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An Interview with Founder and CEO of SpiderOak Ethan Oberman

SpiderOak is a world leader in keeping cloud information truly private. Company founder and CEO Ethan Oberman explains that while information on the cloud seems like it can’t be private, he and SpiderOak are here to ensure that it truly is.

When you came to SpiderOak what did you identify as the company’s strongest attributes? Weakest?

SpiderOak’s strongest attributes are the focus on both privacy and flexibility. From the beginning, we believed in bringing the best and most advanced cloud technologies to consumers and enterprises while doing so in our ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy environment.

Due to our focus on keeping the product flexible and private, our product does suffer from being not as easy to use as some of the other products on the marketplace. We have always felt it was a tradeoff worth making and have found a market that not only appreciates but needs these attributes.

You are heading up a company that competes well in one of the most
saturated emerging marketplaces. How do you separate SpiderOak from their competition?

We have always had the belief that any product needs distinguishing factors. If nothing else – be different. As such, our focus on ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy has given us a unique and important edge in this crowded market. And although this sounds obvious, making a product that works in varying scenarios and across all platforms has also been critical to our success.

SpiderOak is billed as a “zero-knowledge” cloud, sync and backup solution.
Can you specify what that means for your business consumers? I’ve heard you describe it as “you can’t compromise what you can’t see.”

We define ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy as not being able to see plaintext data on our servers – anytime and for any reason. This means that we are completely and fully unable to betray the trust of our users, which is of critical importance to us. When we started SpiderOak, a major focus was dispelling the myth that just because data is online doesn’t mean that it cannot be private.

Explain how your enterprise product benefits companies?

Our enterprise product – SpiderOak Blue – gives companies much greater control and understanding over company data wherever it may reside. The idea behind SpiderOak Blue took shape after several large enterprises contacted us looking for a more private and organized way to use cloud technologies. Since then we have worked on making SpiderOak Blue much easier to deploy inside companies through easy integration, pre-configured builds, and enhanced reporting.

Explain the differences in you three Blue products?

We have two different SpiderOak Blue offerings, SpiderOak Blue Hosted Storage and SpiderOak Blue Private Cloud. In Hosted Storage, companies utilize the SpiderOak infrastructure for their storage needs. In Private Cloud, SpiderOak can leverage a company’s internal storage infrastructure. For some customers, being able to deploy a solution to run behind the firewall is critical and we are happy to have built in that flexibility.

Where is SpiderOak headed next?

In the near term future, SpiderOak will be improving our mobile functionality to include uploading and syncing of from mobile devices as well as several collaborative products that will make read/write sharing possible while not sacrificing our ‘zero-knowledge’ privacy environment.

Thanks for your time, and good luck with SpiderOak Blue!

Thanks to you as well.

Ethan Oberman is the founder and CEO of SpiderOak which provides ‘zero-knowledge’ cloud-based backup, synchronization, and sharing services. Through the creation of their fully private environment (‘zero-knowledge’ privacy), SpiderOak focuses on delivering a flexible and technically advanced solution to the consumer, small business, and enterprise. Ethan graduated from Harvard University in 1999. Originally from Chicago and now residing in San Francisco, Ethan formed the initial concept of SpiderOak in 2006. SpiderOak officially launched its service in December 2007. Ethan spends time currently thinking about and understanding how privacy will impact our digital lives moving forward from potential government regulation to how company’s transparency policies.

 

FilesAnywhere Proves to Be More than Just Another Cloud

Award-winning company making a move in the cloud marketplace.

It’s true that if you want to purchase space with a cloud service there are hundreds of companies willing to cede over some server space. Some of these companies give you a fraction of space for free, while others offer 20, 50 and 100 gigs of online storage space for dollars a month. As far as saturation in the marketplace, no field seems more inundated with startups than cloud storage.

Which is why it’s nice to have organizations within the community of companies who objectively measure the performance and userability of the products available to consumers in the marketplace. For online storage companies that organization is the Metroplex Technology Business Council. The MTBC rates companies each year and in 2012 they’ve noted that FilesAnywhere has been nominated in the category of Emerging Company Innovation Award.

The nominating party discussed why they felt FilesAnywhere should be put up for the award. “While there are many online file storage companies in the market right now, I feel that FilesAnywhere deserves the award due to the unique collaboration aspects it brings the market,” says nominator David Herr of Dallas-based Opus-3 Datacenter. “They have managed to deliver a platform that combines the features of collaboration, cloud storage, workflow, and mobile access in a manner that I haven’t seen before.”

Herr’s assessment seems to be in place with what many consumers have said about the FilesAnywhere workload, especially their eForms. While data collection on the Internet is essential to the survival of many service-based companies, the business of collecting and sorting that data can be immensely complicated and prohibitively expensive. The eForms idea works to combine the agility and compatibility of the cloud with the necessity of clients, users and customers to fill out forms electronically. By linking the forms back to the cloud from static web pages the eForms format works to provide more reliable information on a safe and secure platform.

