DTP


 
Lively discussions on the graphic arts and publishing — in print or on the web


Go Back   Desktop Publishing Forum > General Discussions > Software

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 05-28-2007, 01:32 PM   #1
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Lightbulb Online storage (1.1) - appels, pears, tomatoes and fish

What? Fish are no fruit! But files disappearing from online servers - is that online storage? Well, in a way...

So, let's see what we have. A lot of services, and a great deal of variation. So, before giving an overview and comparison of a number of such services (in part 2) in this post I'll give a short overview of types of services, and something to read while you wait for part 2.

Services

There's great variety, and several providers offer a combination. But before you give your money (or your files) to any one provider, it's good to know what kind of services there are, and ponder how they match with what you actually need.

Storage
This is the most basic form: just put your files on a remote server that the provider makes available. You can copy or move your files between your own computer(s) and the online server. Yes, move: you do not necessarily keep the files locally - in which case, of course, it's good to know what kind of measures the provider is taking to keep your files safe. Check the FAQ, and the terms of usage - some are crystal clear, some are fuzzy (so send them an email and ask if the service otherwise looks interesting!). In general, your files stay in exactly the same format as they are on your local computer (though the provider may - transparently - apply some compression which in theory gives you more space; while compression works well for text, it hardly does anything at all for media files which generally are already pretty well compressed.)

Mirroring
While storage has the emphasis on files, mirroring reproduces a whole directory structure, including all (selected) files. It's like a backup, only - as with storage - the files normally stay in their original form, and take up just as much space. But the online version (the mirror) is kept exactly the same as on your local computer(s); if anything happens locally though, you can restore from there. It's also a way to share a whole structure between different individuals or offices (see also sharing) so data on a number of computers can be kept in sync (more or less). Often one account is for the storage but can be used from any number of machines.

Backup
This works exactly like a backup program that works locally: you can have full or incremental backups, and the backups are compressed and (usually) encrypted. Services like this generally provide a dedicated client program that will run on the computer that is being backed up. Another case where you need to pay attention to details: if you want to use a new computer you may be able to "transfer" the account (and client) to the new machine, but it's possible the backup will be wiped out unless you do a full restore... In general, you need one account per machine.

Sharing
Here, the purpose of putting files (or a file) online is so others can retrieve it. That's handy for passing large files to your friends without attaching them to email (and you need to upload only once). With some services you can also share whole "folders" of files between a group so you can cooperate on (or with) those files. Services like these range from permanent storage where you control who else may access them (read, or download) to services where you do nothing but upload a file, get a key for it, and then give the key to someone else who can download it with that key: once downloaded, or after a fixed time, the file is deleted again (hey, that's our fish!). The latter type of service can be quite barebones (and free), but don't expect anything in the way of remote backups, compression or encryption: that's all up to you.

Hosting
Hosting is a more advanced form of sharing: it makes the files you stored retrievable via HTTP (the web), so you can for instance play music or videos, build albums, or embed images in your blog without storing them with that blog.

to be continued in the reply...

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2007, 01:34 PM   #2
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Lightbulb Online storage (1.2) - appels, pears, tomatoes and fish

continued from part 1.1

Features

These types of services can be combined with extra features, some of which I've already mentioned. I'll just list them here, as a kind of checklist for things which may, or may not, be relevant to you when looking for an online storage service.

Security
How secure are your files? You can of course always do your own encryption before uploading individual files to the online service, but doing that manually is not very efficient. For the mirror and backup types of services there's often a client to run on a local computer that encrypts the files transparently before uploading them. Another aspect of security comes with hosting: maybe you want only some files to be visible for others (public), or only visible if you embed them in your own site but not elsewhere; maybe you want files to be viewed only (or only in a lower resolution) but not downloadable. How much control does the service give you over what is protected and what not?

