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Comparison: Storage Service By Beth DeBold, Anna Snyder, and Robbin Zirkle Introduction Cloud computing is a technology that

allows users to access and use shared data and computing services via the Internet or a Virtual Private Network. It gives users access to resources without having to build infrastructure to support these resources within their own environments or networks. General interpretations of cloud computing include "renting" storage space on another organization's servers or hosting a suite of services. Other interpretations of cloud computing reference particular social media applications, cloud-based e-mail, and other types of Web applications. However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been designated to develop standards and guidelines for the Federal cloud computing effort and to provide an authoritative definition. NIST defines cloud computing as "a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." (Ferriero) NIST has stated that the definition of Cloud Computing is evolving. The user should consult the most current definition available from NIST and other resources.

Tools

At first glance, cloud computing seems like a fairly simple concept. A third party provides space on which customers can back up their documents, and since this space is usually accessible from anywhere in the world, it’s a great way to share documents with collaborators or family members. However, there is a wide range of choices to made in selecting a third party, and their product, for storing data. First, while many services can serve a wide variety of clients, some choose to focus on those in specific sectors. iCloud and Sharepoint, for example, are more focused on individual consumers, while Amazon S3 and rsync.net are marketed more towards professionals and larger companies. Logically, this choice of a target demographic will often inform the types of services and client-provider culture that their product offers. How can consumers know what’s best for their needs, and what makes a third party reliable enough to entrust with their data? NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has developed a document for the Federal government to provide standards and best practices for their engagement with cloud computing. While this document may not fit perfectly with every customer’s needs, it does provide a starting place. When we reviewed the following seven tools in this document, we utilized the current NIST definition of cloud computing, as well as a document put forth by NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) on the same subject. The tools we reviewed all mostly met these standards, but to varying degrees. Each has different strengths, and depending on their needs, clients would definitely be better suited choosing one over another. One thing is clear: the market in cloud computing is by no means dominated by one or even a handful of individual companies. Each tool we reviewed had at least one unique or interesting component that would make it stand out from the rest for certain customers. Yet,

an important question to consider is while all of these features are excellent, will any of these tools and the data they protect be present by the end of the next century? Here clients would do well to remember that cloud computing is only one tool in a vast array of preservation techniques they can employ.

1.

Carbonite Carbonite is a cloud-based storage service that is designed for both personal and

business use. It aims to synchronize files to storage space in the cloud and to backup those files continually to ensure longevity of information. This particular tool runs in the background of the user’s machine and encrypts the files as they are transferred to the server. While these files are accessible anywhere, Carbonite is marketed as a “just in case” service and boasts external hard drive backup as well as a courier delivery service for documents in the event of a disaster. In the realm of recordkeeping, Carbonite is useful for several purposes, but less useful for others. Pricing is provided for both homeowners and businesses, and both are provided with “limitless” storage space, meaning that issues of conventional recordkeeping may be alleviated. Carbonite also advertises full system imaging, which has potential in aiding forensic investigations of materials. Also useful for Carbonite is its acknowledgement of its “true” purpose -- that is, to ensure the longevity of documents. Aside from storing materials on secure, encrypted servers, Carbonite also offers “recovery” and “courier” services. According to the information on its website, courier services are intended to replace documents after “disaster strikes.”

NARA has created a document which outlines the potential of cloud storage for Federal organizations, and in that document, it outlines several records management challenges which inform an analysis of Carbonite. One of the most relevant challenges it mentions is the inability of most cloud applications to actually manage records. That is, while it may store records (as it should), Carbonite does not necessarily update files or save previous versions of those same files. Another complication for Carbonite is that of record retention. A retention schedule is inherently opposed to the aim of Carbonite, which is, to put it plainly, to hoard files. There is not customization present in Carbonite’s infrastructure, so things that may not necessarily need to be kept are, without any regard for priority. The final challenge, not outlined in the NARA bulletin, is that of supposed “limitless” space. While you surely pay for space in the cloud, there is no such reality as “limitless.” Cloudbased storage is limited by the servers upon which files are held, and by the volume that may be maintained by the corporation.

2.

iCloud

Apple’s iCloud is cloud-based storage service that maintains a variety of content types, including music, photos, calendars, contacts, documents, and numerous other items. In contrast to other services, iCloud is geared toward providing access to materials anywhere. Numerous web applications on tools sync to the iCloud, meaning that web applications (designed by Apple) are designed to do the “crawling” of records.

This platform can be useful for recordkeeping because it promotes transparency of boundaries between devices of platforms. iCloud aims to integrate records of all varieties in one easily-accessible place. It also conveniently maintains records that might not otherwise be kept: settings for media consumption devices. Maintaining settings in particular adds a special dimension to iCloud, as it contributes to overcoming issues with emulation. Oftentimes, archivists are as interested in the context of records as they are in the records themselves. That is, the context in which an author created a record is interesting for the purposes of learning. Automatically syncing these contexts is an interesting facet in digital storage. While iCloud presents a number of exciting opportunities for recordkeeping, (namely that of an emulated environment), it also provides a number of problems. First, and most significantly, iCloud is dependent upon web applications developed by Apple. Therefore, the records that are imported into the cloud must be in compliance with Apple’s products -- that is, to upload music or a movie to iCloud, it must have been purchased through Apple. While this does not necessarily apply to documents, the format that may be “synced” to the cloud is contingent upon iCloud’s compliance. Another obstacle to utilizing iCloud for excellent recordkeeping is preservation of records not developed on proprietary software. If, perhaps, a user elects to create his or her own mp3 file -- perhaps a song from a concert that s/he recorded -- that cannot be preserved through iCloud. Perhaps the most problematic challenge for iCloud, however, is security. Because iCloud was designed for media consumption rather than for information longevity, security is not ensured

for data. This means that “serious” recordkeeping, or recordkeeping involving sensitive information, cannot take place using iCloud, making it a less-than-ideal option for large-scale personal or professional storage.

3.

Mozy’s Stash Mozy Stash is an interesting cloud-based storage service in that it is not actually a

storage service. Stash is an extension for Mozy that serves to synchronize files to Mozy from a machine. Stash is available anywhere that an individual has access to the Internet, placing it in the “access” as opposed to “security” camp. There are several exciting facets of Stash. Namely, it is an optional extension for individuals who are already using Mozy. Mozy itself functions similarly to tools such as Dropbox, in which you select items to place in cloud storage. Stash extends the functionality of Mozy to “push” items into the cloud, similarly to products such as iCloud. While it is not a security powerhouse, Stash provides a number of opportunities to restore data. Complete data capture is provided as a result of frequent synchronization, but unlike other tools, that information may be returned to a machine if something catastrophic should happen to it -- or if your laptop simply meets a cup of coffee. Thanks to the power of Mozy, restoration may occur on a client, machine, or web-based basis, and restorations may be made on DVDs as well. Mozy’s Stash features a number of challenges, particularly in light of the NARA bulletin previously discussed. First, because Stash’s purpose is continuous synchronization, it does not permit discrimination, or the opportunity to decide which files are stored or updated, and does

not necessarily store additional copies of those documents, which are helpful for forensic purposes. While portability is definitely a virtue of Stash, it does not boast robust security features. Stash aims to provide recordkeeping storage for sensitive information, it does not boast any security features or encryption capabilities. This contrasts with the ability of Mozy to provide extensive restoration, which, while convenient for media (music, movies, photos), is likely a marketing point for more sensitive records, such as tax forms. Finally, in contrast to services like Carbonite which provides a strategy for crisis situations (national disasters, etc), neither Mozy nor Stash provide detailed information about restoration or whether or not restoration may happen in a physical manner. Because Mozy and Stash are clearly advertised as alternatives to both Carbonite and iCloud, the challenges for those tools are relevant for Mozy’s Stash.

4.

