Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Switching from Dropbox

Goodbye Dropbox.
It's almost been a year since that fateful day I almost lost all my data. I quickly upgraded to Dropbox's 50GB plan after I recovered everything and have been wanting to change off of Dropbox for a good.....9 months? Here's the real reasons why:
  1. Hate the "one folder" thing.
    Because anyone who thinks that all of the data I want to back up can be contained within one folder is an idiot. I disliked it on Windows and I hate it on Linux.
  2. Dropbox is a major resource hog.
    Consistently, when I check my System Monitor, Dropbox will be eating up ~%30 of my CPU....for nothing. It's not uploading or downloading, I don't know what it's doing; add to that that it's always sitting at around 150MB of RAM. I don't know if any others will be any better.
  3. Dropbox's security and TOS are sketchy.
    Back then, I didn't know, but now -mostly thanks to TechSnap- I've learned that Dropbox's security design is flawed, and in a way that cannot simply be fixed; client-side encryption is a must.
  4. Dropbox is effing expensive.
    I paid $100 for $50. Of all the competitors I've looked at, that is the most expensive.
Want:

  • What Dropbox has
    • Linux, preferrably Windows as well
    • Constant syncing (i.e., not manual/scheduled)
    • Public Sharing
    • Reasonable maximum file size; > 10GB 
    • Functional Android app
  • Client-side encryption
  • Revision history, or at least undelete
  • Selective Sync (not "one folder")
  • Reasonable price

The Candidates.
I tried to look into every possibility (within reason) for a good sync and backup service that runs on Linux. From what I could find, here are some of the candidate, and what I saw was lacking, in order of most lacking to least.

(These are either from AlternativeTo or this Wiki article)
  • Pogoplug
    I don't know why AlternativeTo even listed this. Yeah, it technically is, but it's actually hardware, not software. If it's not software I can download and run on a desktop OS, it's not an alternative.
  • Sparkleshare
    • Terrible Documentation: I couldn't even find a solid list of features. But then it is an open-sourced Linux app, so I guess I'm not the target market. *coughNeckbeardscough*
  • Tonido
    • No Server-side: While this looks like a truly awesome service, it was missing a server-side backup, which is critical for me. I definitely love the idea and might end out using it in a different situation, just not ideal for this.
  • iFolder
    • No Server?: The documentation for this is pretty terrible. It's there, but it's just a bunch of PDFs that tell what it does. Well that's great if you've already decided you're going to use iFolder, but what if I'm not sure? Is there or is there not a server involved?
  • Minus
    • No paid: As far as I can tell, this is just a free service. Which is awesome, but I kind of need more than 10 gigs. Maybe I'll use this as a bonus?
  • TeamDrive
    • Price: Even though their website is a clusterfuck of different plans and products, it looks like increasing the storage to 50GB would cost around 425 USD. I guess this is more for businesses.
  • ZumoDrive
    • Bad encryption: According to the wiki, it has relative to Dropbox; i.e., no client-side.
    • No Auto-detect: I didn't look into it cause reason #1 was enough to forfeit its chance, but this is annoying to miss.
    • No Versioning: At least the square was blank anyway. Again: reason #1 was bad enough.
So that takes care of every service I took a look at. Mind you, this information could be downright wrong because I didn't take an in-depth look at all of them. As much as I want the best option, I don't have the time to analyze and DuckDuckGo 10 different sites. In this case, the websites mattered tremendously. Many of the ones lower on the list are there because the website/documentation are just horrendous.

The Bronze and Silver.
There were really only 3 that I ever considered. I separate them from the others because of what a definitive line there is between them and these 3 when it comes to what I'm looking for / what is comparable to Dropbox. Plus, I feel they need a bit more discussion on what I found fault with.

Ubuntu One
($89.97 for 60GB = $1.50/GB)

Ah, yes, the big-daddy of Linux's little baby.

The best part about this service, is that it fulfills a majority of my needs and is fairly cheap, yet modular. If I need to add 20GB, I can, and it only costs $30 more, always. Plus, I can addon things like Music Streaming if I find that I love it.

