Introduction and Features
Today Western Digital launched an important addition to their Personal Cloud Storage NAS family - the My Cloud EX4:
The My Cloud EX4 is Western Digital's answer to the increased demand for larger personal storage devices. When folks look for places to consolidate all of their bulk files, media, system backups, etc, they tend to extend past what is possible with a single hard drive. Here is Western Digital's projection on where personal storage is headed:
Where the My Cloud was a single drive solution, the My Cloud EX4 extends that capability to span up to four 3.5" drives. When it comes to devices that span across several drives, the number 4 is a bit of a sweet spot, as it enables several RAID configurations:
Everything but online capacity expansion (where the user can swap drives one at a time to a larger capacitiy) is suppoted. While WD has stated that feature will be available in a future update, I find it a bit risky to intentionally and repeatedly fail an array by pulling drives and forcing rebuilds. It just makes more sense to back up the data and re-create a fresh array with the new larger drives installed.
Ok, so we've got the groundwork down with a 4-bay NAS device. What remains to be seen is how Western Digital has implemented the feature set. There is a lot to get through here, so let's get to it.
Subject: Storage | October 2, 2013 - 10:42 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, My Cloud, cloud storage, cloud
Imagine a device of a similar form factor to the Western Digital My Book, but instead of USB or Thunderbolt connectivity, you had a Gigabit Ethernet connection and a dual core CPU capable of handling large throughputs to your home network. Toss in some back end software and a handfull of remote access apps for various mobile devices, and you have what Western Digital calls the My Cloud:
The concept behind this is to have something similar to DropBox, with some differences. We will be diving further into the My Cloud shortly and will publish a full write-up for your viewing pleasure, but for now it seems to cover every base except for having your shared data available on mobile devices when those devices are offline (with the exception of cached copies, of course).
Full press blast afer the break:
Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 03:19 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: insync, google drive, cloud storage, linux
Insyc has released a new release candidate for its Google Drive companion software that adds a few new features and bug fixes to the Linux client.
According to Insync, the 1.0 RC implements an improved syncing core build from scratch. It also allows users to selectively sync files and folders between local storage and their Google Drive cloud storage. It is no longer all or nothing, and you can choose to only store what you need locally rather than the entire document archive now. The release candidate software also allows customized account folders that can be renamed and moved to other locations on the drive. Symlink support, headless installs, and a CLI (command line interface) client are also included in the Insync 1.0 RC.
Insync has also made changes to the management user interface to make configuring the syncing options easier. Finally, Insync has also coded in a notification function that will notify users of changes to files on Google Drive which will be handy for collaborative documents and spreadsheets.
Insync has put together Debian packages for OSes like Ubuntu (Nautilus) and Mint (Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce desktop environments). Additionally, support for KDE and RPM packages is “coming soon.” You can grab the new beta 1.0 RC client here.
Insync Extending Support for 0.9.x Versions As it Improves The Upgrade Process To Its New 1.0 Client
Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 10:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: insync, google drive, file sync, cloud storage
Insync -- a service that extends the functionality of Google Drive and (among other things) allows users to sync Google Drive files (and documents) with their local computer for offline access -- has announced that it is extending support for version 0.9.x clients due to users expressing concerns over upgrade issues. The company released a new version 1.0 desktop client last month that added a number of new features, and the older clients were scheduled for end-of-life support.
Unfortunately, in order to upgrade to the new Insync 1.0, users needed to re-download all of their files stored on Google Drive. In an email to users, Insync sympathized with users' concerns over needing to re-download all files (especially those with extensive libraries of files and/or low data caps) of their files simply to upgrade the client-side application.
Insync has announced that it is working on a solution that will allow users to upgrade to the new (and improved) client without needing to re-download files from Google Drive, which is currently necessary to bring the client in sync with the cloud storage service. There is no ETA on the new client, but the company is reportedly hard at work on fixing the issue.
In the meantime, users can continue using their current desktop clients without worrying about file sync and tech support ending.
Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2013 - 05:17 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: torrent, sync, p2p, folder sync, file sync, cloud storage, bittorrent
BitTorrent took the wraps off of its Sync application yesterday. The new Sync service uses the BitTorrent P2P protocol to sync encrypted files across all of your devices. It is a service that I have been wanting to see for a long time now, in fact, which was why I was ecstatic when I found out about the BitTorrent Labs program. I managed to get into the private alpha a couple of weeks ago, and have been testing it ever since. Being in an alpha state, it is still a bit rough around the edges but it shows promise and while I encourage everyone to read the full review for more details, I think it is something I can at least recommend that you should try out!
BitTorrent Sync creates a folder in your home/user folder called SyncApp, and any files or folders that you place in that folder are synced across your devices. Additionally, you can choose existing folders to sync outside of the default SyncApp folder, which is really nice.
The encryption is a bit complicated, but you are given a secret code (decryption key) when you choose to sync a folder, and you need to enter this code on any devices you want to sync. One cool feature of this setup is that you can also generate secret codes that allow temporary and/or permanent read-only access. The master code will allow read and write access, and temporary codes can also be given write access, which would be good to share files for a limited time when collaborating on a project. Even better, the Sync application will allow you to use a custom (base64 encoded) key that is longer than 40 characters if you feel the default keys are not long/secure enough.
The BitTorrent Sync app for Windows--The SyncApp folder is the folder it syncs by default.
The application will sync over WAN or LAN, with a preferrence towards syncing with computers on the same local network. Changes and file syncs are initiated almost instantly, though the actual transfer speed will depend on your network connections.
It is a free app that allows you to sync as many files and folders as you want securely, and it's worh a look in my opinion. Combined with a VPS that allows P2P applications (Backupsy is one that will make an exception for Sync users), you can create your own Dropbox-like sync solution without those pesky file size limits. (Though, currently, you would be missing out on Dropbox's versioning functionality. I hope to see that remedied in future releases.)
You can find more information as well as download links for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux versions of Sync on the BitTorrent Labs website.
Yes, you may be able to tell from this post that I'm excited about Sync--I am. I'm glad someone that can actually code (as in, not me) has finally put together a program that I've been wanting for a long time, and that it generally works well from what I've been able to test so far. It's just my opinion though, if you do try it out let me know what you think of Sync!
Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 06:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: file sync, cloud storage, cloud drive, amazon
Amazon has announced two new Java-based applications for Windows and Mac PCs that will sync files between multiple computers and the company's Cloud Drive online storage service.
Amazon Cloud Drive is a companion service that was spun off of its Cloud Player music locker service. Users get 5GB for free, with additional tiers of storage available for purchase. (Any music from Amazon side-loaded to Cloud Drive and Cloud Player before July 31st does not count towards your storage quota). Until now, Cloud Drive has been merely a web storage locker, but with the new desktop apps Amazon is adding file syncing capabilities that will keep your files updated across multiple PCs. The desktop apps will create a folder which will then contain a locally-stored copy of your Amazon Cloud Drive files. If you choose to install the desktop app onto a second PC, it will also sync with Cloud Drive and store a copy of the files locally. The most recently modified version will sync to all the other computers' local store and the cloud drive. There is no word on versioning support, so note that this should not be a replacement for a true file backup. With that said, the multiple-PC file sync is a welcome addition that makes Cloud Drive much more useful than ever before.
The new desktop apps will run on Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8, and on Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8.
When Amazon was asked about mobile apps and file sync, the company told Ars Technica that it had "nothing specific to share." That could mean that Cloud Drive will bring file synchronization to iOS, Android, and WP8, or it could be a literal statement. It is difficult to say, but I think if Amazon wants its Cloud Drive storage service to be taken seriously the company will need to enter the mobile space (as it has done with Cloud Player).
Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2012 - 11:38 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, skydrive, microsoft, cloud storage
Earlier this month, Microsoft gave its webmail service an overhaul and rebranding from Hotmail to Outlook.com. In our preview of the service, I noted that while Outlook.com is integrated with SkyDrive, the company's cloud storage web interface was still using the same old UI. Fortunately, the company has taken the need for an updated interface for SkyDrive to heart and has given SkyDrive the same Modern-UI facelift as Outlook.com. Welcome to the new SkyDrive.
