Unlimited photos of your Prime Amazon, and others

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: amazon prime, cloud storage

If you have Amazon Prime then you have had 5GB of online storage for a while now, whether you knew it or not.  As of yesterday that has been increased to an unlimited amount of photos and videos, as long as you follow certain guidelines.  A single photo cannot be larger than 2GB and videos can be a maximum of 20 minutes in length.  If you have files which do not meet those criteria you can still upload them but they will be kept in your original 5GB of storage, assuming you have the space for it.  There are a few other minor caveats which [H]ard|OCP lists here along with their reassurance that the service is actually everything it claims to be.

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"This is not our usual subject matter, at all. But surely there are a lot of HardOCP readers that are also Amazon Prime members and a lot of us like a good deal. So is Amazon Prime's new free photo storage up to what us [H]'ers would expect. When it is too good to be true is it always too good to be true?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Microsoft OneDrive Is Moving from 1TB to Unlimited

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription

I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.

microsoft-logo_onedrive2014_hero1.jpg

The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.

Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.

Source: Microsoft

Bitcasa Discontinues Infinite Drive Cloud Storage

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 07:04 PM |
Tagged: online storage, encryption, cloud storage, bitcasa

Bitcasa recently announced that, as of November 15, 2014, the company is discontinuing its "Infinite Drive" and will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage space. The company made its debut at the start of last year with an infinite storage product (Amazon S3 backend with custom applications and client side AES-256 convergent encryption). Since then, the company has grown to store more than 40 Petabytes of user data. Unfortunately, the unlimited storage space model was not sustainable despite heavily increased pricing several months ago.

According to Bitcasa, less than 0.5% of users stored more than 1TB while 0.1% of users used more than 10TB. The alleged lack of demand coupled with violations of the company's Acceptable Use Policy were the final nails in the infinite storage coffin.

There is a bright side to the announcement, however. Bitcasa has re-engineered the storage backend and is promising faster uploading, downloading, and streaming (over the web interface) of files. Users wishing to stick with Bitcasa will need to transfer files over to the new storage system by the November 15, 2014 deadline. After the deadline, all files that have not been transferred or downloaded will be deleted permanently. 

Bitcasa has put together a FAQ that explains the situation and how it will affect each of the account tiers on their website.

Bitcasa_account update.jpg

Essentially, Bitcasa is shuttering the infinite storage tier completely. Users storing 10TB or less will be allowed to move to the Premium or Pro tiers. The Premium tier remains the same as the old plan at $10 per month for 1TB of storage. The Pro tier has been changed from 5TB for $49 per month to 10TB for $99 per month. Users storing over 10TB will need to reduce their stored files to fit within at most 10TB of space. Of course, users are not required to stay and are free to download their files and move to an alternative service. Finally, the free storage tier has been cut from 10GB to 5GB going forward.

Any existing accounts (so long as they within the lower storage allotments) will be grandfathered in (including pricing on paid tiers) and any"extra" storage space gathered from referrals will remain in effect.

  New Plans   Old Plans  
Storage Tier Storage Space Pricing Storage Space
Pricing
Free 5GB $0/month 10GB $0/month
Premium 1TB $10/month ($99/year) 1TB $10/month ($99/year)
Pro 10TB $99/month ($999/year) 5TB $49/month
Infinite n/a No longer offered Unlimited $99/month ($999/year)

There are some snags in the transfer process to be aware of though. Past version history on files will not be preserved post transfer and any mirrored folders will have to be recreated. It is possible to move the mirrored folders after the transfer if you do not have access to the original PC(s), but you will have to recreate the mirrors using the applications when you want to keep them in sync again.

Also, Bitcasa notes that iTunes payments for Bitcasa storage will no longer be accepted and Facebook and Twitter logins will not be allowed (you will create new a new login during the transfer process). Finally, streaming to Plex is not currently working with the new storage system, but a fix is being worked on.

Bitcasa cloud storage web interface.png

Upon receiving the email from Bitcasa yesterday, I logged in and completed the transfer. The process took about five minutes (including downloading my mirrored folders I no longer had access to on my home PC). My free account is grandfathered into the 10GB limit. When the service first came out, I tried it out for awhile and it was decent. At one point I even considered moving to the paid infinite tier, but at the new prices the amount of storage is no longer economical for personal use (>1TB). It is notable that Microsoft started offering unlimited (used to be 1TB) storage to Office 365 subscribers this week, and I wonder how long that will last and if they will run into many of the same problems Bitcasa did. 

What do you think about this announcement? Will unlimited storage always be too good to be true (ie an unsustainable business model).

Source: Bitcasa
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Late last year, Western Digital launched their My Cloud series, first with a single-drive My Cloud, and immediately followed up with a beefier small-office product, the 4-drive My Cloud EX4. Then earlier this year, they filled My Cloud gap (so to speak), with a 2-drive variant of the EX4 - the My Cloud EX2. As the EX2 was more of a business type of NAS, it commanded a bit of a price premium as compared to competing 2-bay NAS devices. The logical solution is was for WD to expand the standard My Cloud lineup upward by adding a 2-bay device to their existing consumer line.

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The My Cloud Mirror is very similar to the My Cloud EX2. You get the bulk of the same features as compared with the EX2, but with some of the more workstation / enterprise features removed. Here's a couple of slides to help explain those differences:

EX2vsMirror-1.png

EX2vsMirror-2.png

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple, with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud Mirror!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The N2310 is a budget dual-bay NAS from Thecus and an interesting product beyond the low cost for this category, boasting a number of features that help set it apart.

