The Top 5 things you can do to protect the privacy of Cloud Data

If you had not noticed, there has been a lot of controversy about the recent discovery that companies or individuals are prone to having their activities monitored by the US intelligence services. This is allegedly done under the code name PRISM and again allegedly involves some deep integration with large cloud companies, although many are denying the extent of their participation and service integration.

If the rumours are to be believe then everything from Google through to Skype and full blown Windows OS may have some snooping capability built in.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Below are the top 5 things you should,consider as a company and as an individual:

1. Run your own Private Data Cloud: We have been promoting this for a while with the SME Cloud Appliance. Install your own Cloud File Server, use it with your own data, and auditing / governance monitoring, from desktop and mobile clients. It’s behind your firewall and its under your control. In short own your own data.

2. Encrypt your data. If you have to use public cloud services encrypt your data. SME provides streamed 256 bit SHA-1 AES encryption in which you keep the private key. It’s not anywhere on our SaaS service and of,course if you use the SME on-premise appliance then you have total control. Additionally consider desktop encryptors such as TrueCrypt and BoxCryptor.

3. Consider an alternative non tracking search engine such as DuckDuckGo. This enables anonymous searching and offers other privacy features.

4. Consider using an anonymous proxy that hides your IP address. Tor (originally short for The Onion Router)is free software, available for desktop and mobile clients, for enabling online anonymity. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide volunteer network consisting of thousands of relays to conceal a user’s location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis.

Also don’t forget that there are many ways to identify you, even if the IP address is ‘randomized’. Either Delete your browser cache, history and cookies etc or consider using anonymous browser sessions or extensions or add-ins that prevent browser cookies or tracking.

5. Consider the locality of your data. If you are in the UK or EU do you really want your data hosted in the US and subject to the Patriot Act. If you are in the US (or anywhere in the world) consider point 2 strongly. Private Cloud can offer just as many benefits as public cloud.

An often trotted out phrase is that “if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear”. With that simple phrase vanish personal freedoms and liberties built up over hundreds of years from the likes of Thomas Paine onwards.

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The Top 5 things to Consider for Business File Sharing

20130309-165632.jpgFile Sharing is a key part of a companies ability to collaborate and share corporate data, which increasingly can be stored in many disparate services. The purpose of this post is to offer suggestion businesses should consider for their corporate file sharing strategy:

Many business just let employees share files with no control and no checks. This needs a policy. This is the businesses core asset and it needs to be protected and secure. Also, compliance and legislation of data is increasingly becoming important. The business needs to ensure it does not get caught in a compliance trap.

Point 1: Implement a control mechanism for your users. For example Storage Made Easy enables users to share files using links that can be password protected and in which the link can be set to expire. This protects against the user forwarding file. The file link can be set to expire on first download for example or set to download after 24 hours (or any other specified time period). If the file is password protected, even if the file is forwarded by the recipient then the file cannot be accessed unless the password is provided. A control mechanism promotes best practice security management of files and reduces operational risk.

Point 2: Point Solution or not ? Consider whether your strategy should be a point solution or whether it works with your existing data sets. Many vendors may purport to promote managed secure file sharing but often you find you have to move your data to their Cloud to have the solution work for you. Storage Made Easy works with private on-premise data, public cloud data such as DropBox, SkyDrive, Box etc and also with SaaS services such as BaseCamp. This promotes a ‘joined up’ strategy for company file sharing.

Point 3: Integrates with what you have ? Consider whether the solution works how you work so that it does not get in the way of business or productivity. For example Storage Made Easy integrates directly in the desktop as a network drive with simple right click options to share files. This behaviour supports Windows, Mac and Linux.  Also integration has been done with other core business productivity tools such as Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail to promote easy secure file sharing using links directly from the corporate mail client. Similar integrations exists for core productivity tools such as Microsoft Office and Open Office or Libre Office.

Point 4: Compliance, Compliance Compliance – Compliance is fast catching up with all verticals when it comes to storing and accessing corporate files off site. There is specific industry legislation related to this, such as HIPPA in healthcare and FERPA in education, but  there are various legislation proposals being processed at various levels in the USA and EU and it is a safe bet that  the ability to track historic file events will become more of a requirement not less of a one. Also for companies, the ability to search against historic file sharing or data access should be just part of an overall joined up corporate security policy.