Skydrive is now broken up into two main panels with an action bar along the top. It looks very similar to Outlook.com in that respect. The left panel contains a search box as well as links to your Skydrive folders, shared items, groups, and connected computers (with the SkyDrive app installed). The right panel is where the folders and files are displayed.
The "Recent docs" link in the left panel does just what the name implies: opens a list of the most recently accessed documents. The "Shared" link displays a list of all the files and folders that are being shared with you. The "Groups" link opens a page in the right panel where you can create and manage sharing groups. You can create a group of people in your family with which you share out photos in certain folders, for example. Basically, it just makes it easier to share with multiple people.
Along the top is a bar with links. In the top-left corner is a Skydrive button that brings up the same Metro/Modern UI tiles that link to other Microsoft services.
Along that same blue action bar are links to create, upload, share, and manipulate your SkyDrive data. The "Create" link allows you create a new folder or document. Using Microsoft's web apps (in the future it may integrate with the remote-accessible versions of Office 2013 but for now it's the same old Office Web Apps), you can further create new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents.
You can further use the upload button to not only add files but multiple files at a time (finally!). Unfortunately, it is still not possible to select and upload folders but the ability to select multiple files for uploading is a step in the right direction. Technically, it has been possible to upload multiple files before now, but it required you to use Internet Explorer. In order to upload entire folders, you will need to use the SkyDrive application. The "Share" button is fairly self-explanatory and works the same as it always has. You can send files in an email, post to Facebook, or get a link that you can then send to anyone you want to have access to the file(s) or folder. Finally, the Folder Actions button provides a drop-down menu that provides the following options for the selected items: download, embed, order prints, delete, move, and view properties.
In all, the action buttons have been simplified and are large enough that they should be easy to see and hit on mobile devices with touchscreens. It is much easier to navigate around as well. When you log into the SkyDrive site, it defaults to the "Files" tab and presents you with a collection of thumbnails listing folders and files. If the file is a photo or if it is a folder that contains photos, the icon will be a "live tile" that displays an icon of the photo or the photos it contains respectively (it cycles through multiple photos in a mini-slideshow). On the other hand, if there are no photos inside the folder, the icon will simply be a solid color with the file/folder name in text in the bottom-left corner of the rectangular tile. To the right of the name is a number that represents the number of files or sub-folders inside.
In my SkyDrive folder list, the tiles appear to be a bit messy as not all folders are live tiles. And when they are not live–and just a large solid colored rectangle– it results in a lot of wasted space (and relatively small text). Alternatively, there is also a more traditional details list view that presents files similar to Windows Explorer (and the traditional SkyDrive interface).
You can view photos within the SkyDrive web interface and open documents with the Office Web Apps service, but for any other files you will have to download them in order to open and view them. Just like the Outlook.com interface, you can enable the messaging sidebar to talk with your friends on the various social networks. In the bottom-left corner, Microsoft shows the amount of storage space you have remaining in your SkyDrive. If you click on "Manage Storage" beneath the remaining storage number, you get a new Metro options menu. Here you can opt into the new office web apps, disable people tagging, upgrade storage, and set the default file format to either Microsoft Office Open XML or OpenDocument Format which is nice to see.
Overall, the new SkyDrive interface is a nice improvement offering a cleaner interface and simplified navigation. It now fits in nicely when transitioning between SkyDrive.com, Outlook.com, and the People and Calendar apps. When navigating around the SkyDrive site, it feels much more responsive than it used to, and the ability to add multiple files without needing to use Internet Explorer is a feature I've been waiting for (for a long time). Not being able to add folders is a bummer, and in that respect using the SkyDrive Windows app is still easier, but in general the new SkyDrive will make accessing my files from a remote computer using the website a more enjoyable experience!
Have you tried out the overhauled SkyDrive web interface yet?
