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Thinking Of Switching To Backblaze

BackBlazeIf you are going paperless, having an effective and preferably automated backup system is absolutely crucial. I also recommend having your data backed up to at least two places – one local, and one offsite.

For years, I have used CrashPlan for my online backup, and have been reasonably happy with it. I haven’t experienced any big issues, but there have been some little things that have bugged me.

I read Katie Floyd’s recent post Yes, I really did switch to Backblaze, here’s why… with great interest, because I walked away from Macworld/iWorld with exactly the same thoughts[1] – I have been thinking of switching to Backblaze.

Some things that have bugged me about CrashPlan:

  • There is no native Mac or Windows app. Their client uses Java, which can cause weirdness and resource issues.
  • I haven’t done any testing on this like Katie has, but CrashPlan sure seems to take a lot of resources.
  • I back up an external drive with CrashPlan, and it seems like sometimes it does weird things and appears to re-upload things from that drive from time to time. I’ve been told by their support that it is not actually re-uploading and only looks like it is, but I haven’t had time to dig into what is actually happening.

When I was at Macworld, I was able to talk to many people from Backblaze, including their CEO Gleb Budman, who was outside the booth. I was really impressed with their approach and their technology, and the fact that they have native Mac and Windows clients.

I haven’t gone as far as Katie to actually make the switch, but I am thinking about it. The main thing that has held me back is the thought of re-uploading everything makes me cry.

Any Backblaze users out there? How do you like it?

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Update Your Transporter Desktop To 2.5

TransporterAs I mentioned on my appearance on the Mac Power Users show, I have been testing out storing my paperless documents on a Transporter.

So far, it has been great. I have my documents accessible from anywhere, and they are under my control.

The other day, I noticed a typo in one of my folder names, so I renamed it in the Finder on my Mac. The folder disappeared.

“That’s not good.”

I thought maybe it was some weird caching issue, so I waited a while. It didn’t reappear. I thought maybe it was still on the Transporter, so I fired up the iOS app and looked for the folder. It was actually gone.

“That’s not good.”

I restored the folder from Time Machine[1] and reproduced it to make sure that I wasn’t going crazy, and then it was time to contact the Transporter support folks.

It turns out there was in fact a bug with the Connected Desktop software, and they’ve released version 2.5 that fixes the problem. At the time of writing it has not been rolled out to the automatic update system, so I recommend updating manually if you don’t want to lose something.

As far as I can tell this is a problem on the Mac only, and does not exist on Windows.

Here is what you do:

  1. Right-click on the Connected Desktop icon in your menu bar, go to More Options, and then click on About Connected Desktop… or About Transporter Desktop…, depending on which version of the software you have.

About Transporter Desktop

  1. If the version number it shows is 2.5 or later, you don’t need to do anything. If you are under 2.5, keep following along.
  2. Go to https://support.filetransporter.com/support and scroll to the bottom of the page.
  3. Download the update from the Desktop Software section of the support page.

Transporter Desktop

  1. Quit the Connected Desktop software that is currently running in your menubar.
  2. Install the new Transporter Desktop software that you just downloaded (they changed the name).
  3. Run the new Transporter Desktop software that you just installed. You might notice that both Connected Desktop and Transporter Desktop are in your Applications folder. That will get cleaned up.

You will now be all updated to 2.5, and you should no longer have the folder deletion problem that I experienced.


  1. Brooks’ Rule: Your paperless documents must be backed up to multiple locations. Always!  ↩

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Alternatives To Dropbox: Host It Yourself

Peer To PeerGiven events of the past year or so, you may prefer not to store your documents on a third-party server.

There are many alternatives for synchronizing your files while keeping them on your own devices. One option is to use a hardware device like the Transporter to create your own private cloud.

If you are a bit more technical, you can do it with your own computer. The excellently-named Ben Brooks has a good writeup of some options called Goodbye Dropbox:

There are many, many, alternatives out there and I haven’t settled on just one. Instead I’m spreading out and doing the nerdy-masochistic method of using a lot of different services.

I have been hearing more and more good things about BitTorrent Sync (no, not that BitTorrent), and I think I need to dive into it more. Apparently there is a nice new iOS app.

None of these solutions are as simple as Dropbox, but if you want a bit more control over your files, it may be worth the extra legwork.

Have you moved your documents to a more secure off-the-cloud solution? What are you using?

(Photo by Tpoxi)

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12 Days Of Paperless Gifts – Online Backup

12 Days Of Paperless GiftsThis is Day 8 in a 12 Post series: 12 Days Of Paperless Gifts. If you know someone who could use some help going paperless, or if you’d like to drop some hints, this series is for you. Don’t worry, the regular DocumentSnap tips will still be flowing.

My last gift suggestion was an external backup drive, so you know what is next: online backup.

I always recommend having your data in at least two places: local and offsite. Online backup services are a great way to make that happen. What happens if you have theft, a fire, or a flood? If your external hard drive goes with it, there goes both your computer and your backup.