Though they are just now receiving a nomination for their products and services, FilesAnywhere has been an industry leader since 1999. The company has grown with the new technologies, including the diversification of cloud capabilities for home and business use. As users of their services can note – especially those who have transferred over files from less secure, less streamlined storage companies – the FilesAnywhere team is dedicated to customer service and problem solving.

The awards are being announced later this month, but for those looking to gather information over the Internet, they understand that the eForm technology is already a business service that they need in order to create more reliable income streams. Even if the company gets shut out at the award dinner, that much will be certain, and the customers that they’ve acquired won’t soon pass on the opportunity to re-up their commitment to FilesAnywhere.

 

 

An Interview with Jeff Bermant, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman Virtual World Computing

The makers of the cutting edge product Cocoon, Virtual World Computing and company leader Jeff Bermant are making web surfing private and secure.

 

Tell us a little bit about Cocoon?

Cocoon was designed to be a better way to browse the web. I’d had the computers at my business get shut down with Viruses and I felt like there had to be a better way. Browsers provide far too much access to the websites you visit, making you vulnerable to viruses, malware and tracking by every website you visit. Cocoon allows you to be private, secure and virus free on the web.

Describe to readers how the service works?

Cocoon works as a smart proxy service between you and the web. It hides your ip address, blocks malware, scans downloads for viruses and prevents websites from tracking you. Plus it connects all your browsing via your own “private cloud”. We host our own servers and everything you do within Cocoon is encrypted for your privacy.

How do you see Cocoon being utilized by businesses and individuals?

Most of us bounce from device to device, office to home, etc. Cocoon lets you access the same browsing history from each device which when researching can be an incredible advantage. You can even access the info on your iPhone or iPad (Android is being developed). Plus you are able to use the notes feature to leave yourself a note on a particular webpage as well as use the password storage feature to allow you to keep varied and complex passwords for each site you log into.

What is the advantage of keeping these passwords secured online?

Best practices for password security are to have different and complex passwords for each site we use. Sadly most of us have so many sites we use, we often reuse passwords. When a site gets hacked and there is a breach in usernames and passwords, as recently happened with LinkedIn, those passwords and logins can be used to test against other websites leaving everyone vulnerable. This is a full time business for criminals around the world. Once they have access to your accounts you are at risk of identity theft.

What are the safety measures undertaken by the company to ensure that passwords aren’t leaked?

The fact that we host our own servers and are not just using a server cloud farm gives us much better control to start with. Our network security includes the use of multiple firewalls with strict minimum access protocols, databases and other critical systems isolated from the public Internet. Each service component executes in its own “sandbox,” like a sealed vault. Some of these sandboxes utilize a variant of SE Linux, the military-grade, hardened Linux developed by NSA and the security community.

What other features does Cocoon offer regarding online storage? 

Mailslots are an incredibly useful feature and fits with our privacy and security focus. It seems like every web service you go to asks for your email address. Aside from being invasive, this also opens you up to being a target for phishing attacks. Cocoon allows you to create anonymous email addresses you can use to sign up for services keeping your own email private. These Mailslot email addresses are inbound only and are easily managed from within Cocoon. I get a lot of newsletters and love having a different mailslot for each newsletter. This way they are grouped together for easy reading plus I can just delete the mailslot when I want off that mailing list.

Interview with CEO and founder of Caringo, Mark Goros

The founder and CEO of Caringo, Mark Goros shares his vision for providing clients the infrastructure necessary to create large and scalable cloud networks using some of the most dependable technology in the marketplace.

 

Give us some background on your career at Caringo, and some basics on where the company has been and where it will be headed.

I founded Caringo in 2005 with two of my longtime friends and colleagues Jonathan Ring and Paul Carpentier. We love startups and founded the company on a simple premise – to change the economics of content storage. At that time storage devices were (and still are) highly specialized, expensive and complicated. At the same time the information that organizations were storing was changing rapidly from structured (databases and transactional information) to unstructured (video, photos, audio, documents…). We solved these issues by developing software that could turn any commodity hardware into a massively scalable storage solution. The enabling technology was based on ideas that Paul patented in the 90’s. Called content addressable storage, that technology became the foundation for EMC’s Centera product. At Caringo, we’ve refined and updated the concepts and developed streamlined, simple and robust object storage. We have refined this technology over the last six years and are the market leader offering our software directly, through the channel and through OEMs to companies like Dell and Messaging Architects. The highly efficient addressing scheme of object storage that simplifies management and reduces complexity also enables data mobility and intelligent automation. When this is combined with customizable metadata you get massively scalable storage that can reside in any number of locations all at commodity economics which is why object storage is at the heart of every major cloud service.

Cloud storage is the next big thing for most companies. What is Caringo’s position in the market? Where is your room for growth? 