Search engine giant Google took the wraps off its long rumored cloud storage service called Google Drive this week. The service has been rumored for years, but is (finally) official. In the interim, several competing services have emerged and even managed to grab significant shares of the market. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Google’s service will stack up. In this article, we’ll be taking Google Drive on a test drive from installation to usage to see if it is a worthy competitor to other popular storage services—and whether it is worth switching to!
How we test
In order to test the service, I installed the Google desktop application (we’ll be taking a look at the mobile app soon) and uploaded a variety of media file types including documents, music, photos, and videos in numerous formats. The test system in question is an Intel i7 860 based system with 8GB of RAM and a wired Ethernet connection to the LAN. The cable ISP I used offers approximately two to three mpbs uploads (real world speeds, 4mbps promised) for those interested.
Google’s cloud service was officially unveiled on Tuesday, but the company is still rolling out activations for people’s accounts (my Google Drive account activated yesterday [April 27, 2012], for example). And it now represents the new single storage bucket for all your Google needs (Picasa, Gmail, Docs, App Inventor, ect; although people can grandfather themselves into the cheaper Picasa online storage).
Old Picasa Storage vs New Google Drive Storage Plans
|Storage Tier (old/new)||Old Plan Pricing (per year)||New Plan Pricing (per year)|
|20 GB/25 GB||$5||$29.88|
|80 GB/100 GB||$20||$59.88|
(Picasa Plans were so much cheaper–hold onto them if you're able to!)
The way Google Drive works is much like that of Dropbox wherein a single folder is synced between Google’s servers and the user’s local machine (though sub-folders are okay to use and the equivalent of "labels" on the Google side). The storage in question is available in several tiers, though the tier that most people will be interested in is the free one. On that front, Google Drive offers 5GB of synced storage, 10GB of Gmail storage, and 1GB of Picasa Web Albums photo backup space. Beyond that, Google is offering nine paid tiers from an additional 25GB of "Drive and Picasa" storage (and 25GB of Gmail email storage) for $2.49 a month to 16TB of Drive and Picasa Web Albums storage with 25GB of Gmail email storage for $799.99 a month. The chart below details all the storage tiers available.
|Storage Tiers||Drive/Picasa Storage||Gmail Storage||Price (per month)|
1024MB = 1GB, 1024GB = 1TB
The above storage numbers do not include the 5GB of free drive storage that is also applied to any paid tiers. The free 1GB of Picasa storage does not carry over to the paid tiers.
Even better, Google has not been stingy with their free storage. They continue to allow users to upload as many photos as they want to Google+ (they are resized to a max of 2048x2048 pixels though). Also, Google Documents stored in the Docs format continue to not count towards the storage quota. Videos uploaded to Google+ under 15 minutes in length are also free from storage limitations. As far as Picasa Web Albums (which also includes photos uploaded to blogger blogs) goes, any images under 2048x2048 and videos under 15 minutes in length do not count towards the storage quota either. If you exceed the storage limit, Google will still allow you to access all of your files, but you will not be able to create any new files until you delete enough files to get below the storage quota. The one exception to that rule is the “storage quota free” file types mentioned above–Google will still let you create/upload those. For Gmail storage, Google allows you to receive and store as much email as you want up to the quota. After you reach the quota, any new email will hard bounce and you will not be able to receive new messages.
In that same vein, Google’s paid tiers are not the cheapest but are still fairly economical. They are less expensive per GB than Dropbox, for example, but are more expensive than Microsoft’s new Skydrive tiers. One issue that many users face with online storage services is the file size limit placed on individual files. While Dropbox places no limits (other than overall storage quota) on individual file size, many other services do. Google offers a compromise to users in the form of 10GB per file size limits. While you won’t be backing up Virtualbox hard drives or drive image backups to Google, they’ll let you backup anything else (within reason).
Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2012 - 09:32 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: storage space, share files, free storage, free space, free, dropbox 1.3.13, dropbox, cloud storage, backup files
Update: Dropbox is still running the beta testing extra space promotion. The latest Experimental Forum Build is version
1.3.15 1.3.19. Dropbox is still running the promotion; however, users from here on out will be limited to 3 GB total extra space. Anyone that got in before 1.3.19 and earned 5 GB will continue to keep the full 5 GB of extra space. More information is available here.
