So, it’s no secret. I don’t like “The cloud”. I mean, “The cloud”, has its uses, but I dont like cloud storage, and I dont like the false security it gives people. But it’s damn convenient! Services like Dropbox offer some pretty nice features. A free 2gb storage container that you can put whatever you’d like on, available from damn near every internet connected device you might own. Mac, Linux, Windows, Android, iPhone. They have a client for every major platform. That’s pretty sweet! So here’s why I dont use it. It’s not yours. Think about it this way. You have an external hard drive, or USB stick. You copy those pictures from the party last night to the USB stick, and transfer them from your laptop, to your desktop. Erase them from your laptop (that you, you know, take to work with you), and then erase them from the USB key. You have a physical chain from start to finish. You put those pictures on your laptop by copying them over a USB cable from your phone to your laptop, then from your laptop to the usb key, and then finally to your “Private” pc. They never left your sight. You can erase them from your phone, your laptop, and the usb key. Securely if you’d like, hell, smash the devices with a hammer if you want to be certain.

What’s the point? Well, you know, without a doubt, that no one else has thos pictures of you in the Toga. I use the encriminating photos example because its easy to relate to. The data we’re talking about might be some cool idea you had for a business venture. Or you might be the payroll manager for a company, and that data is all of your employee’s payroll information. Get the idea? In the case of sensitive data, you need to be sure who has had a chance to get their mitt’s on your files.

Now, let’s try this scenario out with DropBox. When I say DropBox, I mean DropBox. So, you have an Android phone, and a pc a home. Both are sync’d to dropbox. To stick with the earlier analogy, you’re at that toga party, and take a bunch of pictures. Because you’re using dropbox, your pictures immediately end up on DropBox’s cloud storage. You go home, pass out without taking off our shoes, and the next morning sit down at your PC and browse the pictures from last night on your PC without giving it another thought. They syncronised automatically from Dropbox and there you go. Now, let’s think about that physical chain in my first example. It’s pretty much obliterated. You took the pictures, so you have the start of the chain, that’s your Android device. Then those pictures traversed your cell carrier, or ISP to get to dropbox. Then from dropbox, a similar path is followed back to your pc. So now those pictures have crossed the internet, twice, to get back to your PC. And on top of that, they’re stored on someone elses “Cloud”.

What’s the problem with that? WHAT’S NOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?! Let me talk a little bit about what this Cloud thing is. “The Cloud” is a buzz-wordy description for clustered vrtualization, with a nice user-service portal in front of it. I know this because at the college I work for, we spent a long time trying to decypher what the heck this buzzword was. And decided to host our own “Private Cloud” instead of outsourcing to someone elses cloud for our server needs. So, what’s all this techie talk? Simple. Picture the computer you might be reading this on (you mobile users will just need to use your imagination). It’s a bunch of physical stuff, CPU, Memory, and Storage primarily. Those are the essential components of every computing device. The right CPU is capable of virtualizing other computers wthin a host operating system. Yea, thats still pretty complicated right? Essentially, a computer running many “Virtual” computers. So one peice of hardware, doing the work of many. Now, imagine a dozen computers, all running virtual computers, and all communicating with eachother such that they can share the load of all of those virtual computers. If one of the physical, host, computers dies, or loses power, the other 11 take over for it until it returns. That’s a cluster. So, a cluster of computers, running virtual computers. Now, make that global. The host systems are in the hundreds (or thousands) and theyre all over the planet. Then in front of them, you put a web site, that let’s a user login, and make use of whatever service this cluster of virtual computers is running.

Now, your toga pictures are stored on that cluster of virtal computers. Global… cluster of computers. How do you make sure no one nasty gets ahold of you in that skimpy toga and shows it to your next prospective employer? Oh, you login to DropBox and delete the pictures, right? Yea, sure. It’s not possble that one of those thousands of clustered hosts still has a copy of your pictures right? And it’d be imposible for someone to recover them, right? That’s a lot of assumptions. Well I run systems like this for a living. Let me tell you, that lost, or accidentally deleted data is almost always retrievable if you try hard (or pay) enough. Good luck making sure no one gets ahold of your sensitive data. The only way to be sure, is to never put it out there in the first place.

So what’s the solution? Well, you could do what I’ve been doing. Make use of the cloud only in ways that you feel safe about. Put things out there that you dont care if anyone ever see’s. I’m going to tell you though, it’s annoying. Imagine being Vegan, but really loving steak, and all of your friends eat steak right in front of you, and all you want to do is have the pleasure and enjoyment of eating that steak, but you can’t because your personal values are more important than steak. People around me have the ease of data sharing that the cloud can provide, but they have no caution for what they’re storing in the cloud.

OR, you could do better! Enter SparkleShare. It’s dropbox, without the cloud! BRILLIANT! I’m a sysadmin, so this is a brain dead simple solution for me. For others maybe not, but all it takes is a linux host that you can access from the internet, and a client on your devices. They have an Android app (maybe iPhone to, but i’m not a sheep, so I wouldn’t know), linux, mac, and Windows. What’s this blackberry thing you keep asking about? And why would I need a window in my phone? It’s already got enough glass. For those looking for some grit, here you go. Sparkleshare is, essentially, a git repository, with a pretty wrapper around it. Which means that any file you put into SparkleShare is version controlled. Which means you can revert it if you screw up or delete that Documentary on wombat’s you’ve been writing. It uses technologies that are dirt simple and age old. Your files are sync’d to your server over an SSH tunnel, so it’s encrypted. It uses SSH key pairs to authenticate you, so no worries about having to enter passwords. And best of all, you control every piece of the puzzle! Well, except the internet connection, but that bit’s encrypted via the SSH connection so its not such a problem.

So, now that I’ve instilled a little bit of paranoid into you, go get SparkleShare, and be quick about it!