Saturday, April 17, 2010

Personal Cloud (your data anywhere)

There are some interesting new tools coming out with powerful implications - kind of like the 'place-shifting' & 'DVR' which allowed TV to be watched anywhere.

Your own 'World-Wide Drive' (WWD):
Any interesting new class of product is the PogoPlug appliance. For about $125 it lets you 'mount' a few USB drives which you nestle safely at home (or work). It supports Windows, MAC and Linux. So now while at home or at work or on the road, I have a magic drive "P:" which is my own private little 500GB of space. Course it's NOT a very speedy drive! Your broadband upload speed is tiny compared to real online servers. But it lets me keep PDF files of industrial protocols and other rarely needed stuff in easy reach. Plus it is MINE - all mine. I can maintain or backup my 500GB without paying monthly fees or getting nasty bandwidth warning from my broadband supplier! Plus it could expand to a dozen TB (1000 of GB) there if I wanted to.

The PogoPlug device is a small Linux-based appliance about the size of a USB drive with an Ethernet port and 4 USB host ports (aka: PC-like). You plug your USB drives into it - preferable drives which power down when idle. My only drive at the moment is a chromy-choco-brown Samsung 500GB drive which I bought on deep discount. The drive's a bit gaudy, but it is small, runs cool and spins down after 5 minutes of inactivity.

From your home Ethernet, the PogoPlug-driver fetches data directly via Ethernet, which makes the PogoPlug a simple 'home file server'. I can maintain or backup the files directly to a 1TB drive in my desktop.

When you are out & about, then the PogoPlug-driver uses HTTP (or HTTPS) to fetch your data via cloud servers which fetch it from your home box using encrypted UDP. You never need to know the IP of your home system because the PogoPlug keeps itself 'available' to the cloud 24/7. You can also 'share' the drive, so I could give YOU access to my protocol library or music files.

Is it secure? Probably fairly, being somewhere in between the 'very secure' of running your own dedicated Linux home file server with fixed IP, and 'not really secure' of an online file-space company. (Sure, those 'online' backup sites promise your files are private, but the files sit on a 'computer drive', where any bored night operator can browse your files looking for porn.) The PogoPlug system only bounces data packets through the cloud, so it would take a higher level of security breach to actually see your files as 'a drive'.

Magic WWW File Sync:
The other tool I am starting to use is Microsoft's Beta 'Live Mesh' service, which allows you to automatically sync files between internet-connected Windows (& MAC) computers. It has other features, but my main interest is in simple things like (as example) say there is a new version of 7-zip or OpenOffice. I can download the installers once, place them into a magic directory on one PC and eventually it will exist on all of my other computers.

Why not use my PogoPlug? For one thing the speed of the Pogo drive is not good enough to run applications - even opening a PDF file is slow since Acrobat jumps around the file so much as it read the file. So I find manually copying the file to a TEMP directory the best.

in contrast, the Live-Mesh solution allows me to just have the EXE/MSI installer magically appear on each of my local hard-drives. Is it secure? Is anything connected to the Internet? For now I am just using it for big things I need to 'have local' on each computer.

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