Here are two services that are very highly regarded:

Crashplan

Crashplan

  • Who is it for?: Mac, PC, and Linux users that want to be able to backup to their local computers and their friends’ computers for free, and an unlimited amount of data online for a pretty low fee if you ask me.
  • Where can I buy it?
    Crashplan.com

Backblaze

Backblaze

  • Who is it for?: Mac users who want a more “Mac-like” online backup experience with unlimited uploads and no throttling.
  • Where can I buy it?
    Backblaze.com
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Securely Share Files With Sync.com

Sync.comRecently I wrote about Sync.com, a secure (and Canadian) file synchronization service similar to Dropbox but with some enhanced security features.

In my Sync.com post, I whined:

This is just personal opinion, but I find the sharing functionality limited. You can share a folder with someone, but you can’t create public links to individual files the way you can with Dropbox or Evernote.

If you do share the folder with an individual, they need to sign up for a Sync.com account and install the software in order to get to it. That’s fine if you are working collaboratively with someone, but not the greatest experience if you just want to share a one-off file.

Obviously, they were listening[1], because they’ve released an update and you can now share a direct link to a file.

I like the way they did it (though it would be nice if there was Finder or Windows Explorer integration), and I like how you can send a file link and a password separately. I made a little video that shows how it works.

View the video below, or click here to watch it on YouTube. If you are able to, I recommend that you watch it with HD turned on.

This video on sharing file links with Sync.com is part of a series of quick videos on paperless tips and topics. View more in the series here.


  1. Just kidding, I assume they’ve been working on this one for a while.  ↩

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12 Days Of Paperless Gifts – External Hard Drives

12 Days Of Paperless GiftsThis is Day 6 in a 12 Post series: 12 Days Of Paperless Gifts. If you know someone who could use some help going paperless, or if you’d like to drop some hints, this series is for you. Don’t worry, the regular DocumentSnap tips will still be flowing.

There are two types of hard drives: those that have crashed and those that will crash.

When you are going paperless, backing up your documents is not optional, so an external hard drive is a great gift.

I recommend having your data stored in at least two places, and at the very least, your gift recipient should be using an external drive of some sort to back up locally.

Here are a few options:

Seagate Expansion

Seagate Expansion

  • Who is it for?: Users that want a quiet USB hard drive that doesn’t come with a bunch of software they don’t need. Just a good drive.
  • Where can I buy it?
    Amazon US
    Amazon Canada

Drobo 5D

Drobo 5D

  • Who is it for?: Users who want to be extra-safe with their data and want redundant storage – if one hard drive fails it doesn’t matter, the others will keep going with no loss of data. The 5D will hold up to 5 drives.
  • Does it come with a hard drive?: No, you buy that extra. The WD Red drives are the most commonly used.
  • Where can I buy it?
    Amazon US
    TigerDirect Canada
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12 Days Of Paperless Gifts – Personal Cloud Storage

12 Days Of Paperless GiftsThis is Day 5 in a 12 Post series: 12 Days Of Paperless Gifts. If you know someone who could use some help going paperless, or if you’d like to drop some hints, this series is for you. Don’t worry, the regular DocumentSnap tips will still be flowing.

The holy grail of going paperless is being able to access the document that you need right when you need it, regardless of where you are.

However, many of us don’t feel comfortable storing our information on some company’s servers, no matter how good they say their security is.

That’s where personal cloud storage comes in. These devices let you access your documents or other files from anywhere, but your information stays on a server that you control.

Here are some options:

Transporter

Transporter

  • Who is it for?: Anyone that wants to store files on a small, extremely easy to use device that they control.
  • What does it do?: You connect the Transporter to your network, and your files can stay in sync from any computer or mobile device that you grant access to. Your files are never stored on anyone’s server. You can even share and collaborate files right from the Transporter.
  • How big is it?: 3.9 x 3.9 x 5.5 inches.
  • How much storage?: You can buy it with a 1TB or 2 TB hard drive, or you can buy it with no drive and add your own 2.5" SATA drive.
  • Where can I buy it?:
    US: Amazon
    Canada: DocumentSnap!

Transporter Sync

Transporter Sync

  • Who is it for?: Anyone that wants to turn their existing external hard drive into a secure cloud device that they control.
  • What does it do?: You connect the Transporter Sync to your network and an external hard drive. Your files can then stay in sync from any computer or mobile device that you grant access to. Your files are never stored on anyone’s server. You can even share and collaborate files right from the Transporter Sync.
  • How big is it?: 8 x 8.8 x 2.9 inches.
  • How much storage?: The Transporter Sync will work with an external hard drive up to 4TB.
  • Where can I buy it?: Amazon

Synology DS214

Transporter Sync

  • Who is it for?: Home or small office users who want expandable and redundant storage, with lots of apps and functionality.
  • What does it do?: The DS214 is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) which means you can put files of any type on it, and access them via the network and beyond. You put in 2 drives and you have redundant storage in case one of them fails. There are also all sorts of apps that can run on it, and has an easy to use GUI.
  • How big is it?: 10 x 9 x 9 inches
  • How much storage?: You can add up to 2 4 TB hard drives.
  • Where can I buy it?: Amazon
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Sync.com – A Canadian Dropbox Alternative That Embraces Privacy

Sync.comRecently I was speaking to an awesome group of real estate professionals from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. I was telling them about one of my “rainbow unicorns” that I’ve been chasing for years – a Canadian Dropbox alternative. I think I may have found it with Sync.com[1].

