I’ve been playing with cloud storage the last few days, as a simple way to synchronize between machines and as insurance against catastrophic failure. Here are my observations so far:
Dropbox: I believe this one comes with about 2GB of storage free – though you can get additional storage if you get other people to install the app. The Linux client is pretty solid, but for some reason when I added a new computer it decided to synchronize that computer’s empty Dropbox folder to the cloud – deleting all of my files in Dropbox and synchronizing that down to the other machine as well, deleting the files there. This is why cloud storage isn’t a solution to the problem of backups (ALWAYS have real backups). Luckily, Dropbox lets you recover deleted files. Unluckily in my case, I had to pick through the files manually to determine which ones I really wanted restored and which ones I had previously deleted.
Ubuntu One: This one is pretty comparable to Dropbox with more default storage. In the past, I’ve had multiple issues where a computer suddenly refuses to sync with Ubuntu One and nothing short of removing the app/folders completely (and removing the computer from the list of devices on the http://one.ubuntu.com site) and re-installing will get it to work again. That can be bad, when you’re not sure if the local files that won’t sync are newer or older than the cloud versions. Ubuntu comes with 5GB of storage, and music bought through the Ubuntu One Music Store do not count against your quota.
SpiderOak: I discovered that you can enter the promo code FREEDOM4 and get 6GB of space for free on this one. This is the most powerful of the three services, though it’s a little more complicated to figure out at first. SpiderOak is designed to not only synchronize selected files/folders, but it will let you back up additional (non-synchronized) folders as well.
Google Drive: Oh Google… Y U no support Linux? It’s too bad that Google Drive doesn’t support Linux, because you get 15GB of storage for free, and ‘native’ Google Docs documents do not count against your quota. Luckily for Linux users, there are a couple of open source programs, grive and repono, that allow you to synchronize your Google Drive with a folder on your Linux box. Repono sits in you system tray and lets you do basic things like timed or forced updates, while grive is a lower level tool used under the covers for the actual synchronization. Unlike the other cloud storage solutions, it counts your deleted items against your space quota.
I don’t know if this is a grive bug or if it’s systemic to Google Drive, since I’ve seen posts by Windows users complaining of the same problem, but synchronization with Google Drive sucks. It works fine with a few relatively small files, but if you dump a hundred multi-megabyte files into your local folder you are going to end up with duplicates galore when you look at Google Drives web interface. I wouldn’t trust this one with anything you don’t want eaten.
Repono or grive appears to get stuck in an update loop if you dump too many files on it at once (maybe when it’s too much to complete in the default 5 minute update period?), where files get sent to the cloud, copied down, sent back up, etc. Looking at drive.google.com, I can see it constantly saying I updated files that were neither updated on the web or on the local machine. Even when the process doesn’t create dupes, it eats all your bandwidth.