We provide cloud storage infrastructure software that is used globally by organizations of various sizes to provide public and private cloud storage. Our software can also be integrated with OpenStack and CloudStack cloud computing platforms to provide a complete cloud service with Caringo’s enterprise-class cloud storage. We have a number of service providers using our software to offer public cloud storage services but we are seeing the most growth in the private cloud sector. Organizations of every size are trying to figure out how to bring S3-like storage in-house for speed, security and compliance purposes. Our software lets them do that.

Can you explain to me how each of the following offerings has recently been improved: Caringo’s Elastic Content Protection, CloudScaler and Indexer. How do you see them working together for clients?

Indexer, Elastic Content Protection and CloudScaler are all add-ons to the Caringo Object Storage Platform powered by CAStor.

Indexer adds real-time indexing and the ability to perform ad-hoc searches of objects within CAStor by name or metadata. The Indexer provides you with powerful insight into all information stored on a CAStor cluster and can be used to create and analyze new views of your information. Along with listing and searching by name, you can create complex searches based on the metadata stored with the data in the cluster. This allows a user to build full collections of otherwise unrelated objects and then operate on those collections. The Indexer runs on separate hardware alongside a Cluster, is separately scalable and keeps up with the Cluster in real-time. There is an API for the Indexer and Caringo provides a full UI for the Indexer as a part of CloudScaler.

Elastic Content Protection (ECP) provides the storage industry’s most comprehensive data protection functionality and enables you to meet any storage SLA, optimize deployment footprint, and enhance data accessibility regardless of content size, capacity or number of data centers. Offered as an add-on to the Caringo Object Storage Platform powered by CAStor, ECP is the only data protection scheme to provide both replication and erasure coding simultaneously on the same platform. Defining parameters can be set per cluster, domain, bucket or even per object in combination with actionable metadata. The result is a storage solution that dynamically adapts storage capacity utilization and object count based on your business, retention or accessibility requirements. Erasure coding is great for very large objects, but small objects are more efficiently stored using replication. Objects that are extremely popular will also perform better if replicated. As usage dies off, the system can automatically trim the number of replicas and then finally, as specified in the metadata, the object can be erasure coded for the best storage footprint efficiency. Caringo’s ECP has been developed to leverage our massively parallel and symmetric architecture. There are no single points of failure, bottlenecks or specialized nodes as there are in other products offering only erasure coding.

CloudScaler is software that enables you to deliver enterprise cloud storage to any number of employees, customers or subscribers. It is offered as an add-on to the Caringo Object Storage Platform adding secure multi-tenancy, quotas, metering, indexing and search – all accessible via a RESTful API or web-based portal. Combined CloudScaler and the Caringo Object Storage Platform provide everything you need to deliver highly scalable, private cloud storage, secure within your data center. CloudScaler also fully enables public cloud services in case you want to serve up Caringo storage as a service. CloudScaler integrates with LDAP and Active Directory, offers authentication and authorization on a per transaction basis as well.

Your Object Storage Platform powered by CAStor allows you to stack software appliances. Explain the advantage you provide customers.

The foundation to our Object Storage Platform is CAStor which is seamlessly scalable, object based storage.  We are unique in that all software and indexes live in RAM –  disks are only for data. This leaves up to 98% of the disk for actual storage. Our architecture is massively parallel symmetry where all nodes run the same code. To expand the system, simply plug in another server – everything automatically balances and instantly provisions. You can use any mix of hardware. Customers can keep up with price and performance advancements in the hardware space and vastly reduce the complexity associated with expanding traditional storage solutions. There are no limits in capacity or number of files and all content is automatically protected which makes our software one of the only ways to economically protect petabyte scale storage.

Are these products meant to work across public and private clouds?

Yes – our software enables both public and private cloud storage solutions.  In fact, many customers are using Caringo products for both – facilitating a seamless, hybrid approach to cloud storage where data can live where it makes the most sense. You can also freely move data around as the system provides full data mobility and full location independence – a requirement in this world of BYOD.

How many of your product offerings will be available mobile? Is this a market you hope to enter?

The native interface to our Object Storage Platform is HTTP so all content can be accessed by any Internet connected appliance or device.

What are some of the other products you offer?

We also offer Content Router, Content File Server and are integrated with more than 35 third- party applications like CommVault Simpana and Symantec Enterprise Vault.

Content Router (CR) is metadata and business rule driven workflow engine that automates data distribution.  Content Router is fully integrated into our object storage platform and intelligently and securely manages the distribution of data between your CAStor clusters. It can also facilitate post-processing, and specialized operations within a cluster.

Content File Server (CFS) provides a standard file system interface to the massively scalable Caringo object storage platform powered by CAStor. CFS installs on a standard x86 Linux server turning it into an appliance that serves as a mount point to CAStor for any application or device utilizing standard file system protocols for content transfer – CIFS, NFS, FTP, and WebDAV.

