the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: cloud

my data and the cloud

Working from home gives me a lot of time in front of my computer. Being who I am – an itjerk – I’ve decided to streamline all my cloud services, and clean up my data wherever and everywhere it may be.

First, let’s talk a little about data. Data is ubiquitous. Folders, files, drives, cloud, it just piles up. Keeping it organized though is the key to keeping it safe. Specific categories of data require specific solutions. Here’s mine:

  1. Documents. These are almost exclusively on my PC’s home folder, or in Google Drive. I’ll use OneDrive to keep them backed up, until they are archived (see below).
  2. Photos. Camera photos are in Google Photos (Android Phone user) and then eventually backed up to my RAID1 and external drives, while other photos are in Pictures folders, or shared with Cloud services.
  3. Music. This resides on a RAID1 on my Linux computer, and is backed up to an external drive.
  4. Archived Data. IMPORTANT! Every year I create a folder on my Desktop for all the digital ephemera I collect. It gets backed up to my RAID1 and external drives. I also clean/clear out my home folders, or at least I endeavor to.
  5. Backups. Yep, that’s a class of data. I have a backup of my home folders on my RAID1 and external drives.
  6. The zillion other random photos and files. They are everywhere! In the cloud, in my Downloads folder, on flash drives and backup disks; this is the thing to organize and clean up!

Cloud services are great, but it’s pretty easy for things to get out of hand if you have too many. Here’s a quick overview of my Cloud Services:

Google Backup & Sync. Google let me down when they removed Google Photos from their sync services. I had my photos syncing down to a D: drive on my PC, which was easy enough to backup to external drives. Maybe too easy? No more – it’s a manual download process. Fuckers. Anyway it can do exactly what it says – backup your computer to the cloud, and the cloud down to your computer – but I’m moving on. Google knows enough about me.

Google Drive. This does have exceptional value to me, especially when I was writing my book, as a “work-in-progress” repository for documents. However, like all cloud services, it’s also a wasteland for random bits of data – photos, saved files, wip documents that never finish, transfers – all of which needs cleaning up much more so than backing up. I’ll use it for working in the cloud, but not as a repository for data.

Mega. Anyone remember Kim Dotcom? Whatever happened to him? Anyway, I use Mega to backup my book files. It’s a task-specific solution that serves my need, and is free.

OneDrive. I’m a newly converted fan. Why? Well, I use it extensively at work, but also because of my Surface Go: I used my Microsoft account (Live? 365?) to initially create my user account, and since the Go has only a 64GB hard drive, OneDrive’s is a must (but to be honest, I don’t store any data on the Go). But here’s another essential feature of OneDrive – it can automatically backup your Desktop, Documents and/or Pictures folder. The free plan comes with 5GB of storage, which is good for two of those folders, and 100GB plan only costs $2/month. It does have a Personal Vault (password protected folder), but it only holds three (3) files! LOL! Well integrated into File Explorer, and works with a Mac.

Dropbox. The original cloud, I think, it just ended up being a whole lot of meaningless files for me. I’ll keep the account but only for sharing with others.

Adobe Creative Cloud. I used CC apps for my book, but as this is provided by my work, it’s not a personal solution for me.

iCloud. I’m not an Apple user, but if I were, I would probably use this instead of OneDrive.

Box. Another service I use at work, but redundant with OneDrive.

Amazon Drive. If you have a Prime account, it offers unlimited photo storage. That’s tempting, but Amazon knows enough about me already. Plus, I want my precious digital photos in my physical possession.

So what’s the plan? Use Google Drive as a work space, and OneDrive as my primary cloud. As for the rest of my data, I’ve got a spare D: drive on my PC that I’m using as a staging point as I clean out my various folders and drives. Time I have, OCD I’m great at, so let’s execute the plan!


to the cloud, amazon style

Introduced this week is Amazon's Cloud Player and streaming music service. The so-called, "buy anywhere play anywhere" service allows 5GB of storage on Amazon's servers, and the ability to stream music either over the web or on the go with their free Android app (which is an update of the previous Amazon MP3 app). So upload some music, or purchase some from Amazon's mp3 store (which do not count toward your quota), and stream away. Additional space can be purchased and your cloud drive can also host files, pictures etc. The service worked exactly as billed, but unfortunately only supports the mp3 and aac files (non-DRM of course). There's a helpful uploader app that's based on Adobe (shudder-horror) Air available for Mac and PC, while Linux users can just fill the cloud via a web browser.

Ubuntu One may have been first to introduce a cloud music player, but Amazon's is free. Now back to your regularly scheduled program (on Pandora, Rhapsody, etc.).

On the web:

the good and nasty of nas

Here's the nasty – my Buffalo Linkstation crapped out after a couple of years of use. Hard to believe it, but a small, inconsequential, and incredibly cheap fan brought down a device costing a few hundred dollars. At any rate, it died and that's just not what backup should do.

Everyone should have a backup strategy that should involve what to back up, how to back it up and where to store it. For me, data is what needs to be backed up and that includes photos, music, documents and web. OS restores and application re-installations are done from original discs. While some things can be copied over to a USB flash drive, others, like mp3 files, have greater hardware requirements. How to back up can be as simple as printing out pictures or documents, or using something like Apple's Time Machine with an external hard drive. Most important is that that "the how" works, and works often. Finally, there is where to backup all that data. Trusting is to a single drive is waiting for failure. At a minimum, consider two backup places: 1) an external hard drive and 2) some sort of media, like DVD or CD. A third option that's becoming more popular is "cloud" storage. While this great works for documents or a zipped up website, it's not quite there yet for 100GB of music or movies. But using something like Shutterfly or Flickr, or Ubuntu One or Apple's Mobile Me, are increasing great backup solutions, and ones that are only going to get better in the coming years.

Now the good – a Network Attached Storage device provides a convenient way for several computers to access data storage. As a network device, the NAS is available to all the computers on my local subnet at all times. I can mount a share to my linux box at boot, which makes things like cron-ing a rsync job quite easy. Windows machines can simply map it as a network drive, while the Mac can use Bonjour and Finder to access it (note that TimeMachine is picky about network drives). A NAS also provides an easy solution for accessing a single printer across many machines as most (all?) have a USB port that shares a printer via SMB protocol.

In the meantime, I wanted to get my home solution sorted. A trip to Microcenter – armed with a printout from TigerDirect – landed me with a new Seagate NAS, the BlackArmor 110. To be honest, there was no way I was going to buy another Buffalo product, and at 1TB this doubled my capacity of the previous drive. The Seagate drive had two things going for it: inexpensive price and CIFS support. The drive also uses SMART status and carries a three (3) year warranty. And at $134 with price match, it was an auto-buy. Setup was wizard like from my PC, yet I did two things immediately: First, prior to installation, I added the NAS device's MAC address to my router so it would offer only a fixed IP address. Second, right after installation, I flashed the NAS's firmware to the latest version. The former helps with mapping printers, while the later is generally a good idea, especially before filling it up with data!

The Seagate NAS is intuitive to configure and use. Through its web interface, you can create shares, add users, manage security and set a host of options. With its gigabit interface, performance was much faster than I expected – so, yes, it was quite fast! I needed only slight modifications to my linux box's /etc/fstab and .smbcredentials to get the automount mounting, and that was just to adjust for the new share name and user. Windows machines immediately saw the drive in the network browser. The included software from Acronis is just okay; Microsoft's SyncToy is free and is a great tool for just backing up directories.

On the web:
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 110