Let’s Get Cumulus: Your Cloud or Mine?


I’ve dabbled in “the cloud” for some time. The majority of my digital photos were (publicly) hosted on Flickr until I tired of repeated theft reports and Yahoo censorship incidents. And for awhile, I was backing up on Mozy’s servers. More recently, I tried to replace iDisk, MobileMe photo galleries, and Mozy with a SugarSync subscription – but it hasn’t really met my, perhaps unreasonable, expectations.

Also, there’s the matter of cloud privacy and longevity… Most services extol the virtues of their data protection schemes. Yet, most are protected by a simple password. Which can be lost. Or that encrypted data may inadvertently be shared. While data loss and downtime can also be issues, a bigger concern is companies pulling the plug. And this isn’t an issue limited to failed startups. Both HP and Yahoo are shuttering cloud services this month. Not to mention Yahoo sucked the life from and then blew up the top worldwide Internet photo repository. If you can’t rely on a major Internet player like Yahoo to keep their doors open for service, who can you trust?

Bringing us to the concept of a “personal” cloud, which probably begins with local networked storage. While many computer geeks are comfortable tunneling home or “terminaling” in, we’re starting to see some more consumer-friendly solutions come to market. Apple’s recently updated MobileMe service ($99/yr) facilitates access to a Time Capsule or external drive (“airdisk”) via Back to My Mac. While the concept is good, the execution appears to be lacking. Gizmodo reports connectivity issues and only OS X is supported.

At CES, I spent some time checking out the promising Pogoplug ($80) – which is both a device and a service. The small Linux device, available next month, turns any USB drive into both local and remote networked storage. Accessible from a variety of operating systems, web browsers, and the iPhone. I hope to take an early look at this hybrid cloud solution (your drive, their web service) in the near future.


One of the selling points of true cloud storage is off-site backup. Which isn’t really addressed by a home cloud solution. Perhaps, it’s time for the distributed storage of a “family cloud”. And maybe more generous broadband caps with a bandwidth meter, Comcast.

12 thoughts on “Let’s Get Cumulus: Your Cloud or Mine?”

  1. Dave, if I have multiple computers in my home, can they all use this as a central storage server? I’ve been looking at the Belkin Network USB Hub, but this may be a better option, because I can access it from the road. Is is secure?

    Thanks for showcasing it!

  2. John, I haven’t been fully briefed on the technical architecture yet. I believe they provide the web interface, but our data doesn’t actually go through their servers. And, yes, you’ll be able to access it around the home from various machine and also remotely. We’ll have to wait for some reviews to find out how well it all operates.

    On FriendFeed, someone mentioned using CrashPlan as option for cloud storage without a third party in the mix. I also believe JungleDisk used to allow you to bring your own storage – perhaps they still do. I know my web hosting plan has tons of unused storage and bandwidth (it’s the database calls that kills me).

  3. I use flickr for my main photo storage. However, for the most part I have local backups of everything. I guess if Yahoo was to close the door I would still have all of my pictures. What I would miss is the ease with which flickr works for me. I guess I could implement a photo gallery in wordpress, but then I would have to maintain it as well.

    As for the rest of my data… We have no off-site backups of anything that is not photos or videos. I have large amounts of space and bandwidth with my hosting account, which could work. It would be nice if there was an application that I could install and do self backups using my hosting space.

  4. I’ve just started using SMEStorage’s Private Cloud beta which lets me turn any FTP Account into a Private Cloud. It really works a treat and I can Access these files using the iPhone and all sorts of other ways – slick.

  5. I use Jungledisk, which provides an interface to the Amazon S3 service. It works for me very well. However, I don’t trust the security on it. I separately encrypt anything I want to remain secure.

  6. Mozy checked in today… They wanted to let us know that in addition to an online account/password, they also allow you to create an encryption key that only you know to further protect your data. What the PR person didn’t mention to me, but probably should have, is that they are also an EMC company – which is somewhat reassuring.

  7. I’ve tried a number of cloud storage solutions (S3,Mozy,Carbonite,etc…) however, none of them seem to work for me. So, I’ve decided to go old school. I have two hard drives that I swap and than place in a safe deposit box. It’s not as convenient as a cloud storage solution however, at least I know my data is protected.

  8. Hi, Dave: For “family cloud” off-site backup, you might take a look at CrashPlan. I’ve been using it for several months, and it’s pretty slick.

  9. CrashPlan does look like it has some of the features I’m looking for in term of backup, although it seems like there’s a directory service of some sort dependent on CrashPlan staying in business to make those peer connections. Probably true of Pogoplug, as well, for the offsite stuff. I should re-emphasize, though, that the cloud concept is larger than just pure backup. There’s hosted email, office suites, photo sharing, etc.

    This AM I’m looking again at WHS. And it does seem that JungleDisk does not allow me to send backup sets to my own server in the cloud (ZNF on MediaTemple).

  10. Jungledisk only really provides me the “off-site” backup portion of “cloud”. It doesn’t allow me to deal with photo sharing, e-mail, or an mp3 library. I really crave an internal/external true cloud as you describe it.

  11. Hey Dave, I know you haven’t had full access to PogoPlug, but from what you know of it and the recent SlingCatcher update for Network Media Storage, do you see those two items playing well together?

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