Managing Free Cloud Storage

Now that there are so many cloud providers, it’s actually pretty complicated to figure out which set to use. It is pretty clear that you have to use a set and when you are in the cloud, you also have to think about privacy and who can look at what, so here are some tips:

Open problems

  1. One of the problems is that with big data sets on your home servers, you can lost a bit here and there and completely lose a JPG. I’ve had this happen on several files, so you want to install ZFS on your home machines (that’s a huge chore!) or have some way to checksum and error correct jpg. I have found a solution for that yet.
  2. Aggregating across multiple cloud providers. MacWorld says Providers such as cloudHQ, Otixo, and ZeroPC let you aggregate cloud storage services—that is, after you connect all your accounts, you can see your documents from every provider in a single view in the Web or an iOS app, drag files from one service to another to copy or move them, and in some cases even sync files between cloud services.

Private and Secure storage for confidential documents (taxes, etc)

  1. For really confidential data, you want to encrypt the information before it goes up there. One easy way on the Mac is to use an encrypted .dmg file. This is easy to do with Disk Utility, you create a new Disk Image and pick an encryption for it. The file doesn’t have to be huge. Say 50MB for instance is enough for lots of test files. Then you can upload it to Dropbox and when you double click on it, it will ask for your password. The big issue is if you use the DMG on multiple machines. Then you can get copy conflicts, but if the data is mainly read only that should be much of a problem
  2. Then there are zero knowledge storage file systems. I’ve been using SpiderOak for a while and it sort of works. The user interface is strange and on IOS it keeps forgetting passwords and doesn’t remember cached files, so not super useful.
  3. Macworld also mentioned Walua as another zero knowledge system I have to try.
  4. None of these are not completely safe because you don’t get to look at the code itself (so you don’t know if there is a backdoor). Truecrypt used to be open source but mysteriously, it’s development was discontinued.

Ubiquitous sharing

  1. Dropbox is the biggest and most people seem to have a login on it. The main problem is the relatively small free storage limits of 2GB. By various promotions, I’ve gotten to 5.2GB, but it is still limited. I mainly use it for “transient” sharing. So if you need to get a quick document or something to someone it works better than email for large documents. otherwise I keep it pretty clean since they have all the keys to it. Selective sync is really nice here to keep sizes down on computers.
  2. Box gives you 50GB free which is a nice alternative but seems less used and doesn’t have selective sync on the Mac

Company sharing

  1. Google Drive works well here since for $10/month you not only get unlimited storage but also email and archiving. The terms of use say it is private but of course they have your keys, so use the encryption scheme for really confidential stuff.
  2. Microsoft OneDrive. 1TB is pretty good particularly if you are using them for hosting anyway.

Photo sharing

This is a actually a really nice change and I’m testing two systems. Privacy is less of a factor, but you still want to look at terms of use:

  1. Amazon Cloud. Now bundled with the $99 Amazon Prime (they keep jacking the price!), but this give you unlimited photo storage (but not video). So it is a nice place to archive. Their Mac application let’s you point to a directory and upload. I’m not quite clear how you do incremental updates, so next step is to try to load the entire jpg again and see if it is smart about matching files
  2. Flickr. This gives you 1TB free, but the main advantage is that it has extensive sharing and group functions, so maybe this is a way around the cost of going to dedicated photo sharing sites like 500px. Trying it now. It is much slower to upload but the group feature is great.
  3. Bluehost. This is what I use now with Zenphoto gallery, it let’s you manage things with FTP and has a primitive web interface, but with Bluehost unlimited storage (their limit is 1GB maximum file size), it works decently well


There are many choices here, but I’ve been using Crashplan for a long time. BackBlaze is very close as well, the best thing about Crashplan is that they keep every revision forever of your files! I’m trying to run it in the background