SharePoint SharePoint, a Microsoft web application platform, has many features that can facilitate

productivity and collaboration, and allows the sharing of files with others, both inside and outside of your organization. While this program has been considered just another content management system in the past, many new features have been added, and is easily used by non-technical customers. The interface is simple, and internal sites can be created by anyone, even without specialized knowledge. Collaboration is built around the ability to share content via sites and search, and access to the content can provide organization-wide knowledge and insight into what is happening.

SharePoint’s management features help save time with performance capabilities, and can integrate into already existing programs. SharePoint is meant for businesses and organizations, and can reduce infrastructure costs and ease former issues with sharing institutional knowledge. Some outside companies host SharePoint for organizations, such as Apptix, which offers the SharePoint platform, along with telephone solutions to help businesses of different sizes ensure their communication and collaboration needs are taken care of by one company. Apptix advocates this for businesses who want to conduct their operations virtually, or for organizations who are doing a major switch to another system or set of systems, as it will take stress off their employees (Apptix). SharePoint could be used for electronic recordkeeping, provided proper policies were in place. As it is a place where materials can be stored and shared, and has the capability to serve as an intranet/extranet for employees, it could be used as a central repository for the organization. Archiving and eDiscovery are touted as big pieces of SharePoint, so the platform was created to fulfill this role if need be. The Records Center was introduced in 2007, with more traditional archiving capabilities added in 2010. You can give all your records a unique identifier, set multi-stage retention policies, generate audit reports, and customize metadata and organization to fit your needs. Microsoft has written directions for records management with SharePoint. (“Create a file plan to manage records in SharePoint Server 2013”). By giving an overview of records management in general, and giving pointers on how to decide what to keep, and deciding on how long to keep a record, it seems as though many customers are using SharePoint for electronic recordkeeping. With proper policies in place, SharePoint can make it impossible to edit or delete a document classified as a record. Based on

these documents, which seem to have been written for people who have no idea what record management is, or what counts as a record, SharePoint is aiming to make life simpler for organizations who may be understaffed or not doing a good job with record retention currently. Despite all of the boons of SharePoint for organizational collaboration and recordkeeping, it does have its limitations. One obvious limitation is file size limits. The default document size is 50mb, but luckily, administrators can override this limit to accept documents up to 2GB. However, there are limits you cannot override, such as limits on the amount of space your databases and content can take up, based on the size of your servers and other factors (“Create a file plan to manage records in SharePoint Server 2013”). Most of the main complaints with SharePoint is that it is a suite of generic features, which many companies have, whether they need all it offers or not. Because it is “generic,” it may not support many standards that organizations may have to follow, like HIPAA (Jackson). However, updates have been made to the Records Center, so these complaints may no longer be valid. Lastly, SharePoint has the ability to do many things within an organization, but it may become just another system employees need to become familiar with, and if they don’t understand it or use it properly, it won’t live up to its expectations and will be useless. The same could be said of any new system that is implemented in an organization, but SharePoint has so much to offer that this would be a shame.

5.

CrashPlan

CrashPlan has several data backup solutions (CrashPlan, +, PRO, PROe) that all back up automatically, encrypt backup data before it leaves your computer, don’t limit file size, and can back up to other computers and attached external hard drives. The free version provides free onsite and offsite backup. The + version provides up to unlimited backup and online storage, and continuous backups. There are solutions for businesses as well (PRO and PROe) which provide continuous backup without slowing down your computer, backup archive verification, alerting and reporting features to keep you aware of the status of your backup, and lets you restore your own files. Administrators can use an online management dashboard that makes it easy to manage backup settings for all computers in the company. There are also mobile apps for + or PRO subscribers. With the app, you can download, view, and share any files you’ve backed up to a CrashPlan online backup destination. It also alerts you to versioning, ensuring you are always seeing the most up-to-date version of your documents. However, there are some limitations to where the PRO mobile app is available. CrashPlan has a 30 day trial to try it out before you buy it. This system is used by large companies such as Google, Adobe, and Cisco. CrashPlan’s main purpose is to back up files that are saved on a computer online, onto another computer, hard drive, or server. You can choose which folders you’d like to backup, but it does not allow you to set retention schedules or have any other “archival” features, unlike SharePoint. CrashPlan is a good alternative to other systems, because it backs your computer files up automatically, you don’t have to put any effort into your recordkeeping. If your hard drive crashes, your files will be in another place, and CrashPlan can assist with restoring to a specific time or version of a file. It also keeps your deleted files for as long as you have a subscription, so nothing is ever lost. As for security, it has multi-level passwords and encryption,