You can find a full list of solutions that have integrated our software here: http://www.caringo.com/partners/find-a-partner.html#integrated-solutions

Interview Andy Jensen of Barracuda Backup Service

When it comes to finding the right backup service for your home and business, few people are as qualified to answer your concerns as Andy Jensen. As the Product Manager of the Barracuda Backup Service Jensen works everyday to provide clients the solutions that they need.

 

What are the challenges you see in protecting data once mobile cloud solutions become more commonplace?

Quite simply, dispersal of data across a network has long been a challenge for businesses who need to protect data generated by their users.  Mobilization of the workforce has complicated that tremendously as it becomes increasingly difficult to account for what happens outside the office.  The cloud is a solution as much as it is a challenge.  The cloud can and will provide a place to aggregate data outside of the corporate firewall.  Solutions that are successful doing this will be able to interact with common applications, will understand that data belongs to the business (is owned by the business), and will provide sufficient security to keep IT administrators and corporate execs comfortable with having the family jewels more exposed than is traditional.

Where is the market for storage devices headed next?

Our model at Barracuda has been to back up data locally and to replicate it to the cloud for a redundant and complete disaster recovery solution.  A solution that is only local or is only offsite will be flawed in one way or another.  If data is only local, it is vulnerable to the same disasters that can take out primary storage.  If it is only remote, recovery time will suffer.

Barracuda utilizes data deduplication to make this model possible and I believe that storage devices will rely more and more heavily on technologies like deduplication and compression to deal with always expanding data sets.

With that in mind, I see a real opportunity to extend primary storage out to the cloud.  The reality of cloud is that until recently, it really was not cheaper than local storage options.  Not only have prices for bandwidth and storage dropped, but technologies like deduplication continue to evolve and improve. I could see a model where heavily accessed data is stored locally, but older or infrequently accessed data could be pushed to the cloud for long-term storage.

Where is the biggest room for growth in the industry?

User accessible cloud storage is and will continue to be a big growth area.  I.e., building applications around that cheap cloud storage space.  In the data protection world, I believe there will be more money spent on business continuity and limiting down time.  Warm-site options have traditionally been quite expensive.  I believe some of that technology will start to work its way to small and medium businesses and will be a growth market for those providing it.

What are the challenges of staying competitive within such a saturated market place?

At Barracuda, we see a real move toward end-to-end solutions.  The backup market especially tends to be filled with cobbled-together solutions for a backup strategy.  There are very few options that provide software, storage, unlimited licensing, and offsite transport at an affordable price.  An important part of our message is that you can get the whole, seamless, thing from Barracuda Networks.  As our product evolves, our intent is to aggressively add functionality while maintaining our all-inclusive approach to licensing.

Not only does Barracuda own the solution end-to-end, but we own the technology stack end-to-end.  We control the storage platform and all inputs.  One of our challenges will be to take this great back-end technology we have in place and bring more products and service to market that take advantage of that technology.

How can users best optimize their storage devices and services?

Users are already consolidating through virtualization.  They are already consolidating their data sets through use of deduplication technologies.  They will consolidate vendors as well.  In addition to Backup which is an end-to-end data protection solution, Barracuda Networks offers a Message Archiver that is a great tool for both compliance and litigation support.  The Message Archiver collects email and non-email content, indexes it, and makes it searchable.  It uses deduplication technology to store a single instance of every message it sees.  Additionally, the Message Archiver can consolidate PSTs and make them searchable, effectively moving data onto the Archiver instead of spreading it across Pcs on the corporate network.  It can also relieve load from the corporate exchange server by storing attachments on the Message Archiver.

What products do you recommend for new entries into online storage? Things to be careful of?

There are many cloud providers that offer a variety of storage products.  For protecting your data, I’d recommend Barracuda’s solutions.  There are a number of important things to be careful of.  Among the biggest concerns in the cloud computing world is who owns data stored in the cloud.  Some of the biggest players have service agreements that give them unusual and unprecedented rights to the data they store.  Administrators are increasingly aware of this and are looking for options that will allow their users to store sensitive data in the cloud without risk of that data being exposed.  This concern is especially relevant to anyone who deals with intellectual property which is a hot topic right now.

Which of your products have been most successful and why? 

A number of Barracuda Networks products use the cloud, but storage is primarily the domain of Barracuda Backup.  Backup is the product that has been most intrinsically tied to the cloud and I think we attribute our success to a lot of the traditional Barracuda strengths.  Strong core product, simple try and buy eval model, simple setup and management.  It is also the right product at the right time.  Offering a simple and cost effective way to protect backup data in the cloud has really spoken to the SMB customer base that Barracuda has served so well over the years.

What is Barracuda’s primary aim for their online storage? Userability? Security? Other?

The primary aim right now is to provide customers a simple and cost effective offsite backup solution that will satisfy our customers’ disaster recovery requirements.  In the future, not only will we be able to enhance the capabilities of the existing service, but we’ll be able to create applications and technologies that take advantage of the storage platform we have in place.

