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privacy on the cloud

There is a huge variety of cloud-based data archival and backup services available today. The following were shortlisted based on certain desirable features such as encrypted storage, personal encryption (zero knowledge), storage size and bandwidth limits and cross-platform support. 

The pricing structure and other particular features are outlined below. The order reflects the slight preferences of the author.
  1. MEGA
    • # machines : ?
    • Pricing
      • 50GB – Free
      • 4TB - $12/m
  2. Crashplan
    • # machines : up to 10 computers
    • Pricing
      • Unlimited - $13.99/m, $150/y
    • Other features
      • de-dup
      • can run server-free, exchanging backup space with friends and family
  3. AltDrive
    • # machines : 3 computers
    • Pricing
      • Unlimited - $9.95/m, $99/y
    • Other features
      • de-dup
  4. Bitcasa
    • # machines :  up to  5 devices
    • Pricing
      • 20GB - Free (up to 3 devices)
      • 1TB - $10/m, $99/y (up to 5 devices)
      • 5TB - $49/m, $499/y (up to 5 devices)
      • Unlimited - $99/m, $999/y (up to 5 devices)
  5. Elephant Drive
    • # machines : up to 10 devices
    • Pricing
      • 100GB - $9.95/m, $100/y
      • 250GB - $19.95/m, $201/y
      • 1TB     - $85.95/m, $86/y
      • 2TB - $169.95/m, $1713/y
  6. Wuala
    • Pricing
      • 5GB – Free
      • 50 GB - $6.99/m, $75/y
      • 100GB - $11.99/m, $129/y
      • 200GB - $22.99/m, $249/y
      • 500GB - $54.99/m, $599/y
      • 1TB - $99.99/m, $1099/y
      • 2TB - $179.95/m, $1999/y
  7. Spider Oak
    • # machines : unlimited
    • Pricing
      • 2GB – Free
      • 100GB - $10/m, $100/y
      • 200GB - $20/m
      • 500GB - $50/m
      • 1TB - $100/m
    • Other features
      • de-dup

A prudent cloud-backup strategy would involve using multiple services – diversified geographically, both in terms of the location of the company and the location of the data. So, for e.g., a combination of MEGA, Crashplan and AltDrive, would satisfy both criteria.

Local Encryption
Locally securing the data in an encrypted vault, using tools such as BoxCryptor,  TrueCrypt or FreeOTFE (see here for a comparison), before sending along the wire, adds an additional layer of security and privacy. "There is a potential backup trap when it is used for files that will be synced or stored in the cloud. Encryption programs that create encrypted “volumes” (files that contain encrypted files) do not change the size of the volume (container file), and often – intentionally – do not change the modified date of the volume, even though files in the volume have been changed or added. The result can be that your cloud service does not recognize that the volume file has changed, and will fail to update the online copy. TrueCrypt is an example of an encryption program that does not change the modified date of volume files (encrypted file container). However, some cloud backup services – Dropbox for example – check the hash value of volume files, not the date, and if that changes Dropbox stores the latest copy of the volume file. If you’re using Dropbox, that makes TrueCrypt an excellent way to implement client-side encryption for your most sensitive files. SkyDrive, monitors the modified date – not a hash value – so TrueCrypt volumes are not updated in the cloud by SkyDrive after their content changes client-side."(quoted verbatim from [2])

The Bottom Line
  1. At the very least, use an online back service that provides the feature of personal encryption (in addition to encrypted storage). This means that nobody in the company can easily break into and peer at your data. This also means, however, that the data can be irretrievable if one forget their personal key/password etc. All of the services listed above provide personal encryption (except, on a technicality, Bitcasa -- but their approach is quite similar).
  2. Optionally, diversify your data and use multiple services.
  3. Optionally, vault your data locally and then backup the vault.
    1. This option can also be used in conjunction with a service that does not provide personal on-the-fly encryption


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