so if you backup your files onto a friend’s computer, they cannot even read the names of your files. There are different levels available for purchase, and each has different affordances and amounts of space. CrashPlan is similar to other backup services, except with the option of where you want your data to be backed up to, its not just sent to the cloud. You can have backups on an attached external hard drive, another computer, or online. You can access your files via a mobile app. This gives you more control over where your data is, and who could possibly access it, even though their encryption and password protection seems high. There are few limitations to CrashPlan. If you are backing up to an external device, you have to be sure to attach the device you want your data backed up to, which while annoying, makes sense. However, it isn’t as easy as backing up to the cloud. Also, you can not backup your data online if you are using the free version of CrashPlan, and have a limited amount of online storage space if you buy the first level of CrashPlan. If you need to restore a backup, the CrashPlan software has to be installed first, you cannot buy CrashPlan to restore lost data. On some operating systems, it uses a higher amount of memory, and stalls and crashes at times (I’m Annoyed at Crashplan Now). Lastly, there have been some complaints about the interface, but it does not affect the usability of the program (Time Machine Vs. CrashPlan for Backups ). Overall, the benefits and compliments about the program outweigh the limitations, and CrashPlan is widely recommended.

6.

Rsync.net

Rsync.net has been providing cloud storage for backing up data as a stand-alone company since 2005. They have physical locations in San Diego (US), Denver (US), Zurich (SW), and Kowloon (HK), but function internationally, as customers can utilize their services from across the globe. Customers can choose between a standard back up system that provides one backed up copy, or a geo-redundant system that provides an additional back-up copy to rsync’s international servers. These two products are the same in all other aspects, as far as features and customer support. However, customers are advised to keep their own back-up copy of their data, as rsync.net discourages having only one copy in and of itself, even if it is stored through their exceptional services. Storing data through rsync’s cloud is simple. The program integrates easily with operating systems for Mac, Windows, and UNIX, and will apparently work easily with most existing back-up platforms customers might already have in place. Additionally, customers can also access their data from multiple user points at once. In the event that a customer does not wish to upload material to the servers themselves, rsync will accept material delivered to them physically. They have excellent security, including live technicians on site at the physical servers twenty-four hours a day, biometric controls, and limited personnel access as well as more specific protections within the servers. For example, all traffic through the rsync servers is encrypted using SSH and HTTPS protocols. Pricing is set at a rate of gigabytes stored per month- although there is no limit to how many gigabytes a customer can store, the pricing fluctuates between eighty cents per gigabyte each month when the customer stores 0-24 gigabytes, and twenty-four cents per gigabyte when the customer stores 4000 or more gigabytes. Rsync also offers even greater bulk packaging discounts for terabytes.

According to its creators, rsync provides a supported, accessible cloud-based storage for any amount of data that a customer feels the need to back up. As discussed above, it is supposed to be able to integrate easily with multiple recordkeeping platforms and operating systems, as well as allowing multiple user access points for best access. Rsync emphasizes their high security of both the human and electronic variety, including environmental controls, human supervision, secure access, and other security systems. If it functions as they claim, authorized users should be able to access their data whenever they need to, but not worry about breaches in security. If customers keep their own copy on their own servers, this service also supports security in that the customer won’t lose their information should something happen to that first copy. Rsync thinks it unlikely that, since they are a service completely devoted to protecting data, anything will happen to the copy stored with them. One challenge might be payment. This is not a free service or a one-time cost as a customer might find in using some of the other cloud services, or even buying their own external hard drive. Carbonite, Crashplan, and Amazon S3 at least all provide some kind of free trial or incentive, while rsync provides none. However, their pricing plan is actually rather smart, as you only pay for what you use. If you only need to store 24 GB, you pay a little under twenty dollars a month; at the higher end, for example, for 4000 GB and up, you pay a little under one thousand dollars each month. Since the average personal computer’s memory is around 4-8 GB, that would mean about four to seven dollars a month for an individual to back up their information on the rsync cloud. If a large company with terabytes and terabytes of data wants to back up their servers, they have a manageable pricing option. However, the feel of the website indicates that this company is mostly interested in serving large companies invested in

