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BYOD sync 'n share

This topic was created by Chris Mellor 1 .

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BYOD sync 'n share

Dropbox is popular for sync'ing and sharing files across smartphones, tablets, notebooks and desktop PCs. I use it myself in my all-Apple computing universe of iMac, MBA, iPad and iPhone, and I use it in preference to Apple's iCloud. The killer aspect for me? Dropbox is a device icon that acts like a folder of files. God knows what iCloud is; it screws up calendar sync and iTunes music and film sync and that kills it stone dead for me. And I don't care if I'm doing something wrong; the damn thing should just sort it out. With Dropbox there is no wrong to do; file drag 'n drop being pretty basic.

Dropbox doesn't do calendars or iTunes music/film sync but I don't care about that. Nice features but not mandatory. What about security?

Dropbox says:

Dropbox uses modern encryption methods to both transfer and store your data.

- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption

- Dropbox website and client software have been hardened against attacks from hackers

- Public files are only viewable by people who have a link to the file(s). Public folders are not browsable or searchable

- Dropbox uses Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) for storage, which has a robust security policy of its own.

That's good enough, surely?

Longer term I reckon file sync 'n share will become an O/S feature and stop being a separate product category, much like deduplication became a universal feature. But the OS/s will have to become much slicker and reliable at file sharing.

A I right or am I wrong?

Chris.

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Re: BYOD sync 'n share

As others have mentioned, Dropbox only encrypts the link to its servers, all of your data is available there naked and, if something goes wrong at their end, to world+dog. But that is no worse than most folk's PCs so its acceptable for most users I guess.

What I would like is an option in Dropbox's client to use your own NAS for some data, as it would be faster & easier for a home setup to sync big files (videos, ISOs, etc) between multiple users without needing always-on networking & NAS. But I guess that would eat their financial lunch so not likely to happen.

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Re: BYOD sync 'n share

Dropbox works remarkably well - I'm surprised how few problems I have with it between work PC, home Mac and iPad. I've not yet trusted my 'home' network to it but really only because I've not got round to it. The major barrier is working out sync of iTunes and iPhoto (as both have large libraries) and doing so at a reasonable cost.

Suggestions? Is there a local mac-mac sync solution (without online storage) that's as simple to set up and manage and reliable as Dropbox?

Pretty sure Dropbox does have a 'LAN sync' option to speed up syncing - https://www.dropbox.com/help/137 but of course the stuff must still end up on the Dropbox servers at some point (and you must still have to pay for the storage).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BYOD sync 'n share

Dropbox would be a whole lot better and more secure if it offered a multi-user installer, currently it seems it can only be installed per user.

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Coat

Re: BYOD sync 'n share

I recently installed it on my Linux server, which also functions as a NAS for my local network over NFS and Samba, and the server now has a "Dropbox" directory at the top level - which is, as you've already guessed, is synced with Dropbox. So, I don't need to install their client on every box, but it's instantly available on all of my kit. I'm not an apple user - both my bog-standard Wildfire and HP Touchpad can also access Dropbox.

Mine's the one with the blue cardboard box in the pocket.

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trust no one

Dropbox is convenient and easy to use. Much more so that

n services like Wuala and Spideroak that offer similar services.

But the fly in Dropbox's achilles heel ointment is the lack of encryption on the servers operated by Dropbox.

I would need to trust a lot of foggy processes (fog is all you can see when you are in a cloud) before I could entrust data to all those third parties.

The risk is not just that something I want kept private might be disclosed. I do not want to risk lower-level security stuff being subverted or corrupted.

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Re: trust no one

There is nothing preventing you from encrypting a file before you store it in dropbox. The process can be pretty much automated with something like Ubuntu's home directory automatic encryption feature. This will encrypt all files in your home directory and when transferred to dropbox, the contents will still be encrypted. If sure other OS's have similar features, but I don't use them so can't explain how to achieve the same effect.

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Re: trust no one

This what I do, I use various places to store files, dropbox,ubuntu one,minus,pogoplug and a couple of others (I think)

For dropbox I encrypt anything I feel might be viewed as sensitive info, I use encfs on ubuntu to encrypt the folder the info is in, pretty simple really.