I recently needed some video files from the PC Perspective office, and we decided to use the Dropbox file sharing service to get them to me. i hit a bit of a snag; however, when I realized that I had nowhere near the amount of storage needed. Fortunately, I was able to download the individual files from the shared folder on the Dropbox website. It was sort of a nod at the idea that one can never have too much storage space, however.
That got me searching around the Internet for ideas on how to increase my available storage space for free, and fortunately came across a forum post on the Dropbox website for a beta version of the program wherein they were offering 5 GB of extra (and free!) storage space to those adventurous enough to test out the program by uploading 4.5 GB of photos or videos (which you can rename, move, or delete afterwards if you wish). The extra free space you get will remain even if you move or delete the uploaded photos and after the beta period, barring any unforseen decision change on Dropbox's part. Further, I found the process easy enough that it was worth sharing with our readers who may use the file sharing and backup service themselves.
According to their latest forum post, the new Dropbox beta application is version 1.3.13 (though the beta started at version 1.3) which fixes a few bugs, but more importantly, adds a new feature that automatically uploads photos and videos from SD cards (and other storage devices that store photos and videos in a "DCIM" folder) and other storage devices on the PC application and your Android smart phone using a beta of the Dropbox Android app. The first photo or video upload imported into Dropbox grants you a 500 MB "bonus," and then for every 500 MB of photos and videos that you allow Dropbox to import, they will give you an additional 500 MB of free additional storage space, up to a total of 5 GB (including the starting bonus). Let's get into exactly how you go about auto-importing photos.
On the Windows PC side of things, you will need to download the latest Dropbox beta build which is currently version 1.3.13. Once download from the link in the previous sentence, install it (if you already have the program installed, just install over the previous install), and then log into your account (or create a new one*). Next, make sure that you have AutoPlay enabled via Windows Control Panel (it should be by default). You should be all set to import as many photos and videos as your internet connection can handle to get all your free space. Pop in an SD card or other USB storage device into your computer via USB. Windows should open up an AutoPlay dialog box in response. There should further be a new option in the AutoPlay window titled "Import pictures and videos using Dropbox." Select that and Dropbox will begin uploading them to their cloud storage servers in a new folder called "Camera Uploads." Once the batch of photos are uploaded, Dropbox pops up a notification in notification area (lower right of the window) as seen in the photo above.
You can also use a beta of the Dropbox client on your Android powered smartphone to upload photos and videos to the service, and to apply towards your free Dropbox space. While not yet on the Android Market, you can download the beta application as a .apk file to your phone, and then install it from that downloaded file. The apk package in question is the Dropbox Experimental Android Forum Build 2.0.9 and can be downloaded via a link at the bottom of this article. All that's needed on the Android side of things (at least on my Samsung Infuse 4G), is to start up the application and log in. After that, any photos or videos I take with my phone's camera are automatically uploaded to the dropbox service. Although Google already has a similar automatic uploading service to its Google+ website, the Dropbox application is even a bit more useful because they are not only "in the cloud" but sitting on my desktop at home.
The Android Dropbox beta application
Unfortunately, Linux and Macintosh users are out of luck on the extra free space; however, I'm sure they will get a chance at it when the beta Dropbox application is closer to completion. Now that you know how to get your hands on some free space, go forth and beef up those Dropbox accounts! Some other methods for free space include adding a .edu email account to your account (to make it a Student Account) for an extra 500 MB of storage space an an increase referral bonus of 500 MB per referral, completing the various tutorials and quests on the Dropbox website, and getting referral sign ups. Do you use Dropbox, and if so what do you like (or hate) about it? Community discussion engage!
*Speaking of referrals, this is a referral link that costs you nothing and will give me and you an extra 250 MB of storage space. If; however, you're not into that sort of thing (for some odd reason), you can create a new account by heading over their main website at dropbox.com