large amounts of data. Overall, rsync.net appears to provide an up-front, customer-service oriented cloud service. While there are definitely dangers to storing items in the cloud, it seems that rsync is determined that their services should be seen primarily as back-up, which lessens the risk to a considerable degree.

7.

Amazon S3 Amazon S3 appears to be one of rsync.net’s direct competitors. Like rsync, it is a simple

data storage infrastructure. However, unlike rsync, Amazon S3 immediately identifies its primary consumer base as software developers who are interested in providing large amounts of content to Internet-savvy users. While they offer a lower price per gigabyte ($0.095 USD per GB/month is the most expensive), storage is only sold in terabytes, so customers are guaranteed to need to purchase at least a little under one hundred dollars for standard storage. They do offer other levels of storage, unlike rsync, such as reduced redundancy storage at $0.075 a GB/month and Glacier storage at $0.010 a GB/month, but that still totals at least $10 a month at the lowest entry level, unlike rsync’s product. However, S3 does offer a free usage tier, which gets customers 5GB of storage for free, albeit with a limited amount of requests and transfer. Rsync does not place a limit on data transfer or requests. With S3, customers are working with a large company who, according to rsync, have repackaged another company’s storage service. While it’s larger and theoretically has more capabilities, it is a bit more expensive for all but the free usage tier customer, and might be more impersonal. Customers also need to sign up for a support plan on top of their usage plan-customer service isn’t free. However, it does offer a lot more features such as multi-object

delete, a pre-developed Internet-based toolkit with REST (Representational State Transfer) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) interfaces, and reference materials such as articles, tutorials, discussion forums, and more. To get started, users select a particular region where they want their data stored (and prices do vary by region), and then create a “bucket” in which to store data. The user can then upload and download items to or from this bucket, and set access controls so that another user could access it from anywhere in the world. Some of the uses listed on the website include:
• • • •

Content Storage and Distribution Storage for Data Analysis Backup, Archiving and Disaster Recovery, and Static Website Hosting

Clearly, this service is primarily aimed at large web developers, not at individual consumers. The pricing and demeanor of the website certainly reflect this, although they have made some effort to emphasize their smaller, free usage tier. Wikipedia lists some notable customers, such as Tumblr, Dropbox, and Minecraft, who all store data and digital objects with S3 (Amazon S3). Its lack of dedicated customer service makes it rather intimidating, but it’s probably also a good bet for larger companies who aren’t as worried about personal connection. They use similar security controls to smaller services like rsync, but emphasize the individual nature of the user authentication process more, and mention SSL and HTTPS secure protocols only in passing. The only real concern one might have is the possible limits on getting to and from data, especially in regard to the free usage tier. Although unlikely, it’s possible that Amazon S3 could hold someone’s data hostage. They also fail to discuss best practices for electronic records storage,

as rsync does, and give the impression that data will be completely safe with them. I would use caution, as with any larger service, but there are certainly benefits.

Conclusion As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous, storage solutions will become more essential. While these tools are not the only existing cloud storage tools, they illustrate most of the main characteristics and features of the cloud storage available now. With tools available for personal or enterprise use, cloud storage can be a viable alternative to traditional infrastructure and storage endeavors. By taking care to implement policies and follow established guidelines for institutional record keeping, some of these cloud storage options can be great for organizations. By making it easy to “set it and forget it,” cloud backups can be very useful for individuals or families as well. Despite a few limitations of each service we explored, it can be agreed that their usefulness will only grow in the future.

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