Dropping Dropbox Part III

Last we left off, I was in search of a new solution for secure cloud storage, given that the last product I’d picked turned out to be less than ideal. Since one of my main complaints was the unreliability of the Tresorit clients, I decided to look again at finding a way to use one of the big-name services. That means I need a way of encrypting my files locally before sending them over to the enemy.

After checking out Viivo, I ruled it out since it requires duplicating files to encrypt them, using up twice the space for anything I wanted in the cloud. That left one option.

Boxcryptor

Boxcryptor presents an encrypted virtual drive that mirrors one or more locations. As such, when I work with a file on the encrypted drive, it’s auto-saved to the cloud location, where it’s synced as normal by the cloud client. So far, this has been working just fine for me.

One side benefit is, unless the Boxcryptor client is running, the files on-disk are encrypted, too. If you browse to the files in the cloud client or web service, you’ll just see the .bc encrypted version of them. I don’t need to encrypt the system drive with Bitlocker on my laptop, for instance, just to get my important files protected; I just need to make sure that Boxcryptor isn’t set to run on start-up and the files would be inaccessible in case the laptop was lost or stolen. This isn’t the main focus of the product, but it’s a nice-to-have.

This nice-to-have also brings up a potential concern. I wonder what would happen if the company went out of business, or decided to stop supporting the bit of the service I was using. Unlike with a “normal” cloud service, I don’t have any unencrypted copies of my files on my machines. Boxcryptor allows you to export your private key, and the client does claim to support a “local” setup using the keys only (no network account needed), but I’d be concerned at having a copy of the client that works correctly ready to go in case the worst came to pass. I may look into a separately encrypted and stored local backup of my files at home just to be safe. Having poked around a bit, I’m pretty sure the client uses fairly standard encryption libraries such that decryption could be done without using anything from Boxcryptor as long as I have the keys, but I’d need to verify that.

Another side-benefit turned out to be cost. Since Boxcryptor is pretty cheap, it actually winds up saving me money to use it over a purpose-built service. I can split my storage up across services (Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, SugarSync, etc), using their free storage as I see fit. If I had to pay for the storage service and Boxcryptor, it’s much less attractive of an option (because I’m cheap).

A side note on Micrsoft’s OneDrive product – since it requires me to use a Microsoft account to login to my computer on Windows 8.1, I have no interest in using it, despite it’s hefty 15gb of free storage space. Why Microsoft can’t follow the Google model and have the network account access the software store and application services separately from the OS login is beyond me. I’m sure it somehow helps them make money, since it sure isn’t convenient for end-users.

Photos

I’m still deciding what to do about photos. Google is annoying in that the only way to auto-backup photos and videos from my phone is to use Google+, which doesn’t allow me to sort and organize photos on my Google Drive. You can have it work the other way, with Google Drive photos appearing in Google+. I have no idea why they set it up this way, but my workaround it is to use an Android app called Autosync for Google Drive, which appears to work how I want it to. We’ll see.

Music

I’m also still deciding where to keep my music. I don’t like that Google Drive and Amazon Music do “matching” and will replace my files with their versions. That’s not a big deal for using and listening, but it is a big deal as far as using those services as file-level backups for disaster recovery. I want my exact data back if something goes wrong, you know? Style Jukebox does this, but as far as I can tell, when re-downloading songs that have been loaded, they come back without any directory structure, which is annoying. I have a lot of old and obscure music that isn’t available elsewhere online, so it is a concern for me that I’d lose any of it.  I’ll be giving it a shot in any case, since I like its feature list.

Conclusions

I’m hoping once these migrations are complete I won’t have to fiddle with this anymore. Who knew it’d take so much effort to try and be secure in the cloud, eh?

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