Reliability
To what extent can you rely on the service that you will be able to access your remote files, always, 24/7/365? (And is it important? - see sharing above.) If you need reliability it helps that the provider uses good storage, preferably in a RAID configuration; it also helps if they monitor health of the drives so they can swap out a dodgy one before it actually crashes. For more reliability, it's nice if they also make backups of your data, preferably stored at a different location - obviously that comes at a price. Even better is if they always store your files at a number of different locations, so even if one whole datacenter is take out by a meteor there's a good chance one of the others still has it, and you don't even notice one copy is gone - obviously that kind of reliability also comes at a price. In general, hard disks are cheap these days, so it's easy to offer lots of storage for free or a low price. But real reliability takes more than hard disks: it needs people watching monitors, and infrastructure for backups or mirroring between different datacenters - and that will always cost money.

Lock-in
One thing to watch out for is lock in in various forms. Can you use the service only with the client program the provider makes available or can you use another client as well? Can you upload from only a single computer, or from multiple ones? Can an account be easily transferred between computers? Security plays a role as well: a dedicated client can take care of encryption so your data is secure in transit as well as on the remote server. It may be very handy to be able to upload files via FTP, but FTP is inherently insecure (your password always travels over the net in plain text format); Secure FTP is a better option.

API
API is an abbreviation for Application Programming Interface. This means that the service provides a number of requests a program can make that will give a predefined type of response; this enables programmers to use the API to build an application for (or "on top of") the online service. Some online storage services provide an API (and sometimes even libraries in several programming languages) that can be used to build applications. Since we're dealing with the internet, the API requests usually take the form of a specially-formed HTTP request (a URL with parameters, or a piece of XML sent to the server), and responses come back in a predefined format (often XML). This means that as long as the API is well-documented you don't necessarily need a library: you can cook your own in any language that is capable of sending HTTP requests and receiving the responses.

Pricing
Some services are totally free (such as a quick file sharing service), but don't expect high reliability in the form of remote backups or parallel storage in several data centers at different locations. Some services of a free time-limited trial (not necessarily volume-limited); others offer a certain volume for free (sometimes quite generous), but obviously hope you'll expand and pay for more. It's also possible to pay an amount per Gigabyte storage - but a "reasonable" $2 per Gigabyte doesn't look all that reasonable when another service charges $0.30 per Gigabyte (but what about security and reliability?). It's even possible that you pay for everything you "use": something for storage, something for upload bandwidth, something for download bandwidth... what you end up paying depends on what your usage pattern is, but you only pay for what you actually use. Comparing pricing is comparing apples and pears all by itself - you have to look at your needs (and what kinds of services are offered), your usage patterns, security, reliability... Still, we seem to be having a second generation of online storage providers: the first wave was clearly tailored for businesses, and priced accordingly. Now, consumers have large amounts of data, and new services spring up that target consumers rather than businesses, with fewer guarantees maybe(!), but much lower prices. But with this second generation, some of the first-generation services are looking very expensive, even when compared with others that offer comparable features.


A few things to read

I came across some articles that are well worth reading (even if a few are older, and were watching the start of the second-generation wave that we're now in the middle of). There have been rumors of Google and Microsoft getting into the fray, but that hasn't really materialized yet, so I'm not linking to these rumors - just a few interesting articles (some of which I used to find services, but I used Google as well). This market seems to be developing fast, so where available I'll give a publication date as well. Have fun with these while I work on the sequel.
More tomorrow (I hope)...

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog

Last edited by iamback; 06-03-2007 at 01:55 PM. Reason: Added another article under "A few things to read"
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2007, 03:14 PM   #3
Michael Rowley
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Ipswich (the one in England)
Posts: 5,105
Default

Marjolein:

I use MediaMax XL ('Powered by Streamload'). It is a paid-for service, and fairly unusual in that I can upload as much as I like but can only download what I've paid for. I don't know how it rates, but it seems to offer many of the things you mention, such as sharing files.

   
__________________
Michael
Michael Rowley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2007, 08:30 PM   #4
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley View Post
I use MediaMax XL ('Powered by Streamload'). It is a paid-for service, and fairly unusual in that I can upload as much as I like but can only download what I've paid for. I don't know how it rates, but it seems to offer many of the things you mention, such as sharing files.
Good. That one's on my list already so it will appear in part 2!

