Personal cloud solutions--own your data

Personal cloud solutions--own your data

Summary: The public cloud offerings may not be secure, but there are inexpensive alternatives to create your own--and keep prying eyes out of your personal data.


In the past I've written about the cloud space; the benefits, and the dangers. Recently I went to a family reunion, and recognized a great desire for everyone to stay in touch, and share family information. Photos, documents, old home movies. I ended up configuring a website for the family, containing a wiki, blogs, forums, galleries, event calendars and mailing lists.

All of this is contained within an environment called Tiki, a configurable all-purpose wiki-based website that can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be.

However, this article is not about TikiWiki, although I may visit a review of it in the future. No, right now I'd like to discuss an issue that could affect pretty much everyone: data in the cloud, and data sharing.

I've written in the past about how personal data in the cloud space is not entirely safe. The cloud is convenient, providing a much-needed resource to consumers and businesses alike. The only problem is that the reliability and security of such services has been called into question. Amazon's web services lost a portion of customer data during a recent outage, and Dropbox's security and customer data privacy have been called into question.

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If any of these issues are a concern to you, there are certainly alternatives. You don't need to have a server in a datacenter; you can have personal cloud access in your own home for a fairly minimal investment.

There are a number of easy to use solutions. One geared towards home use is Pogoplug. It has a very simple to use application which loads onto each of your computers, turning each one into a small cloud server and sharing the data on all of them with each other.

But what if you have one computer with you, and your other one is turned off? Or if you only have one computer, and it's at home and turned off? Well, Pogoplug makes devices for personal and business use as well, which allow you to leave the device running at home with external USB drives attached to it. Through a simple web interface you can access all of the data stored on your Pogoplug unit.

While I quite like Pogoplug, it didn't have a Unix version that I could install on my Ubuntu server other than the simple drive access program. That would be fine if only I was using it, but there are some very non-tech-savvy people in my family and I didn't want to confuse them. Normally the Windows version would work just fine, but I do not leave my laptop turned on 24/7. Also, since I have a server, I didn't really want to buy another device to keep running constantly in my home.

I could have gone with OpenStack, but it was more effort than I wanted to put into something that should be little more than plug and play for someone that just wants to share files with family and friends. I would also have to continue maintaining it, which also put a damper on things. I suppose I could have used a service like Dropbox that had better security, but I would need to invest more capital; family reunions can generate a lot of video, and that would easily overload the free services that only provide 2GB of space.

I started shopping around and eventually settled on Tonido. Like Pogoplug, Tonido has software and hardware options. Tonido also has music and video streaming which is a neat bonus. The software works on Windows, OS X and Linux, and like Pogoplug has mobile apps for all of the major smartphone platforms.

Installation was clearly documented on the Tonido website, and they even provided instructions on how to install their 32-bit app on a 64-bit Ubuntu installation. It installed and ran without any issues.

Once I had set it up, I realized right away that I would have to shell out $30 if I wanted to allow people to upload files to the server through the web interface. This is not unusual; it's considered a premium service and costs the same for both Tonido and Pogoplug. I paid for the premium version, and received an email explaining how to activate it through the web interface. After that I was able to set up guest user accounts for my family so that they could upload videos and pictures to my server.

Overall I am quite pleased with the results. Tonido wasn't difficult to set up and it was able to handle my personal cloud and file transfer needs for a small one-time payment. The Webshare upload interface is somewhat pedestrian, but it's simple--and simple was exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I would definitely recommend either Tonido or Pogoplug to anyone wishing to set up their own personal cloud.

Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Software Development

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  • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

    I like the looks of Tonido and going to have to give it a shot. :)
    • Tonido is good, but more universal solution would be Apple's iCloud -- in

      @rhonin: ... contrast to Google or other clouds, Apple's one is mostly syncing one. This means that <b>users own their information</b>, it is stored on they private physical devices.