 

Streaming Video on the Cloud? With Dropbox, YES

When the Cloud first became popular it reminded a lot of us of wrapping our head around  the term “internet” in 1994. As such we immediately began asking ourselves the questions we asked in the mid-90’s: Is this secure? Where does all the information GO? Can we play music, watch videos? What is possible?

 

Dropbox, one of the first cloud service providers and a consistent industry leader has taken our comfort with the cloud and expanded it to new reaches. Their service is consistently rated as one of the best in the industry, and now their innovation seems to be making inroads on the bigger services (Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive). Dropbox recently announced video streaming on mobile devices, which means that movies that you own and love to share DON’T have to be logged on to your Android phone.

 

For anyone who uses their Android phone to show quick presentations, or even just videos of their son’s football game, the ability to access the information remotely is an absolute benefit in terms of mobile storage and usability. What Dropbox has done is to take the information which clogs our computers, phones and third devices and given us the ability to focus that storage on memory-gobbling software, like games. The change in accessibility includes a one-push streaming, meaning that the client will open from the file folder with no third-party necessary to open and play the video.

 

The videos will add to the growing market share for Dropbox who recently offered seamless file access and social integration components to their services in the hopes of boosting membership. The race for an increase in user share is important. Without a supporting subscription base innovation by smaller stake companies like Dropbox could become stifled. The video streaming capability is certainly going to propel the larger services to match the offerings of Dropbox, which in turn improves the user experience and helps foster the ultra-competitive marketplace that has thus far catapulted new creations in front of mobile file sharing users at a rapid pace.

 

The riddles of the Internet have almost all been solved, and increasingly so are those of the cloud. Safer than ever, with one-touch access to music, file-sharing, and now streaming video, the consumer and business public has seen an increase in productivity. Dropbox, by no means the smallest player in the arena, has done something extraordinary with their product, and like they have in the past, you can expect the big boys to follow suit. Just don’t expect Dropbox to stop their quest to become the leader in cloud storage solutions because they innovate. ON the contrary if we’ve learned anything from Dropbox it’s that they are primed to keep the pressure on the larger services and take what business they can.

 

For users of the cloud, Dropbox isn’t just the leader in mobile cloud innovation they’re the spark plug for innovation across the market place.

Photo via 9ifree

Interview with Chris Riley of CloudShare

Chris Riley is the product manager at CloudShare. But before he became a guru, he was just a fan of the cloud. He actually spent his time helping companies acquire and actualize enterprise applications, mostly in the area of content management.

 

What’s most compelling to you about cloud technology in the workforce?

What I find interesting in the era of “The Cloud” is how obscured people get about the period of the technology.  Organizations get preoccupied why or why not they adopt new technology, and understand what it means.  But the reality is nothing has changed, actually what we do when adopting technology is exactly the same.  The focus must be on productivity, and when you focus on productivity the best solution arises, and today the best solutions tend to be “In The Cloud.”  I encourage this reframing of the problem to not focus on the technology but focus on what the outcome needs to be.  I really hit this home in this presentation which also has good content.

 

Can you explain how CloudShare works and how it integrates with Microsoft SharePoint?

CloudShare ProPlus is a way for developers and organizations to work on their SharePoint projects in the most effective way.  They can share what they build with peers, customers, prospects.  They can completely sandbox their development and start each project fresh.  And they can even break something because starting over is two clicks and five minutes.  Basically ProPlus is a place to do SharePoint development and testing that does not interfere with production environments in the cloud, or on the premise.  It keeps with the MS best practice of doing development and testing separate from production environments.  CloudShare is actually not a cloud storage solution.  It’s SaaS + IaaS.  Because of this we are not similar to a Box or Dropbox, customers can user these storage platforms in their CloudShare virtual machines.  What we give users is complete virtual machines.  They are not multi-tenant and the users have full control.

 

Why did you start working with CloudShare? What kind of progress have you made in getting clients to move over to your service? 

I started working for CloudShare, because I was a customer, and a customer who could not shut up about the time savings I was getting from the platform.

 

What are the fundamental advantages to using CloudShare services? Separation of workload? 

Organizations with CloudShare get the obvious benefits of the cloud, accessible from anywhere, reduced cost of infrastructure.  But they get the unique benefit in the extremely high cost and high risk process of development, testing, poc, and training environments.  The opportunity cost of starting a project is less.  The cost of failure is so much less.  The ability to collaborate is something that you simply don’t have elsewhere.  Before ProPlus when something goes wrong in a SharePoint project the cost is high, and it takes weeks to get back to where you left off.  This often petrifies project teams, and some organizations it prevents them to taking the necessary risks to build the best solution.  We like to use the term Fail Fast, because eat cloud share the cost of failure, meaning the inevitable messing something up, is nothing.  We offer 5 ways to share from just sharing the web applications on your SharePoint environment to sharing whole copies of your virtual machines.  CloudShare is the only cloud built for pre-production.

