

I've recently discovered a couple of other relevant services which might be of interest too. The first is Cloudfogger, which is an alternative encryption system to Boxlocker that I mentioned above. I've not been using it long, but it seems very good and will seamlessly encrypt and decrypt your files, making sure they never leave your computer in clear text. Boxlocker works by mounting your secure folders as a separate drive, which means you have to remember to store your sensitive stuff in that drive, if you inadvertently copy something directly to the secured folder it will not be encrypted. Cloudfogger avoids this problem and it also allows secure sharing of files and password recovery should you forget yours.

 

The other thing that looks interesting is Storage Made Easy, I've not tried it yet, but it appears to consolidate multiple cloud services so that you can use your free allocation of Dropbox, Google Drive, Skydrive etc. yet see them as one pool of storage instead having to mess around with each individually. I think it can also duplicate files across different providers to make double sure you have a backup.

 

Tim.

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Posted

Barracuda are doing a free promotion on their Copy cloud and synchronisation platform.

 

The FREE plan gives you 15Gb of free space, and it automatically synchronises your stuff betweens PCs and mobiles too.

The PRO plan costs money if you need more space.

But you can get a 5Gb bonus (on top of your 15Gb) if you refer someone or are yourself referred by someone.

 

If you click on my link: https://copy.com?r=D0neUY and join, both you and I will get an extra 5Gb during the promotion period. So it makes sense click and join up, then post your own link here to get even more!

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