The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Heads in the clouds, II

Curious. Three days after I post about my dislike of cloud services, Posterous, one of those “free for life, share anything” type sites is closing down (link via Hacker News).

Why am I not surprised?

Anyway, what I realized is that my previous post did not address possible solutions to the problems that “cloud storage” suposedly solves.


Easiest solution: an external harddrive. This is literally a “plug-n-play” solution as you plug in the external harddrive and copy your files to it. You don't need much in the way of software—all you need is something that can copy a mass collection of files from one location to another.

This also makes restoring your files easy—just copy them back off the external harddrive.

Disaster recovery

As was pointed out by my first cousin once removed Roger, there's also the concern about the house burning down. And there's an easy solution for that—buy two external harddrives and use both to backup your files.

Of course, what you really want to do is keep one of the harddrives off-site, like at the office, or a friend's house, or a bank deposit box. Just make sure that periodically, you swap the two drives.

An easy scheme—keep one drive at the office, one at home. One day a week (say, Wednesday), take the one at home to the office, and bring the one at the office back home. Keep backing up, and if the house burns down, at most you lose one week's worth of files.

Which is better than nothing.

Which leaves:

Access and collaboration

Admittedly, this isn't quite as easy.

It could be done by running a webserver on your home computer, and forwarding traffic from your router to your PC, but that involves quite a bit of software and if you get it wrong, the wrong people may gain access to stuff you don't want.

Then again, with cloud storage, that could still happen.

But another thought occured to me—more and more people are using laptops so they pretty much have all their files with them. So there's that solution.

But collaboration, and the closely related synchronization, is a very hard problem (it's called “cache invalidation”)—it's one of the two hardest in Computer Science (the other one being naming and off-by-one errors). You might as well use a cloud-service for this, but be aware of security implications as well as accessibility issues.

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