How Sync.com Works

If you’ve used other file synchronization services, using Sync.com will be familiar.

Sync folderYou download the Mac or Windows client, and a folder is created on your computer called Sync. Anything you save in that folder is automatically copied up to the Sync server, and if you have the Sync.com application loaded on another computer, your files will automatically appear on that other device.

You can also log in via a web browser, and everything will be accessible there.

Sync.com

So far, other than the fact that they give you 5GB free instead of 2, this all seems pretty similar to Dropbox. What’s the difference?

Zero Knowledge

Sync.com is promoting their security and positioning themselves as a “zero knowledge” service. What does this mean? In their words:

Most cloud storage providers differ from Sync.com in one key way — they know exactly what you’re storing on their server, including the contents of your files. Sync.com guarantees that your data is completely private. Your files are encrypted before they leave your computer using a key we can never see.

They talk about this more on their privacy page.

It’s Aboot Time There Is A Canadian Sync Service

I have been searching for a solid Canadian Dropbox alternative for ages.

No offence intended to my wonderful friends south of the 49th, but many people up here prefer to have their data remain in Canada as much as possible. This particularly applies to those who work with client data such as those in the legal and financial industries.

Sync.com’s data center is in Toronto, though you’ll have to try not to hold that against them these days.

This doesn’t mean that you need to be Canadian to use the service, but for those that are concerned about that sort of thing, it’s good to know.

It Would Be Nice If…

There are some things that would be nice if they were to ask me (which they wisely haven’t).

The biggest hole is that so far there are no mobile apps. You can interact with your files via the web interface on your phone or tablet, but a service like this screams for a native iOS and Android app. Their site says that it is coming soon, so hopefully that is the case.

This is just personal opinion, but I find the sharing functionality limited. You can share a folder with someone, but you can’t create public links to individual files the way you can with Dropbox or Evernote.

If you do share the folder with an individual, they need to sign up for a Sync.com account and install the software in order to get to it. That’s fine if you are working collaboratively with someone, but not the greatest experience if you just want to share a one-off file.

Update 12/11/2013: Sync.com now supports secure single-file syncing. See how that works here.

Finally, this is a minor edge case, but I find that the Mac client doesn’t synchronize at all when I am tethering via my mobile phone. Perhaps there is a minimum bandwidth it needs. The first time I went to test Sync.com, I thought it wasn’t working because my files weren’t uploading and there was no indication that something was wrong. Eventually I realized it was because I was using my phone’s Personal Hotspot at Starbucks. As soon as I switched to wi-fi, it worked properly.

These minor suggestions aside, so far I have really liked using Sync. I haven’t timed it, but it seems like uploading and downloading is much snappier than with Dropbox and I like the security features. If you are looking for a potentially more secure Dropbox alternative, Sync.com is worth a look.


  1. That’s a referral code. If you use it, I will get 500MB additional space and so will you. Win win.  ↩

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The Transporter Sync

I am a fan of the Transporter by Connected Data. It lets you store your files on a device that you control, but you can still share files with others and access them remotely. I think of it like Dropbox without having to have your stuff on someone else’s server. I like it so much I even sell the Transporter in Canada.

Today the company released something new: the Transporter Sync, which you can buy from them or it is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Transporter Sync

You can think of the Transporter Sync as a bring-your-own-hard-drive device. You plug your existing USB drive into the Sync, and you connect the Sync to your network. You then have all of the benefits of a secure, always connected, remotely accessible device that you control, but at a lower price ($99). It uses the same software and does all the same things as the original Transporter.

Clever addition to their product line. I have a feeling it will do well.

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Connected Data Transporter in Canada

Connected Data TransporterFor the past few months, I have been using a device called the Transporter, made by Connected Data. I first encountered it at Macworld and knew right away it could be a great solution for those of us who want to have our files accessible anywhere, but don’t feel comfortable uploading them to a third-party server.

The problem has been for those of us in Canada, the Transporter has not been super easy to get.

I aim to change that, so I’m happy to announce that the Transporter is now available from DocumentSnap in Canada.

Click here for pricing and to order.

I’m excited about this, especially with the release of the Transporter 2.0 software. You can read my initial thoughts on the device here. Let me know if you have any questions.

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