Hey, you, get on to my cloud: one man's data storage solution: Who needs access to an online service when you can buy a cloud drive and keep it on the shelf?
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) When you try to visualise the cloud, what comes to mind? Despite knowing that the information we upload to file-hosting services such as Dropbox and iCloud is held in vast server farms in deepest Oregon or the chilliest reaches of Scandinavia, I still find myself picturing a big grey-white cumulus puff of data swirling around overhead. I suspect I'm not alone.
Now a different picture is beginning to form. Earlier this month, I tried a new "personal cloud" storage device from Western Digital. Imagine, reducing one of those server farms to an object the size of a thick paperback, which plugs into your router at home, and you've got My Cloud. It differs from a standard external hard drive in that it's networked - you can access your files remotely over mobile data or wi-fi on a variety of devices, including phones and tablets - and it differs from file-hosting services in that you are the host and your cloud is occupied only by those with whom you choose to share.
For the slightly befuddled cloud user with information strewn across a number of services - I use Dropbox and Google Drive for important documents, iCloud for music and a hard drive to back everything up - My Cloud appears attractive for several reasons. It promises tidiness, security - using 128-bit encryption to protect files in transit and password protection on the box - and accessibility at a reasonable price.
The 2TB model costs pounds 129.99, whereas 200GB of storage on Dropbox costs pounds 125 a year (though cheaper file-hosting options exist). It is by no means the first of its kind: network-attached storage (NAS) devices have been around for years and there are other products offering remote access and media streaming. What sets My Cloud apart, says the manufacturer, is its accessibility, how "cloud-centric" it is, and easy to set up.
Back at home, I plug in the glossy white box and download software. Within minutes, it's up and running on my laptop. I upload some content: a few Talking Heads tracks, a photograph of London in the mist, an old Word document. Then I download the My Cloud app on to my phone and step outside. The interface is simple and Psycho Killer plays after a second's delay. I'm impressed. A day later I'm still impressed, though a tad beleaguered. It's my own fault for being a hoarder, but my iTunes library took 12 hours to upload. My broadband and mobile providers are to blame for patchy service, but accessing my content, whether at home or across town, is not always so seamless. When I urge my wife to commit her entire digital existence to My Cloud, she asks what happens if the box breaks or someone steals it. Unlike some other NAS devices, My Cloud has only a single drive, which means you need an external backup. The answer is to buy a second backup hard drive and store it in a separate location safe from theft. By the time I work this out, my wife has gone to bed.
"The big selling point with devices like these is security," says Daniel Bangs of London-based tech consultancy LeftBrain. "If you're the kind of person who isn't comfortable having your data in the cloud, then I guess it's a good idea." However, instead of making life easier, he says that the device could complicate matters, especially if you're pairing it with other cloud services and hard drives. "It's an extra piece of equipment you have to maintain. Ultimately, it's worth considering how secure you need your files to be."
PHOTOGRAPH BY KATHERINE ROSE FOR THE OBSERVER
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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