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Cloud file storage is a great way to get a little bit more privacy. Separating your sensitive files from your physical location gives you flexibility and security. But are you exposing yourself to more risks by trusting your data with another company?
For privacy minded people, cloud security can be just as important as convenience. There are lots of cloud storage options, so which one offers the best cloud security?
There are three contenders that provide very good options for cloud storage which can also provide the cloud security and privacy needed. Dropbox, which we have discussed before, SpiderOak and Wuala. Check out how these three services stack up against each other to decide which, if any, you think is best for you.
Dropbox lets you store, sync, access and share selected data online.
Dropbox encrypts the content of your files, however, the file names are readable to Dropbox. Also, they maintain control over your password so there is a possibility that your password, and thus your data, could be compromised by rogue employees, warrantless searches, etc.
For this reason we have urged Dropbox users to encrypt their sensitive files with the open source encryption program Truecrypt before putting them in Dropbox. Open source software is the most trustworthy way to prevent surreptitious access to your data and get more cloud security.
Dropbox allows you to access your files, or save new files to your Dropbox folders, from any web accessible computer. You do not have to be using your own computer to access or save new files. This can be very handy for travelers working from internet cafes, people working from a different office computer, or if your own computer is lost or damaged.
Ease of Use
Dropbox is the simplest of these three options to setup and use. The lower default privacy and security settings make it easy to integrate with other services and easier to use in general. It is also extremely easy to customize the cloud security you want by encrypting your own sensitive files with Truecypt and leaving less sensitive files encrypted by Dropbox.
Dropbox, along with SpiderOak and Wuala, offers 2 GB of free storage space. That can be enough storage for a few critical documents, like birth certificate, passport, etc. There are ways to increase storage, including paying about $10 per month for 50 GB or $20 per month for 100 GB.
SpiderOak provides encrypted backup, storage, access and sharing of your files.
SpiderOak automatically encrypts all of the files backed up or shared through their service. The encryption is done on your own computer with the SpiderOak software that you download so SpiderOak’s central servers never have control over your password. That way, the SpiderOak employees or other snoops cannot read the files you have uploaded to your account, not even the file names.
SpiderOak software is not open source so there is no way to verify the claim that they do not have surreptitious access and cannot grant surreptitious access to others. It is still advisable to encrypt sensitive documents separately with Truecrypt before backing them up with SpiderOak.
SpiderOak allows you to access backed up files from anywhere, but you cannot upload new files to your SpiderOak account from a remote computer. This may be inconvenient for people who might be working from an internet cafe, etc. This loss in convenience is the price paid for increased cloud security.
Ease of Use
SpiderOak offers more features than Dropbox so it is a bit more complicated to use, although it is still fairly simple. Because of the limitations in accessibility it is harder to integrate with many other applications that you might have.
In addition to the 2 GB of free storage, every 100GB of storage costs $10 per month. That is about half the price of Dropbox.
Wuala is like somewhat of a hybrid between Dropbox and SpiderOak.
Wuala encrypts your data automatically before it is uploaded, similar to SpiderOak, although it is based on more open source projects than Dropbox or SpiderOak. It is not completely open source, so the same open source caveat generally applies. Wuala is, however, based in the EU where there are stronger data protection laws than there are in the US.
Wuala provides a way to access files via the web. This gives you access to your files from an internet cafe or other places, not just from your own computer. It still allows you to encrypt and decrypt your data locally, maintaining the high security while still providing the ease of use.
Ease of Use
Wuala is able to support drag and drop file management, much like Dropbox. This, and other features, make it less complex than SpiderOak, which does not have drag and drop features.
The cost of Wuala is about the same as SpiderOak, which is about half the price of DropBox.
These are at least three good solutions for online backup, file sharing and storage which still offer cloud security. Each has different features and capabilities that will appeal to different people. If you want flexibility you can use Dropbox. If you want automatic strong encryption, you can use SpiderOak. If you want a bit more of a hybrid, try Wuala. You can combine any one of these with Truecrypt for maximum privacy and cloud security.
Reprinted with permission from How to Vanish.
Bill Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties.