The beauty of odrive

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Some of you by now would have multiple free cloud storage accounts spread across the net. From Dropbox, to Box, to Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and many more. Some of you may even have a paid cloud storage subscription for increased storage capabilities. You might have encountered some slight annoyances in logging into individual accounts just to access your files, and some of the services may or may not provide native sync support to sync all your files between your computer, and the cloud. Each cloud storage options may even offer different services and capabilities. In short, each has its own strength and weaknesses in accessing, updating, uploading, and syncing files.

For my situation, I have 2 free dropbox accounts, totalling around 12gb of storage space, a free Box account that gives me 50gb, One Drive, 30gb, Google Drive, 15gb, and Amazon Cloud Drive, unlimited storage space. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could consolidate all your cloud storage into one main folder? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could combine all these cloud storage space into one big one?

Introducing odrive. I encountered odrive while tinkering with Amazon Cloud Drive. Since it doesn’t have native sync support, and the upload application Amazon provided for PCs and Macs, only provides simple uploading services without all the bells and whistle, odrive is a wonderful software that allows you to have sync ability between Amazon Cloud Drive and your computer. It goes one step further; allowing you to link most other cloud storage services out there under one main odrive folder. Within this folder you will then see individual folders being made based on the accounts you link. So it does not interfere with the file structure that you have created for the other cloud storage services you have. This feature is a big plus as it now allows you to access odrive once, and all your cloud storage services are under one roof. No more logging in to individual accounts, no more using separate shared folders provided by each cloud storage services, and no more using separate uploading apps to upload your files to all the different accounts.

The second big plus, and this is the major selling in my opinion, is their progressive sync capability. Progressive sync allows you to control which files and folders you wish to sync. When you initially set up odrive, you can see all the file you have in the cloud regardless of which account is linked. But the files are not immediately synced to your computer. You get to set which files or folders you deem important to you and you simply sync them. For example, if you have a folder with all your important documents that you work on it on your computer everyday, simply sync that folder to your computer and any changes you made to your document will automatically be updated and synced to the cloud. This way, less frequently used or accessed files in the cloud can remain in the cloud untouched. This is important as it frees up precious storage space in your computer. There is no need to sync every file you have on the cloud to your computer, if only a handful of them are needed and updated frequently. You can sync and unsync anytime you want and once it is unsync, the actual files will be removed from your computer, but not the files in your cloud.

This feature has huge implications in the way files are uploaded to and from my computer and the Amazon Cloud Drive using odrive. I am using Amazon Cloud Drive to upload and store all my photos I have taken with my DSLR. There are more than 60 000 of them. These images are not frequently accessed, now that I have edited them using Lightroom and showcased the very best. I would very much like the keep the original. I have uploaded all my files after days of non-stop uploading. Now, I got the chance to try how fast it would be to download my entire database, should I need to rebuilt my hard drive, after a catastrophic failure. So I tried downloading a single folder containing a couple hundred photos through the web browser. Once you click on ‘download folder’, what Amazon Cloud Drive does is that it will download a zipped version of the file. I discovered that the download speed wasn’t so great despite having a fiber broadband connection. And downloading a single, huge zipped file is not practical. What if I got disconnected from the internet, or my computer crashed in the middle of downloading? That could mean that I would have to start downloading those photos from the very beginning, wasting time and effort. Not good.

This is where the beauty of odrive comes in. You can sync the folder or folders containing your previous photos and odrive will immediately download them to your computer. And the download speeds are way much better. Why is that? odrive downloads the actual individual files, rather than allowing Amazon zipping the files for you and downloading those files as a single large file. odrive downloads several files simultaneously, downloading through multiple download streams. It essentially maximises your download connection speed, increasing the overall download efficiency. And because it is essentially syncing the files to your computer, you can pause them and continue another day. So while downloading 500gb of files back to your computer may take some time, at least you can download (or sync) in batches, telling you the percentage in which the files has downloaded, the files left to sync and even tells you which files are done syncing that you can access immediately. This is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Now some of you might be wondering; if I have a laptop, or a computer with an SSD, syncing that many files would overwhelm my computer storage space. Yes it will. So in order to prevent that, you can simply offload the syncing process to a external portable or desktop hard drive to provide ample space for syncing. Simply tell the odrive to move the main odrive file to another drive and you can then begin syncing files without eating up your precious storage space in your computer. Essentially, you are not locked out in selecting where to sync the files to. So let’s say, you suffered a major hard drive failure and you forgot to backup your files to another drive before it fails completely. However you have your files backed up in Dropbox, or Box or like me, Amazon Cloud Drive. And you decide to get a multi bay NAS with multiple hard drives plugged in for Raid 0 or Raid 1 setting or a bigger external drive to hold your data. Simply move the odrive to either of those two. Now you have a lot of storage space. Once that is done, simply choose the files and folder you wish to sync, and voila, the files will start to download.

In summary, odrive is a wonderful app that helps you not only in consolidating all your separate cloud storage services, but also adds a unified set of functions and capabilities and integrates it elegantly to all the cloud storage services. I highly recommend giving it a try.

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Amazon Cloud Drive Impressions

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers unlimited storage to backup your files to the Amazon Cloud. A relatively new player in providing unlimited file storage for just 50 bucks a year, its practically a steal. So how does it perform? And does the service suit my needs well? Remember I am trying to find an inexpensive, if albeit inefficient way to back up my photos archive that I have slowly accumulated over the years, either through photography, or from the photos I took using my iPhone.

The Amazon Cloud Drive offers a very simple service to anyone who wishes to upload files, big and small to the Cloud. It has potential, but currently, I feel that the services offered are a little too simplistic and basic. Unlike more sophisticated offerings from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive, you simply use the web or app interface to upload your files to the Amazon Cloud Drive. No fuss, no gimmicks, it works as intended. However, there are several key features that are not present yet on the Amazon Cloud Drive, features that are already mainstays from the more mature platforms like Dropbox.

For one, there is no auto sync feature. You can download a third party software to manage your files from your computer to the Amazon Cloud Drive, but some of which would require additional fees for licensing and usage of said software.

Managing thousands of files using the simplistic web interface is a little too unwieldy. It does not have the more complex set of features and functions that would make file management from the Cloud a little more efficient. The Amazon Cloud Drive app is a very basic app, that only allows you to upload (or download) files to and from the Cloud. You cannot (yet) do any file management functions from the app. The app only functions 2 things; upload and download. The Cloud Drive is also unable to edit files like word documents, or excel sheets or powerpoint presentation. You can view photos you have uploaded, but for most other file formats, there is very little you can do from within the web interface itself.

However simple it is, the Amazon Cloud Drive, is strangely still my favourite, not just because of its low price point, but also the fact that its a simple, no gimmick Cloud service. Th upload speed to the Amazon Cloud Drive is by far the fastest and most reliable among the other services I have used, making uploading of large amounts of files relatively easy. I organise my thousands of photos into its various folders, making my entire photo collection neat and tidy. Such neat organisation makes it easy to export the same file structure and files within those folders to the Cloud. And because I rarely access or modify those photos that I have already archived, not being able to sync and update the files in the Cloud is not really a big issue, yet. Remember, I am primarily using the Amazon Cloud Drive to merely dump all my photos into a safe place. Yes, I have half a terabyte of photos to upload and it will take days over time, but eventually when it is finished, I simply have to upload any new photos I took and saved periodically, maintaining my file organisation that I have adopted for my older photos.

Will I stick to Amazon Cloud Drive main repository for all my photos? Maybe. I am still split on whether to invest in local storage solutions like NAS or DAS, or simply just go the way of the Cloud. Both has its pros and cons, which I need to constantly evaluate as I consider how I would like to store my photos. But for now, Amazon Cloud Drive is the most cost effective way to keep my photos safe. Until then, it might just be my solution of choice, until something better comes along.

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Backup Conundrum

I have been reading a lot about NAS, DAS, cloud backup, cloud storage, RAID options and many many more. But still, I have yet to come up with the most cost effective solution and efficient solution to back up and archive my photos. First, there is always the traditional route of backing up my photos from an external hard drive and making periodic transfer every now and then. I am using a 2.5 inch portable hard drive as my main photo depository. Eventually that hard drive is going to be full and I would need a more future proof solution. The closest option based on my needs would be to invest in a NAS. But NAS requires an ethernet connection to the router that would then allow NAS access to a home network. I have tried the transfer speeds of files from the NAS to the network and onto my computer, and I am not liking the transfer speeds. I need something faster. Then there is DAS, or Direct Attached Storage, like the Drobo, WD My Book Duo, or Thunderbolt Duo. But those things costs a bomb! I don’t really want to invest so much money upfront just to backup my photos and eventually have a future proof solution to my storage needs. It’s just too expensive for my taste.

Recently, I have begun experimenting with cloud storage and backup solution. I tried crash plan and initially I liked it. It’s those set-it-once-forget-about-it kind of system. Unlimited storage space, (for a fee of course) but it allows you to periodically make backups to the cloud. While it may seem the most cost effective solution, backing up hundreds of gigabytes of data is going to take a tremendous amount of time! By my reckoning, based on the Crashplan’s estimates, it would take me more than 20 days of non-stop uploads to fully back up my entire photos collection. While it is cheap, its not efficient. Amazon Cloud Drive seems to upload photos slightly faster than Crashplan, but still doesn’t solve the slow transfer speeds. So what now? Do I really have to invest in a NAS or DAS?

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