N2310_MAIN.png

Apart from the primary role of a network attached storage (NAS) device - you know, storage - there are some interesting things a piece of hardware like the N2310 can do. This inexpensive NAS is actually a server, too, so beyond storing up to 8TB of data it’s powerful enough to replace a dedicated PC for certain tasks - the kind of tasks that some of us leave a PC running 24/7 to accomplish.

In this review we’ll take a look at some of the functionality that helps set the N2310 apart, as well as the kind of real-world performance you might expect to see.

It’s All About the Gigabytes

There are more reasons now than ever before for large storage options. Even though SSD’s are at their lowest prices ever most of us still need to supplement a fast boot drive with some traditional spinning disks. Just think about what accumulates in an average year on your PC… photos, music, videos, program backups and images, you name it. All those GB’s have to go somewhere, and there are obviously internal and external hard drives to share the load. However, regardless of the local storage option you might chose, it’s not always so convenient to actually access this stuff again. Clearly, the easier it is to access your files, the better - and not just from one device. So, having centralized storage is a great idea, right?

Between computers, tablets, and of course our phones, there are generally quite a few connected devices in the average technology-inclined home. And while every device mentioned can connect to the internet - and cloud storage has become very popular - there's still something to be said for local content management. Beyond the convenience of sharing sometimes massive amounts of data easily at home, another benefit of always-on storage is backup. Ideally, every computer in the home would be backed up locally as well as the cloud, and a great way to take care of the local side of backup is with a NAS. Setting one up is very easy these days, with a growing number of affordable options from various vendors.

Thecus makes an interesting case for a budget NAS with the N2310. For a comparison, Allyn recently looked at Western Digital’s My Cloud EX2 network drive, and this is a highly polished all-in-one solution is now selling for about $199 (without drives). The Thecus N2310 is less expensive at $149, and both offer two 3.5” drive bays. (The My Cloud is also offered pre-populated with drives providing up to 8TB of storage.) These “diskless” enclosures present a good opportunity to save some money up front, and whether you choose to run on two drives you happened to have around the house or office, or if you want to go out and grab a couple of Western Digital 4TB Red drives, they can accommodate your situation.

Let’s take a look at the Thecus N2310.

Continue reading our review of the Thecus N2310 SOHO NAS Server!!

Microsoft OneDrive for Business Gets Upgrades

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2014 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: subscription, skydrive, onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

Today, Microsoft has announced changes to their OneDrive for Business storage solution. A regular, free OneDrive account comes with 7 GB of storage. For $5 per user, per month, Microsoft added a 25 GB option. That 25 GB option is now a tiny bit larger: 1 TB. It will also be included in several Office subscriptions. The official announcement claims Office 365 ProPlus (formerly requiring a $1.50 per user per month upgrade) but that is, apparently, an incomplete list.

microsoft-onedrive-logo.jpg

According to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, any Office 365 plan which includes OneDrive for Business will be upgraded to 1 TB. I expect that Office 365 Pro Plus was mentioned in the press release because, as far as I can tell, it did not have OneDrive for Business, minus the aforementioned upgrade, until now. The rest of the options already had OneDrive for Business, just a much larger one now. I have compiled the relevant information in a table, below.

 
Price
(Per User Per Month)
Maximum Users
Editing from
Mobile Apps
OneDrive for Business (Standalone)
$5
($2.50/user until September)
Unlimited (?) N/A
Office 365 ProPlus $12
1 (?)
(5 PCs or Macs)
Yes
(5 extra devices)
Office 365 Small Business $5 25 No
Office 365 Small Business Premium $12.50 25 Yes
Office 365 Midsize Business $15 300 Yes
Office 365 Enterprise E1 $8 Unlimited No
Office 365 Enterprise E3 $20 Unlimited Yes
Office 365 Enterprise E4 $22 Unlimited Yes

I must say that OneDrive is looking to have all of the features of Dropbox, at least the ones that I use, with significantly higher storage. While the 7 GB, free plan would probably be sufficient for my uses, a whole terabyte for a few dollars per month is definitely tempting if I had a reason to fill it. Not too long ago, I was paying $100 USD per year to Dropbox for 100 GB.

Note: The $5-per-user-per-month fee is the price after September. Until then, it is 50% off.

While not all of Microsoft's websites have been updated yet, the upgrade seems to take effect today. Check out OneDrive for Business, or one of the applicable Office plans, to see whether a terabyte of cloud storage is worth it for your needs.

Source: Microsoft
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Last October, Western Digital launched the My Cloud. This device was essentially a network connected version of their My Book line of external hard drives, but with Internet connectivity and apps that could reach back to the My Cloud even when you were away from home. One month later, WD launched the My Cloud EX4, a much beefier version which supported redundant arrays of 4 hard disks, redundant network and power, and a load of other features. There was a rather large gap in features between these two devices, as the only RAID option was more of a small business one. Today Western Digital closed that gap:

allynfix.jpg

The My Cloud EX2 is essentially a My Cloud, but with dual drive bays, and a few additional features. Check out this projected trend below:

WD EX4-market shift.png

You can see there was a definite void in the 2-drive range that needed filling. With those two drives, you get a few options for redundancy or capacity+speed:

EX2 family.png

All standard RAID options for a 2-bay appliance are met here, though the vast majority of users should opt for the default RAID-1 mirrored set.

 

Packaging:

DSC00102.JPG

Packaging is simple here with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX2!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Features

Introduction:

Today Western Digital launched an important addition to their Personal Cloud Storage NAS family - the My Cloud EX4:

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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:

WD EX4-market shift.png

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:

WD EX4-RAID options.png

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.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX4!

Western Digital launches My Cloud storage device

Subject: Storage | October 2, 2013 - 10:42 PM |
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:

WD My Cloud.jpg

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:

Insync Releases 1.0 RC for Linux

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 03:19 PM |
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.

Source: Insync