      So even if something would happen to Apple's cloud or if Apple would get all of sudden on accounts deletion rampage, then your information is still yours.
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

        @DeRSSS It only works on Apple devices, and is not cross platform. It uses 5gb of storage on Apple's servers for offline storage, so you do not actually have total control of your data. It does not provide any way of sharing the data with friends, or allowing them to share data with you. So, iCloud may be personal cloud, but it didn't meet any of the requirements.
        Scott Raymond
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

        @DeRSSS You should get derezzed for recommending a POS like iCloud that only offers 5 Gb
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

        @Scott : what about security? Is the information transmitted using an encrypted channel?
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

        @nomorebs I don't know about iCloud, but Tonido works with ssl on the web interface. The client software also uses a secure connection.
        Scott Raymond
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

        @DeRSSS Apple has issues with mobileme and uploading and updating data correctly. I doubt their iCloud will change much. Although mobileme could/can be used in a browser it is not as mentioned before really cross platform compatible. And Apple has always been using proprietary formats, which make it user unfriendly. They can't even manage after years of the existence of the program PAGES to properly import word documents correctly or vice versa. Something always gets f***** up in this process and doesn't show correctly.
      • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data


        Rhonin and dersss are always right on what they said.
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      • Apple's cloud server is my own device?

        @DeRSSS The most important problem is that my contents have to stay on their device. I don't want it.
        I have my own cloud server at home(not special device, but my PC became like Apple's cloud server.) and enjoy my clouds share them with only my friend now.
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      @rhonin Really amzaing! Thanks
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  • True cloud storage

    While I appreciate the options here, have you come across any 'true cloud storage' that is more than just web sharing? I've used Dropbox and some other services but I'm surprised nobody has the full complement. Here are my specifics of what would be ideal:

    1. Online storage where they worry about backups
    2. Encryption that the service provider nor anyone else can get to the data (meaning normal ssl level --- I realize motivation and money can crack just a out any encryption)
    3. Easy access like Dropbox with apps and other
    4. Inexpensive to basically backup everything on a PC

    Seems like no much but apparently it's too much to ask. Solutions like Carbonite and Dropbox leave open the encryption hole so they are subject to government or other requests. Are there laws that prevent service providers from offering online storage they, themselves cannot see into ?
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      In theory, Wuala does what you want. I've just started with it. The best part is that it's mostly Swiss and European based, thus subject to the strict privacy laws imposed.
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      Why not encrypt what you have before uploading it?
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      @ZeroGeeZ0 There are low-cost/free options like CrashPlan for online backups. But I haven't seen a low cost cloud services that makes those guarantees. Now you know why I wanted a personal one on my own server.
      Scott Raymond
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      @ZeroGeeZ0 I use SpiderOak which might suit you.

      It does not have as nice a user interface as Sugarsync or Dropbox but has big advantages in that it encrypts everything on your computer before upload so SpiderOak can't see your data. It also has incremental file backups, and unlimited version history. It costs $100 for 100GB for a year.

      It's slower than the other cloud services because it has to encrypt your data into blocks before uploading.

      I'm happy with it and am just waiting for them to make a nicer user interface and improve speeds.
      Ash NZ
  • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

    I'd consider Opera Unite for this. Opera runs on all major platforms including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. As well as many smartphones and tablets. Opera Unite provides for distributed sharing where everyone is responsible for their own data. And, if you want, you can dedicate a PC exclusively for this use. Or not. Easy to install, Opera is a web browser, and fairly easy to setup. Plus, it's free.<br><br>If you're concerned about security, use Opera as you would use Facebook or Google+, and use another web browser for everything else. Or, as stated above, use a dedicated PC.<br><br>Opera Unite supports a growing list of applications including media player/streaming, chat, file sharing, web cam, etc. Opera also includes an email client. One could choose to have an email address specifically for communicating amongst family members and dedicate Opera for this. Or not.<br><br>As far as backup goes, if one is using a dedicated PC, partition imaging would work nicely. If not using a dedicated PC, there are simple and free data backup solutions available.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Best post ever.

    Thanks. Not the full solution but it is nice to see people working to this end. With all the high profile hacking going on, the concept of putting 100s of millions of users info in a single place seems dubious to me. I don't care if you are Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft; if you hit and hunt long enough you will eventually find some hole in the security.
  • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

    I paid $32.68 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff,
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data

      @Jenesy7 Shame on you for plugging a product where others are trying to communicate.
    • RE: Personal cloud solutions--own your data


      Go away slimy spammer!