But I guess the best way to stay secure is to not put it online in the first place.

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Re: trust no one

The problem with this is that it'll only work if you only ever use one OS. TrueCrypt goes some way to alleviating the issue as it's cross-platform but it brings its own issues along with it, and isn't available for mobile devices.

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Re: trust no one

mines the one with an hourly cron job script;

ccrypt -eRs ~/Dropbox/encrypted -K mysecretlongpassphrase1

to encrypt one folder of my dropbox stuff - safe in the knowledge that if I forget to re-encrypt after working on it the system sorts it out for my next hour

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JDX
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If I had genuine business secrets I'd use some more specialised service. For 'normal' confidential data like my accounting backups, it's fine IMO - anyone who cracks their servers will have far more interesting things to look at.

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certainly works a dream - as good as MobileMe and a lot better than iCloud which seems limited to Apple applications.

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Facepalm

Well, the Catalan educational system has deemed it to be "good enough"

The laptops they supply their students (well, the laptops the students' parents forced to buy) use Dropbox to store homework. I suspect their definition of "good enough" was "free", in the same way that every student gets a gmail account.

Toshiba se adjudica 68.000 portátiles de la Escuela 2.0

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Anonymous Coward

Good enough

As you say though, it will become a feature of the OS in time. When Dropbox tried to sell to apple, Steve Jobs told them it was a feature not a product. Sorry I can't find a link.

But, dropbox is great, works well and has saved me a lot of hard work and time

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Re: Good enough

You've got that slightly wrong, Dropbox refused to sell to Apple, Steve told them that to try and get them to sell.

Dropbox does its thing very well but it's only doing the most basic of syncing, to the point that I've seen files fork from nothing more than two users reading it at the same time, it's a long way from OS integration.

True syncing, as end users expect it to work, which is to say magically, is really really bloody hard.

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Re: Good enough

Thanks for the correction

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The classic line is:

Don't put something on the internet if you don't want people to see it. That applies to photobucket, your email, anything. Even if you don't get hacked, your phone can easily get lost/stolen. There is no doubt any number of ways that your files could be accessed, if not intercepted.

The moral: Don't put pictures of your balls AND face (in the same frame) on Dropbox.

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Joke

Re: The classic line is:

"Don't put pictures of your balls AND face (in the same frame) on Dropbox."

At least half the population have no worries then!

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Re: The classic line is:

Maybe, but they still should be careful not to put pictures of their face and somebody else's balls in the same frame on Dropbox.

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Facepalm

Re: The classic line is:

"

"Don't put pictures of your balls AND face (in the same frame) on Dropbox."

At least half the population have no worries then!

"

Not necessarily - remember Tulisa?

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WTF?

An OS feature?

How, then, would I sync from my phone to my desktop, which run two completely different operating systems?

Are they going to all work together to provide me with space out of the goodness of their hearts?

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Paris Hilton

Re: An OS feature?

Not sure what your question is there. Dropbox already syncs between my Windows PC and iOS iPad. The cloud space is platform independent; the client syncs to local space on the device.

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Re: An OS feature?

Ian Ferguson. Yeah, I think there are 2 different issues here. (i) synching between devices across the 'cloud' and (ii) storing information in the cloud (for synching, sharing or whatever). I think the Reg author is right that (i) may become an OS feature, BUT (ii) is a cloud service where I think that there will always be a service provider app involved. (ii) can do (i), but (i) cannot do (ii) if that makes sense ....

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Gimp

Not good enough on its own by a long chalk

[self-confessed fanboi alert]

I've never had a problem with iCloud myself. It's a joy to tinker with a spreadsheet in the morning on my iPhone and update it in the evening on the iPad. Or if I'm out and about and add some contact info to the phone - bingo - there it is on the iPad when I get home. Emergency tooth repair requires a dentist appointment entry on the phone? Ta-Da, there it is on the iPad and my Outlook calendar as well. Take a snap with the phone at lunch-time: oh, there it is on my PC when I get back. Get a new Apple device? No problem, there's all my music on iCloud ready to be installed. No mucking about dragging and dropping stuff.