 

Any drawbacks?

Like all cloud solutions if you don’t have internet, you don’t have access.  But internet is becoming so ubiquitous.  One of my favorite things to do is use CloudShare on the plane.  The other challenge organizations fast is taking on what they have built in CloudShare and moving it to their production environment.  This is where the sheer level of flexibility we provide can sometimes overwhelm companies.  Any way you can migrate a SharePoint site from one place to another you can do on CloudShare.  But because we offer such great ease of use, the expectation is often that there is a magic bullet for migration and traditional steps to not have to take place.

 

Has the recent push for cloud services been a burden, or a boom for CloudShare? 

There are those that are there with the cloud and those who are still blinded by the newness of it.  But ironically the cloud is not new.  All the CLOUD tells you is that there is Internet and servers, but the servers are not near you.  We find companies in high tech, system integrators, and cutting edge IT teams embrace the cloud, and realize that it’s really not much different.  The biggest push against the cloud is security, but as I’ve written before Cloud providers tend to be more secure than the average company.

 

What are some projects you envision for the future of CloudShare? Which will be implemented the soonest, and which are you most excited to help curate?

We have so many exciting things company in the roadmap and unfortunate I can only mention the nearest features.  First is a big focus on new pre-configured templates.  Especially on the Microsoft stack. We have coming soon more personalization for what you share with Vanity URLs, ability to copy machines from separate environments, ability for you to upload existing VMs, and more automation tools.

 

 

An Interview with Online Storage Expert: Mohan Raju

As one of the leading voices in the advocacy of online storage for personal and business  use, Raju has been successful in communicating what should (and shouldn’t) be thought of as quality products in the cloud. His site covers everything from the main features of the  biggest clouds, to the details necessary to master and get the most value out of your cloud.

What are the benefits of cloud computing for personal use? Business?

Cloud computing is considerably one of the biggest things to happen to the world of computing, on a personal as well as a professional front, and it has a lot of benefits on both fronts. Personally, you no longer have to select a server to download from – which you  haven’t been doing for years anyway – and there is a very good chance that cloud  computing may completely do away with the very concept of an hard disk.

The best case of cloud computing being beneficial for both the person as well as the  organization is the educational field. With cloud computing, students can now logon to the cloud from wherever they are, and can learn whatever they want, giving the child the freedom to learn, and the educational institute saves a lot of investment money, because it no longer has to look at setting up classrooms and other infrastructure for students – it is all in the cloud now.

What is the biggest risk of cloud computing?

The biggest risk of cloud computing is of course, security. With even the strongest  networks being broken into nowadays, one cannot be actually hundred percent sure that the data that they are transmitting or storing in the Cloud would be perfectly safe. Another big risk is privacy. If a company is giving cloud computing storage, there is every chance that they would want something in return. If the company’s core business is advertising, there would be nothing to stop them from harnessing the data that the users upload, and use it to promote products and broadcast advertisements.

Are all services adaptable to all platforms, or should users be aware of compatibility  issues?

To speak about a cliché, just like there are different clouds in the sky, there will be  different clouds in the IT industry. The big behemoths like Google and Microsoft have already launched their clouds, and though the IT companies today understand that they have to as cross platform as cross platforming can be, there will of course be some issues that will be sorted out as time goes by. For example, when Open Office was first launched, it was a big hassle to have it save files in the .doc format, and Open Office documents wouldn’t retain their formatting in the MS Office program, so on and so forth. However, in the end the consumer won, and we no longer have any compatibility issues. In the same way, there are some compatibility issues with the clouds of different companies, but that should be sorted out pretty soon.

How secure is online storage? Will there be an increase in thefts to coincide with the increase in users and monetary gain?

There’s only one answer to this question – there is no network and storage device that is
completely safe and the same rings true for cloud computing too. Cloud computing will have some issues with security, because this will be the always on network that should be able to be accessed from any device that one can think of. As for the increase of thefts, the scammers, online thieves and spammers have always been there, and this will only act as the proverbial honey to the bees. But with so much riding on the system, it is a given that the companies that have launched the cloud will be able to solve these issues almost immediately.

How will cloud computing effect the companies that produce computers?

Though it sounds like divine justice to people who have had to upgrade their machines every six months for the latest technology in hardware, cloud computing will not actually close down any computing companies. Think about it, even if it’s a cloud, it needs some type of hardware to run it – it is not actually running in the sky. Therefore, the only thing that will happen is that smaller computing companies will shift their direction to the bigger hardware clients, those who are setting up the clouds.

How will the fast progress of cloud computing affect the online storage industry?

The online storage industry is going to have to change their entire thought process with the bigger behemoths coming into the online storage industry. These companies will have to run toe to toe with the bigger companies, and whether it will affect the storage industry or not, it will definitely spell good news for the end consumer. In such a crucial war, it is always the consumer who wins, with newer features, better options, and of course, a better user experience.

