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As you can see, cloud storage apps tend to pick and choose from a wide assortment of potential features and, unfortunately, a wide range of speeds. It’s hard to find a perfect diamond, but we were most pleased by the luster of one cloud app in particular: Bitcasa. It’s fast, encrypted, offers more storage than most services for the low, low cost of nothing, and gives you access to an unlimited total capacity for a price that would net you considerably less on other cloud services.
If you care more about security than speed, Mega’s your ticket. You don’t get a downloadable app with which to synchronize to its servers, but you do get a ton of storage with an almost obsessive focus on security and encryption through all stages of the uploading (and sharing) process. Even Mega’s owners seem quite confident of the service’s capabilities, offering up cash rewards (up to €10,000!) for anyone who can expose vulnerabilities that might otherwise open up a user’s files to pilfering.
Though we weren’t keen on Box as a general cloud service, we have to tip our hat to its functionality as an office-themed cloud app. It’s not the place where we’d want to stash our critical files, movies, music, or any of that, but the service’s tie-ins to
Office apps (or Google Docs!) alongside its role-based sharing capabilities make Box an ideal choice for those looking for a cloud service geared toward business-based storage and collaboration.
Encrypt Thyself: Beef Up Your File Security With Boxcryptor
Sure, a number of cloud-storage providers offer powerful encryption on their end—designed to give you a little peace of mind by preventing the very providers hosting your files from knowing their exact contents. But is that really the case? Dropbox, for example, says it offers 256-bit encryption, but it’s highly unlikely the service encrypts your files locally before passing on the indeterminate 0s and 1s to its servers.
In other words, what good is encryption if a cloud storage provider knows the key? That’s where a free app like Boxcryptor (www.boxcryptor.com) comes into play. Install the app and set a password—and make sure you don’t forget it because, if you do, you’ll have no way to decrypt the files you encrypt.
Boxcryptor lets you know that your files and folders are encrypted by displaying their names in a lovely shade of green.
Like most cloud-storage apps, Boxcryptor creates a new drive letter within Windows Explorer. Only, instead of listing your files and folders, the Boxcryptor volume lists the various other cloud service apps you have installed on your system—like Dropbox, for example.
Stick with us.
When you go to view these “services” within the Boxcryptor volume, you’ll be staring at the standard synchronized folder you’re used to looking at. Only, now, you can use Boxcryptor to encrypt files you’ve already synchronized—or, one step better, create a new encrypted folder whose contents is automatically encrypted by the app prior to being synchronized with whatever cloud provider you prefer.
Why do we like this method better than, say, TrueCrypt? It’s more seamless and “drag-and-droppable,” unlike TrueCrypt, which requires you to unmount your entire encrypted volume for the synchronization process to occur—which can get a bit annoying.
LaCie is big on security, offering up AES 256-bit encryption for any file you store on its Wuala cloud service (and going to great lengths to let you know that, no, they aren’t peeking at your files). You get 5GB free to start with on Wuala, and an individual file-size limit of 40GB. More storage starts at $39 yearly for 20GB and caps out at a mighty 2TB for an annual fee of a mere $1,999.
Wuala allows you to fine-tune your file sharing, so long as your friends are also Wuala users.
Like Tresorit, there’s no web-based Wuala interface for you to use (save for when you’re sharing files or folders with others via the app’s cleverly named “Secret Web-links”). You can synchronize your files to the cloud simply by dragging-and-dropping them in the new W: share drive that the app creates. And Wuala’s speedy, too: It took the app just 26 seconds to sync up our 132MB benchmark files.
If you don’t feel like dragging-and-dropping, you can also have Wuala synchronize the contents of folders on your hard drives to new folders within Wuala. Popping offline still allows you access to files you’ve recently downloaded, but it’s possible you won’t be able to access your entire cloud setup. www.wuala.com
So, you want to go the free route. As in, you want to sign up for as many different cloud storage providers as you can get your hands on and find some magical way to mash them together into a single, unified chunk of storage.
The messy way of doing this involves installing each service’s desktop app and mentally assigning each to a particular subset of your files—perhaps Dropbox for your MP3s, Bitcasa for your movies, and Box for your documents, etc. It’s not pretty, but it’s certainly one way to beat the cloud-storage game without having to pony up a single penny.
Jolidrive presents a no-fuss method for combining your cloud storage providers, but you can’t really do all that much with your data once combined.
Let’s get fancier.
There’s a web-based app called Jolidrive (www.jolicloud.com) that allows you to access a number of different cloud services via one convenient portal. The best part of the equation is Jolidrive’s cost: absolutely free.
Once you’ve signed up for the app, you’re presented with a screen that allows you to combine your cloud storage accounts with your master Jolidrive account. Supported cloud storage services include a number of those mentioned in this article—Box, Dropbox, MediaFire, OneDrive, SugarSync, and Ubuntu One (to name a few).
CloudKafé’s interface is a bit more Windows 8 Metro than Windows 7 Explorer, which may or may not be to your file-browsing liking.
The one bummer? Jolidrive is akin to read-only access: You can’t move files around your various cloud services, nor can you even use Jolidrive to upload files—downloading and streaming only.
You’ll find that this is the one unfortunate caveat of a number of similar, free services. CloudKafé (www.cloudkafe.com) is another web-based, mash-everything-together cloud-storage organizer—one with a user interface that bests Jolidrive in some aspects. It allows you to share items from your various cloud services by dropping them into a CloudKafé “basket,” which you can then allow others to access by emailing them a link via CloudKafé itself.
The paid-for web app Otxio (www.otxio.com) does allow you to copy-and-paste files between connected cloud service providers, but it’ll set you back a one-time fee of $39.99 for doing so. And note that we said “copy-and-paste,” not move—the latter being the more desirable way to interact with one’s individual cloud services.
We love Otxio’s interface and feature-set, in that the app allows you to perform all the basic functionality (downloads, deletions, sharing, and uploads) that you’d otherwise expect to find in your individual cloud services. Like CloudKafé, you can create individual “spaces” of files—groupings of data that can be populated with any of your files from your individual cloud services—which you can then share with others.
Otxio packs some powerful functionality into its cloud-storage combining, but don’t expect a free pass.
That said, Otxio isn’t perfect; its file-uploading feature only allows you to stick one file at a time (no folders) into a particular cloud service. What we wouldn’t give for a batch uploading feature (or, at least, the ability to upload full folders). Still, it’s a small price to pay to be able to ride on the free coattails of the web’s more popular cloud storage providers.