It all started with a discussion between a group of us over how we could share large multimedia files in production between group members, without a lot of expense and hastle. The ideal solution was determined to be cloud storage. That is, you send your files to another company (like amazon, racspace, mosso, or google) and they store the files for you, on multiple computers, in multiple locations. When you need the file, you can call it up without worry over how, or where, it happens to be stored. For our cloud storage provider, we wanted a solution that was: cheap, unlimited (multimedia files can be huge), fast, extremely secure, multiplatform, and point-and-click both for set-up and accessing our files.
Several companies exist to do this. The way they work is, they create a virtual hard drive on your computer, but instead of all the files on that drive getting stored on your computer, anything you put there gets uploaded into the cloud.
The first provider we looked at was ZumoDrive. It looked interesting: easy to use, fast, and well supported. Unfortunately, it had several problems. First of all, it only seemed to be available for Windows and IPhone. When one of us had windows, another OS X, and a third a linux netbook, that just wasn’t going to cut it. Second, some of the features for optimizing the cache, like changing the bit-rate on mp3s so they could be streamed over low bandwidth connections, or determining what to cache locally based on file type, seemed to be rather insecure. If we wanted our storage provider, and everyone in charge of the networks between them and us, to know what we were storing, we could just use FTP or WebDav to my dreamhost account. Third, we knew we were eventually going to want 500 GB. At $80 a month, the pricing for ZumoDrive was a little high. However, according to the reviews, Zumo Drive used a storage provider called Amazon S3. I figured I’d go looking for other companies using S3 to do the same thing.
The first one I found was Jungle Disk. It runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux. It has extremely secure encryption; neither Jungle Disk, nor Amazon S3, can tell what you’re storing in the cloud. With Jungle Disk, you use your own Amazon S3 account; Jungle Disk doesn’t bill you for anything, or provide you with anything other than the software. That means that if Jungle Disk shuts down, your files will still exist, unchanged. You control your data, not Jungle Disk. I’ve been using the software for a week, now, and I’m overall pleased with my experience. Set-up is a little harder than with ZumoDrive, but the price is also a lot cheaper. It’s 10 cents per gig. That means that if I use 500 gigs in a month, I pay for 500 gigs. If I go on vacation for two months, and use 0 gigs, I pay for nothing at all. For the screen reader users reading this, almost everything is accessible. The automated back-ups on OS X aren’t accessible, and they’re really hard to use on Windows as well, but other than that everything worked perfectly. Unfortunately, the Windows version of the software has a few problems:
1. under network settings, I had to turn off the option to use a windows file system driver, and use a virtual WebDav server instead. If I didn’t, Jungle Disk would crash Windows Explorer, and it couldn’t be relaunched until reboot.
2. Copying files to any jungle disk drive using Teracopy has serious issues.
But once I got those things fixed, everything worked well. One other, small, thing to keep in mind is that Jungle Disk uploads items to the cloud in the order you paste them. So, if you paste in 14 gigs of wav files, then paste in a 20 kb text file, the 20 kb text file won’t be available to other machines using your jungle disk until all 14 gigs of wav files have been sent up. It would be nice if Jungle Disk could detect extremely small files, and shuffle them ahead in the transfer list, so they’d be available to other computers right away.
update: Thanks to a poster in the comments, I was lead to try Wuala. It uses both cloud storage, as well as peer to peer storage, in an attempt to limit costs, increase available storage, and allow for more flexability. It looked, at first blush, as though it was ideal for my needs. Unfortunately, it has several major flaws. First off, purchasing more storage is expensive. You pay per year, rather than per gig used or per month. This is a steep up-front payment for a poor student. As well, it requires even more for-thought as to amount of storage required. While you can trade storage, if you have storage available, you can’t get more than 20 gig until at least 10 percent of the 20 gig you’re offering has been used. As well, your computer must be online for at least four hours in a row, every day. This does not work well for laptops. But the most serious flaw of wuala is that, instead of writing native code for each operating system, Wuala uses Java. While it’s not particularly family friendly, the most accurate, and concise, criticism of Java I’ve heard runs as follows: “saying that Java is good because it runs on all platforms is like saying that anal sex is good because it works on all genders.” I hate and despise Java. It’s slow. It’s interface is strange, and while it’s accessible with NVDA, the interface doesn’t follow any windows standards at all. It eats memory faster than an extremely fat person eats chips. I don’t trust Java to run my entertainment software. Under absolutely no conditions am I going to trust Java with my important files. Some of the features of wuala, like the world feature, could be useful for filesharing and warez. But at this point, in my opinion, it’s not a serious file exchange and file storage system. That aligns with most things peer to peer. Peer to peer is a useful toy for avoiding responsibility for breaking the law. But it’s not useful for when real, legal, work needs to be done. Wuala is an interesting social and thought experiment. But, at the moment, it’s nothing more. I haven’t even gotten into the problem of trading storage on my computer when my ISP caps my bandwidth. In theory, depending on what wuala stores on my computer, it could wind up costing me even more to trade storage than to buy storage.