What areas is cloud computing still need to be developed?

Things like security need to be developed, as soon as possible. Another thing that should be done is to try to decrease the dependency of the cloud computing concept from the Internet connectivity. There are several countries that do not have access to the Internet in a way that the first world countries have.

Photo via getinet

Rich Mackey

When it comes to utilizing your online storage nobody better at giving you hints than Rich  Mackey. He’s been all over the map both for business and within the online storage  community. His advice comes from years of trial and error and success!

What brought you into investigating and utilizing online storage? I’d always dabbled with Google Docs and Zoho, and played around with DropBox a little, but I had to get serious a few years ago when I was traveling a ridiculous amount for work. Often on five planes in one week. At the time, I was carrying a work laptop, personal laptop and iPad. All that
weight led to severe lower back problems.

I worked with the IT department and ditched both the work laptop and my personal laptop and got a MacBook Air that I used for both. While my aching back improved greatly, the downside was I went from a combined 1.5TB of laptop storage to a 256GB SSD in the MacBook Air. It was traumatic.

While portable hard drives were one option, I also wanted to take just my iPad on short trips (1-2 days) which meant I needed access to files on that device. Syncing files through iTunes (seriously Apple?) wasn’t an option. So after cleaning things out and archiving what I could, I turned to online storage.

You like to save cash on these services while also giving yourself supreme coverage. Any hints?

It’s really pretty easy.

1. Find the deals and jump through the hoops for the extra storage. It’s totally worth it.
•When Amazon launched their cloud service, they ran a promotion to upgrade you to 20 GB of storage (From 5 GB) if you bought 1 album – which was as little as $4.99. That was a no brainer. Also, Amazon is unlimited storage for all music now – so I have my music stored there. Their Android app is great so I can stream all of my music and I don’t pay anything to store it. (And I still have the 20 GB of space for other things, if I want.)
• Dropbox has done 3 or 4 promotions that I can recall. I participated in 2 of them. One was extra space for downloading or logging into their app on Android or iOS. They just recently ran a promotion for up to 5GB free for auto uploading from your camera
(again, for a new feature). I’m a photographer so I maximized that in about 2 days. As I was double checking some things for this response, I noticed they have a social media promotion where you get up to 640 MB for connecting Twitter/Facebook (https://www.dropbox.com/free) so I just did that. I also had to log in on Android since I just switched from an iPhone and I got 250MB for logging in from a new mobile platform.
•SugarSync does some similar promotions to DropBox. They have a few “getting started” tasks that, if you complete, you get several MB free.
• Then there are these once-in-a-lifetime easy promotions. Box did one to give you 50GB (seriously) just for connecting the new mobile app. Done. SkyDrive is running one now where you just have to click a link when you log in to get 25GB of space. Took me all of 2 minutes to click that link and integrate it. You just have to watch for these promos and do them right away. They’re usually mind-numbingly simple and the payoff in space is great.

2. Referrals – and this is a two way street. When I wanted to sign up for SugarSync, I reached out to a friend whom I know has the service and asked for his referral link. He gets a bonus and *I* get a bonus for signing up with a link.I would encourage anyone to seek out a referral link BEFORE they sign up (mine are all on my blog). Even just tweet or post on Facebook you’re looking for a referral. Someone will help out – and you’ll get a bonus. I probably get half of my space through referral since I always share my link whenever anyone asks me. And if I write about storage, I share the link on  Twitter/Facebook/blog/wherever.

3. Don’t be afraid to game the system a bit. I use Google Apps for my business and personal email. That means I get a cloud drive for each of those email addresses (and I can have 10 email addresses for each). So that’s 20 Google Drive accounts x 1GB = 20GB. I can keep different things in each of the 20 but can share them all with 1 main account for my personal and 1 main account for my business. (I don’t currently use it like this as the docs here are so small I barely use 1GB per account, but theoretically, you could). (I also have 5GB from my regular GMail account, which I can integrate as well.) This is all 100% legitimate per Google’s terms. And all 100% free.

4. Sign up for everything, ask questions later. You can always delete an account if a service is terrible, but I generally jump into a new service. Test it out and if I like it, find a way to integrate it. If not, I’ll let it sit and watch for improvements.

Which products do you find the most reliable? Useful? Why?

I use them all for different things – it also helps me keep organized so I don’t have documents in 5 places. Overall, I haven’t had any issues with any of them.

Amazon is solid for music and has a decent interface (the Android app is really the key here for me – I don’t have to keep music on my phone).

Google is the king of reliability with Google Docs, which is now Google Drive. I’ve never lost data – and in fact, have had data saved via autosave after a browser crash. I keep all of my spreadsheets and word docs there.

I use DropBox for photos now – the integration feature was key. I keep a back up portfolio there as well as the last 5 photo shoots I’ve done so I always have access no matter what. It integrates well with Android and my iPad, so I can share samples on the fly without carrying a laptop.