The worst part about this service is that it utterly fails at 3 of my "Want" list, the first 2 of which are extremely important:

  • Client-side encryption (No encryption, from what I can tell.)
  • Revision history, or at least undelete (Nope. It's an "upcoming feature" since January '11.)
  • Reasonable maximum file size; > 10GB  (It's only 5GB, which isn't terrible, but I'd like more wiggle room than that.)
One of the main safeties I have with Dropbox is knowing that -not only is my data safe in case of a computer crash- it's also safe in case I delete something on accident. That, mixed with the fact that there is no encryption, leads me to stay away from Ubuntu One, at least until they get that all sorted out. (Plus, I couldn't log in with their mobile app, so there's that too.)

SpiderOak
($100 for 100GB = $1/GB)

I'd have to say this is the second biggest name when it comes to Linux syncing services.

The best part about this service is that feature set and reputation sounded good and from the list of the services, this one actually hit every nail on the head with nothing bad. Plus an outstanding deal! It's literally twice as cheap as Dropbox!

The worst part about this service is the god-awful client. Let me describe the problems I had:
  1. As I finish trying to create the account, a "server error" occurs and crashes the program. I don't know if my account is active or not, so I try to login, both on the client and on the website. No luck.
  2. I try to create my account again, only this time it says "Computer name already in use!" and crashes again. Well, I entered my Computer name after my password & hint, so I figured that it must have that too. I try to retrieve my password hint: it is not set.
  3. After attempting to login yet again on both the website and client, I try to create my account using another computer name. This time it works.
  4. Upon launching the SpiderOak client, I go to the "Backup" tab and try to select "Advanced". The client crashes.
  5. Repeat problem #4.
  6. I mess with some preferences, then try "Advanced" again, and this time it works. Only everything in the list is greyed out. It doesn't tell me why everything is greyed out. I don't know, I've used the program, so I have no clue what the hell is going on.
  7. After failing to find the source of the problem I check my e-mail, and see that I have to validate my account. Is that part of the solution, or what? If it is, why didn't they tell me?
    Anyway, I finally notice the "Network Health" bar is at low. I don't know why, Wuala was doing just fine. Maybe Wuala was using up too much bandwidth (even though I only had upload set to either 100kbps or 300kbps), but web browsing was doing just fine, so.......
  8. Now, as I'm writing this, I start SpiderOak and it starts scanning and starts immediately uploading crap that I never told it to. Apparently, I had "Documents" selected, even though the checkbox was unchecked. I had to switch to Basic to uncheck it.
  9. Even though I unchecked it, it's still syncing....SOMEthing, I don't know what. And everything is still greyed out. Apparently I cannot cancel, nor can I sync any folder I want.
  10. After reinstalling the client, it still says it's uploading something, god knows what.
  11. The web client at first showed that nothing was there, then that 2GB of stuff was there.
It's just....UGH. It's not even that SpiderOak is ugly or unintuitive (which it is, both), it just does not work. From account creation to actually running, I've already spent several hours just trying to get it set up. And they expect me to trust my data with this thing? No. Way. The features may be there, but not the implementation. (The mobile app is decent, even though there's no way to upload files from what I can tell.)

Wuala
($79 for 50GB = $1.58/GB)
Well there's a new face to the party.

The best part about this service is that on top of having all of the features I want, I can trade local storage for more web storage. Since my computer is on alot and I receive 11% of whatever I give, I figure I can get a good 5 gigs or so, if I move my .wuala folder to my 1TB drive.
Oh, also, signup and setup was a breeze, the client is absolutely beautiful to deal with look at. I was so shocked. It even auto-detected the best settings for my upload/download caps.

The worst part about this service is that it runs off Java. One of the reasons I was moving away from Dropbox was that it was a resource hog, but a Java app isn't going to be much better. Like right now, running Wuala and Dropbox side by side, Wuala 20MB more memory.

The web interface is a little weird, in that it doesn't exist. Instead of viewing it in-browser, you just launch a Java app that is the client and you browser your files from there. It's an awesome idea, but it requires Java.


That's about it. To me, the choice is clear: Wuala. It's the only one that hits all the important features and does not perform like a piece of shit.

The only problem is that I can't really access my files from any computer because it needs Java. That is not a good thing. I'll think about it, since I have a month before my Dropbox expires.

-Bry

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