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2007, 01:42 PM   #5
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Default

Patience, please. I'm working on the sequel but it's taking more time than I anticipated. Putting everything into a spreadsheet.

One thing I'm discovering is that there are services that supposedly target businesses - but offer only plain old FTP for communication: that's definitely not secure! Possibly good enough for other uses, but don't transfer valuable business data or very private data over FTP unless you encrypt it first and regularly change your password (which is sent as plain text in FTP!). Secure FTP (a different protocol than FTP), or a dedicated client that encrypts everything (including your password) should be safe though.

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2007, 03:08 PM   #6
Michael Rowley
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Ipswich (the one in England)
Posts: 5,105
Default

Marjolein:

Quote:
plain old FTP for communication: that's definitely not secure!
I think you mean some of the data can be stibitzed, rather than lost; but the majority of businesses are more worried about losing vital data than they are concerned that someone else will peek.

   
__________________
Michael
Michael Rowley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2007, 09:48 PM   #7
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley View Post
I think you mean some of the data can be stibitzed, rather than lost; but the majority of businesses are more worried about losing vital data than they are concerned that someone else will peek.
First, neither your user ID nor your password are secure since both are sent in plain text - that means if someone "sniffs" that, yes, you can lose your data: the attacker only needs to overwrite your valuable files with blank ones (or ones with arbitrary content). If FTP is used for downloading as well, your data can then be stolen as well.

The data itself also travels unencrypted (unless you encrypt it yourself first), so it can be sniffed in transit.

I'd call that "100% insecure" rather than "100% secure" as one service calls it.

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-31-2007, 06:27 AM   #8
Michael Rowley
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Ipswich (the one in England)
Posts: 5,105
Default

Marjolein:

Quote:
neither your user ID nor your password are secure since both are sent in plain text
I suppose by 'plain text' you mean 'clear text' in the jargon of cryptographers, since even an encrypted message is 'plain text'. Yes, you have a point there.

On the subject of encrypted messages, I suppose the off-line-storage companies could reason that as only the person sending or receiving data has to be able to read the message, it's best to leave it to him what needs to be encrypted and how it is encrypted; a business with a passion for secrecy is not going to trust the off-line storage company either.

What I was really objecting to was your assumption that 'secure' was the same as 'confidential'.

   
__________________
Michael
Michael Rowley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-31-2007, 12:50 PM   #9
iamback
Member
 
iamback's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 4,894
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Rowley View Post
I suppose by 'plain text' you mean 'clear text' in the jargon of cryptographers, since even an encrypted message is 'plain text'.
Thanks, I knew something was amiss, but could not put my finger on it. "Clear text" is indeed what I was referring to.

Quote:
What I was really objecting to was your assumption that 'secure' was the same as 'confidential'.
I never assumed anything of the sort! Now what gave you that idea?

Just to clarify - I make (and made) a distinction between a protocol and the data transmitted via that protocol:
FTP is not secure as opposed to Secure FTP - I'm talking about "security" here precisely as it's meant in the name "Secure FTP"; some protocols are secure, others aren't: just don't use an insecure communication protocol to transmit valuable or confidential data for online storage.

   
__________________
Marjolein Katsma
Look through my eyes on Cultural Surfaces (soon!), My ArtFlakes shop and Flickr.
Occasionally I am also connecting online dots... and sometimes you can follow me on Marjolein's Travel Blog
iamback is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-31-2007, 03:08 PM   #10
Michael Rowley
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Ipswich (the one in England)
Posts: 5,105
Default

Marjolein:

Quote:
Now what gave you that idea?
Mostly the content of your message!

   
__________________
Michael
Michael Rowley is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
The Fish Book is (almost) real! Molly/CA The Corner Pub 5 09-19-2006 05:21 PM
CD storage systems marlene Business Matters 67 07-09-2006 12:02 PM
External storage - my solution iamback General Publishing Topics 12 03-14-2006 12:43 PM
Dictionaries, Online or on CD dthomsen8 On Language & Literature 17 01-30-2006 02:48 PM


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:17 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Contents copyright 2004–2014 Desktop Publishing Forum and its members.