For the situations where I want to move my own multi-gig content around, I Air Share to a local network to get the move done.

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Joke

Re: Not good enough on its own by a long chalk

It's a joy to tinker with a spreadsheet in the morning on my iPhone

An utter joy, assuming the spreadsheet is no more than 2x2 cells.

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Boffin

Re: Not good enough on its own by a long chalk

"An utter joy, assuming the spreadsheet is no more than 2x2 cells."

Indeed. The kind of nitwit who can't be bothered to design a form for data entry is likely to have a joyless existence.

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Stop

Re: Not good enough on its own by a long chalk

im also a big apple fan but until Mountain Lion I have very little use for icloud.

its so busy with iOS that they forgot about OS X! in short its pants.

with iCloud the calender seems to sync wrong and the feature I use dropbox for, which is a numbers spreadsheet where I keep track of how much money I have left each month is pointless on iOS because if I edit it on a computer, I then need to manually upload it to icloud after! how stupid! why was it not integrated in Apples ilife suite in the same way it was integrated to iOS ilife suite. i.e it integrates automatically.

What use have I found for iCloud. Well the book marks sync is good (when it randomly decides to update my others devices) I genuinely can not find a reason why sometimes its updated and other times it hasn't

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Re: Not good enough on its own by a long chalk

Oh Tommy,

Your thoughts on iCloud echo mine - i-What-A-Mess:-(

Chris

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Left Dropbox last week

I stopped using dropbox last week, for syncing files between my machines. Though I'll still use it for sharing files there was one thing that I experienced last year that happened again this week.

I needed to add a new computer, and it was downloading the 1.5GB in my dropbox at 7kbytes per second. Meaning it's two days to get back up and running like normal. I know I could get specific files from the web interface while waiting, but it's just not good enough.

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Re: Left Dropbox last week

I'd use Dropbox's Selective Sync feature to prioritise the folders I really need now on the new machine, then sync the rest later.

I think Dropbox is great, especially the way it actually syncs to a local folder on a Mac or PC - and not just under Windows, too. Encryption is an issue though, and while I could encrypt the folders on my Ubuntu systems before syncing them, that would presumably prevent my reading my files on my phone or on in the browser on a borrowed PC, say.

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Good enough for private, not sure about business, but it's inevitable

Dropbox is good enough for me. It syncs files between my work PC, home Mac, work iPad, home iPhone, girlfriend's Windows laptop, etc. Does so very efficiently, quickly and without any fuss. In fact I prefer the experience on the iPad way more than using any of Apple's own file syncing features. I can't figure out exactly what iCloud is meant to do either.

A lot of our staff use it for work. I've given it a dubious OK, as long as they don't use their accounts for ANY customer data; make sure their accounts are registered with work email addresses, not home; and make sure the computers they access them comply with our security specifications.

I know Dropbox may be far from perfect but I prefer it to the alternatives:

- USB keys, which have a common habit of walking off

- Emailing documents to their private accounts

- Printing absolutely everything off

- Me being ultra paranoid and banning access to any data outside the network, which will just make it harder for people to do their jobs

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Happy

Wait 6 months,,,,,

......

And then do a surprise audit. I guarantee that you will find that their accounts will be used for customer data, services will be registered to home email addresses, any old computer will have been used, including little Johnnys laptop while he was asleep. I also guarantee that multiple USB keys full of data will exist, emails will have been sent to personal accounts, and several briefcases and folders will be full of printouts of everything.

If there's one thing I've learned in the last 20 years, it's that most users can't be educated, only physically restricted from doing something they shouldn't :)

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Re: Wait 6 months,,,,,

The voice of hard-won experience I think. Makes my original views look sloppy and unrealistic. It's hard to argue with it.

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Drop box does what it says on the tin

It just works. I have used it on Ubuntu, Android ICS (tablet and phone), Windows XP and Windows 7 machines all just working together in effortless sharing. That kind of cooperation will never enter the heads of MS or Apple, why would they even dare talk to eachother and THEN talk to Linux. Unless people pay for it.