The one I’ve found the least useful, and I hate to say this since I’m a huge Apple fanboy, is iCloud. I’ve tried it from Mac to iPad and it just doesn’t work. So I’ve abandoned it.All it really pointed out for me is how well Google Docs/Drive works.

What’s the most important variable to consider as a consumer? Small business?
Access. Access. Access.

You need to be able to get the right documents in the way that’s right for you. I look at whether I need to edit a file or just view – and that will help dictate which service I use. Also how well the app functions and whether it integrates into other services like Evernote or a mobile office app. If I can’t access my data, there’s no point in me putting it in the cloud. I’d rather keep it on a thumb drive (which usually has more limitations but I can
generally find a computer to make edits.)

Access was what pushed me to Crashplan over Mozy for online backup. I lost a hard drive – and 3 months of photos 2 years ago. I hadn’t done a back up in a while so it was just lost. Crashplan’s app allows you to access ANY file on a mobile device or your computer – without restoring the entire database. That just works for me. They had some issues with speed as they became more popular, but I stuck with them. And haven’t had a bad experience.

Do you ever worry about security?
All the time. I use 6 or 7 online storage services regularly and none of them have the same password. And all of the passwords are fairly complex. I keep up on alerts and if anyone has a security breach they’ll fall to the bottom of my list. I try to take necessary steps to protect my data though.

These days, I’m more worried about losing my data than someone hacking into it. Though thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.

The Internet is filled with options for online storage most at a low cost, what’s the dividing line between these services?
For me, it’s accessibility, interface and how fast I can maximize storage. If I can’t get at my data and interact with it easily, I’m not going to use your service. Or, more likely, you’ll fall down a tier.

Otixo has made that a little less important since I can use their service to integrate ALL of these into a WebDAV drive with folders for each service, but even there, the throughput is fairly low. I could eat that up fast. So I have to access most items via their native apps. If there was one service I would pay for right now, it’s probably Otixo. The price is low and it
integrates multiple other free services seamlessly.

The Next 3 Years for the Online Storage Industry

This month has brought some interesting news in the online storage industry. One major topic is the year 2015, a year targeted by experts in online storage to be a peak time for online storage market domination. The year is thought to bring over one trillion dollars in profit and investments.

While the number sounds huge, increasing reliance in cloud storage indicates that the market could even exceed this figure. Online storage is creating new jobs worldwide, and new companies are reaching for cloud daily.

One such company is Google. Google Drive, with its April 2012 release date, will hit the market with a simple, easy-to-use interface. Google Drive will be introduced first via a beta, invitation only launching; and is widely expected to give Dropbox, Amazon, and Apple’s iCloud a run for their money.

In the EU, changes are slated to allow cloud computing growth in the European market. Resistance to the new technology in government agencies has back-burnered cloud projects in the past. EU laws have effectively slowed cloud computing due to laws unclear on the ownership of cloud stored data. Reportedly some ninety percent of cloud users in the UK are unsure of liability in regard to data ownership. Laws and regulations concerning cloud computing need coordination and assessment. Once these laws are hammered out, cloud computing should save money, time, and improve efficiency throughout the EU.

Small to mid-size businesses are reaping time saving benefits from the new KineticCloud Backup from KineticD, which offers a free data seeding service, reducing time to upload files in the cloud. The service provides unlimited servers with a 448 bank grade encryption, and once data is uploaded, KineticD sends incremental backup blocks to keep business networks unclogged, and eliminating the need to transmit entire file databases over the web. With new or modified files sent to the cloud continuously, backups occur effortlessly, and work with all major servers.

Popular cloud storage system SugarSync, has had a face-life to its web site, making icons and layout easier to navigate and less cluttered.

World Back Up Day March 31st brought lots of free offers and new users into the cloud computing fold. New business and individual users took the cue to review options and services and get on the cloud. Reviews of popular and ‘best’ cloud computing programs circulated on this date and are still available for savvy consumers waiting to compare and contrast cloud services.

Not only were users encouraged to sign up for cloud services, they were encouraged to start using them. Research has shown that individual users and even some business cloud users tend to have the service but not use it regularly.

Another message for World Back Up Day was to check back up configuration. Again, cloud computing users may not be aware of file size limitations, or have taken the time to perform a test restore to make certain cloud storage and retrieval are working smoothly. With mobile apps for cloud storage growing more common and easy to use, another key message for World Back Up Day was to down load and use one via smart phone.

And lastly, the MegaUpload debacle and demise earlier this year has led cloud users to rely on multiple services for file back up and storage. While the trend may be unnecessary overall, having your data stored with two cloud services or both in the cloud and locally, means double the security and access.

And lastly, a new research study undertaken in February shows a major up tick in companies utilizing cloud storage systems, up to forty percent, with extensive growth in cloud data storage predicted for non-users.

Photo credit to DonkeyHotey