Cloud Storage Options: Dropbox and Ubuntu One
We live increasingly mobile lives. Telecommuters, road warriors, and even casual computer users are working in multiple locations, often with files spanning several devices and computers. Sharing files between these systems often involves complicated network connections, emailing yourself or the use of USB thumb drives.
However, the devices that are most commonly used not only have storage limitations, but the thing that makes them attractive: their portability, is also the thing that makes them more susceptible to loss. So, how are we to manage file access and sharing? Thanks to the proliferation of cloud computing, there is a solution.
The dawn of new online storage options means that you can store and sync your files across multiple devices. Two leaders in this space are Dropbox and Ubuntu Linux’s Ubuntu One.
With both Dropbox and Ubuntu One, you can essentially store any file that you’d store on your personal computer or phone. We’re talking, documents, music, photos, etc. Let’s take a look at both of the solutions in more detail.
Dropbox was launched in 2008 and has already claimed over 3 million users. The draw? Simplicity and cross-platform compatibility. Dropbox gives you the ability to sync files between your Linux, Windows, and Mac computers. Add in apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry and sharing files has never been easier.
Dropbox Installation & Usage
Download the appropriate deb file, 64 and 32 bit versions are available for Ubuntu. Fedora rpm files are also available. Then, simply double click on the file to launch the install program which will prompt you to create a Dropbox account. You can then logon to Dropbox with the same account on the other computers that you’d like to sync with. Your files are also accessible directly from the Dropbox website.
Following the installation, you’ll have a new folder called Dropbox on your computer. All folders or files copied to this folder are automatically synced to the other computers or smartphones.
Inside your Dropbox folder, you’ll see photo and public folders. As you may have guessed, the photos folder is for sharing pictures. As for public, anything your put in this location will be accessible to the public. Instead of emailing files to friends or co-workers, you can copy the file to public, right-click this file, then choose Dropbox > Copy Public Link. You can then share this link with the people you’d like to have access.
You can also create shared folders for the purposes of file sharing. This is particularly useful for workplace collaborations. Create a folder in your Dropbox directory, then right-click and select Dropbox > Share This Folder. The website will launch and you can insert the email addresses for the folks you’d like to share the folder with. Files created in Dropbox also feature a 30 day undo feature for deleted files and full file revisions, so you can revert to an older version of a file if you need to. Backups are done automatically.
- Basic – 2GB: Free (+250mb free for every referral)
- Pro 50 – 50GB: $9.99/month or $99.00/year
- Pro 100 – 100GB: $19.99/month or $199.00/year
Files are transported over SSL to ensure security during copying. Also, they are stored and encrypted using AES-256 – standards used by the banking and military industries. A username and password are required to access files on the website.
I began using Ubuntu One a couple months ago and though lately, I’ve been using Dropbox, its still installed on my system. While this service works much the same as Dropbox, its biggest drawback is that there isn’t a desktop client for Mac. But the Windows client beta, and smartphone applications for iPhone and Android are now available. However, you can still login to the Ubuntu One website and access your files and it is available for syncing with smartphones.
As a side bonus, using Ubuntu One supports the open source movement and if you used the paid option, the Canonical project benefits.
Ubuntu One Installation & Usage
If you’re using Ubuntu 9.10 or higher, Ubuntu One comes pre-installed. If you are running Lucid Lynx use these instructions. Make sure your system is up to date by running the update manager, and then click on Applications > Internet > Ubuntu One.
Once the website is launched, either signup for an account or if you already have a Launchpad account, you can use the same credentials to login. In order to sync, you must add your computer to the list of devices. To add your computer, click on the Add this Computer button.
The applet should be visible in your task bar. Right-click and select preferences to make changes to your installation. You can store, sync and share files similarly to Dropbox. But syncing with mobile devices is only free for 30 days. And in addition, the ability to sync across other operating systems and applications like Thunderbird, you must upgrade to the paid service. There is also the ability to sync to the Ubuntu Music store that was launched with Lucid Lynx.
Ubuntu One Pricing
In addition to the free option, Ubuntu One has two paid subscription options:
- 2GB free storage
- 20GB available at $2.99/month or $29.99/year
Recently a new cloud music streaming service for iPhone and Android mobile devices was added that allows you to stream your entire music library from on your mobile phone.
The pricing for Ubuntu One Mobile is:
- $3.99/month or $39.99/year
There’s also a free 30 day trial for the new mobile service.
Ubuntu One Security
Ubuntu One also uses SSL during data transmission. For desktop software authentication, they use oauth, so a token passes to the server to validate it. With this method, you can authenticate multiple computers and even remove access via the Ubuntu One website.
Unfortunately, stored files aren’t encrypted. You do have the option of encrypting files yourself prior to storing, but this may have unexpected consequences.
Give the Cloud a Try
Making the decision to store your data on the cloud is a difficult one. But I believe the benefits outweigh the potential issues. If you’re ready to make your storage more mobile, download both and give them a try.