I don't use it for company secrets, it is simply stuff I don't want to lose or can't be bothered copying via usb stick to the various machines I use in my house or with family and friends.

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WTF?

Great idea but...

I was a 100% fan until I edited a document on my iPad and then discovered that it doesn't automatically sync up with the version in DropBox - it's locally saved only, which makes it a bit of a pain when working on stuff out of the office...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Great idea but...

Yes, there's no question that DropBox has some significant syncing issues. But if you take your time with it and check carefully before moving on, you can usually catch them before they explode on you.

On the security side, it's definitely the case that you don't want to be putting anything genuinely valuable in there. But I'm not sure I've found anywhere to put anything genuinely valuable that I actually trust yet. Everything's either hackable or eminently failable.

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JC_
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SkyDrive

Yes, it's from MS, but it works well in my experience. 25GB of online storage for free and it only requires a hotmail account.

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FAIL

Re: SkyDrive

....and it lacks an XP client so you're stuck with the browser interface and manual up/downloading.

EPIC FAIL.

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Happy

Re: SkyDrive

You can actually just map a network drive to skydrive...

Anyway, I use live mesh to sync my documents between my computers, any files that dont fit in the 5GB cap for the cloud can sync directly to each other (just remember not to put DB backups in your synced directory, can consume lots of bandwith :-p)

I think MS are merging Mesh and Skydrive, which will be awesome :)

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SpiderOak is better.

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Wuala is the future, but..

Wuala wins on encryption alone. But it fails on their Android app (at least until they support syncing from Android to Wuala).

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Belt and Braces

I dragged my Dropbox folder into my Sugarsync folder so now I get my files stored in two clouds. So if Dropbox goes dead then I can still access files from Sugarsync on a different device, and vice versa. There is the consequence that I have twice the data traffic on data synching... meh. (I wonder if they use different cloud storage service providers?)

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Anonymous Coward

On your recomendation

I just tried to register for skydrive. It says:

'There's a temporary problem with the service. Please try again. If you continue to get this message, try again later.'

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Am I right or am I wrong?

> it [iCloud] screws up calendar sync and iTunes music and film sync and that kills it stone dead for me.

> Dropbox doesn't do calendars or iTunes music/film sync but I don't care about that

It seems you care enough to dismiss iCloud for screwing them up. it's inconsistent to damn one service for messing up a feature, then saying later that it's not a feature you use or care about.

So to answer your question: you're wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Am I right or am I wrong?

Unless he means that he has no need for his synchronisation software to perform those tasks, yet Icloud tries to and messes things up for him. I'm not sure if that is what was meant, but it's a possibility.

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Re: Am I right or am I wrong?

Pete 2,

NIce bit of pedantry there - admirable clarification of my clumsy thinking. Great stuff!

Cheers,

Chris.

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Re: Dropbox

I used Dropbox privately. About a year ago I migrated to Sugarsync. Functionally they're both about the same but: While Dropbox has support for N900/Meamo, Sugarsync has a neat Outlook plugin which takes over for file attachments. I also prefer the Sugarsync interface, the Magic Briefcase and that I can chose to assign which directories/folders to sync.

For work, when we reviewed the options for cloudbased storege/sync, none of the offerings such as Sugarsync or Dropbox meet requirements that were set. A stumbling block is where is the cloud located? Some countries - and their revenue/tax agencies - have an issue with that.

Finally, for general files the new batch of sync/cloud storage services are ok. But for specific trades, such as AEC, there are other options that better suited for specific processes and tasks. Such as Autodesk Buzzsaw & Vault, Bentley Systems ProjectWise and Graphisoft's BIM Server (okay, so these are not all true cloud solutions. Does it count if it's over WAN? ;)

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That's good enough, surely?

Not according to articles on a site called The Register, apparently it has some serious security issues and their employees can read all your files. That would stop me using it.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/16/dropbox_ftc_not_good_enough/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/26/dropbox_moves_to_squash_open_source_dropship_project/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/12/dropbox_security/

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Re: That's good enough, surely?

Irongut,

!!!

:-(

Great comment,

Chris.

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