Point 5: On-Premise, Hybrid or Cloud ? The last point is to do with implementation. You should be able to decide how you manage data or metadata associated with storing files and sharing files. This can be behind the corporate firewall, totally on Cloud., or some combination of both. The key word here is choice.

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How to use Twitter as an SMS event notification system for File sharing and priority email notifications

One of the benefits of Twitter it it’s ability to generate events on messages and even more it’s ability to tie this to push, email and especially SMS notifications. In many ways you can craft solutions to use it as an SMS Gateway, and indeed there are a few innovative solutions that do just this.

We have implemented such a solution for event notifications with the SME Open Cloud File Server which unifies files from over 35 different public Storage Clouds and private on-premise files, whilst also providing security and audit services. In this post I’m going to step you through how the SME Twitter integration works.

All accounts, including the free accounts have the ability to use Twitter as an event notification for file share or file event notifications. The first step to using Twitter as an event notification system is to sign up for a Twitter Account and then integrate it with your SME Account. To integrate with SMEStorage take the following steps:

1. After login go to App integrations from the right sidebar.

2. Choose to sign in with Twitter using OAuth in which you enable interaction with your Twitter account without exposing your password:

3. Enter your Twitter username and password when Twitter pops the authenticate and allow access page.

4. Once this is done you will be returned to the SME site and you can choose how you wish to use Twitter with Storage Made Easy:

You can choose to use Twitter to share files and also for notifications.

Now before we show you how to use Twitter with Storage Made Easy, if you want to receive Twitter push notifications to your phone or messages as SMS, you need to map your cell phone to Twitter. To do this you need to login to you Twitter account and then click on the link that enables you to setup Twitter with our mobile phone:

This will take you to a page where you can enter your cell number and setup Twitter to work with your cell / mobile.

Once this is done you are all set, now we can explore how you can take advantage of the Twitter integration with Storage Made Easy:

The first way is that you can share file links directly on you Twitter account (be sure not to share copyrighted files as complaints can lead to account closure). You can do this from the website or client / mobile tools:

Now that Twitter is setup you will also receive notifications if a user shares a file with you from a business workspace or from a shared business folder. This gets sent as a Twitter direct message and therefore generates an SMS to your mobile device.

The other cool Twitter integration that Storage Made Easy provides is the ability to configure an email address which can be used to accept emails from nominated addresses. (to get access to this feature you have to add Twitter Notifications for emails from Cloud Apps after login to the SME website).

When those emails are received to the email configured from the nominated senders a Twitter Direct Message email is sent to the Twitter Account you integrated with SME. This DM contains who the email was from, and the subject line, and of course if you have Twitter setup with your cellphone as described above you will also get a realtime SMS alert when this is triggered.

What is this good for ? Well for file sharing, you get instantaneous notifications delivered over SMS. Also, if you have inbound emails that you want absolutely instant SMS notifications from then this works a treat as almost instantaneously as the email comes in you will get an SMS notification letting you know, so it is great for systems or Apps that generate real-time email alerts but have no SMS capability. Alternatively perhaps you configured the email to be a CC on some urgent email you want to receive. The possibilities for use are endless.

Storage Made Easy can also offer business customers of our Cloud File Server integrations with other SMS Gateways such as Twilio, Clikatell and BulkSMS.

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Monthly bandwidth limit doubled to 2GB for free users

We doubled our monthly bandwidth limit for free users to 2GB today. This is immediately applicable to all new users and all existing users on the free package. If you are a user on an older package just let us know and we’ll apply it to your package also.

What else can you get for free ?

– Free Windows Cloud Explorer + Cloud Drive + Microsoft and OpenOffice Plug-In’s
– Free WordPress Backup Plug-In
– Free Firefox plug-in
– Free Chrome Plug-in
– Free Safari Plugin
– Free FaceBook App

Be sure to check out our Cloud Tools page for all of these and other free tools !

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Linux Cloud Tools updated to 3.0.12

We’ve updated our Linux Cloud Tools to 3.0.12. The changes include:

1. Supports deleting of files during sync

If a user deletes files locally and syncs then the files will be deleted on the server. If a user  deletes files on the server and then syncs then files will be deleted locally. These 2 options are ‘Off’ by default. and can be turned on in settings of the sync center.

2. In Ubuntu 11.10+ “Hide in tray” works correctly.

3. Fixed Menu duplication

4. Fix for large fonts bug.

5. In Explorer new option to upload folder (previously only individual files were possible to upload).

6. Fixed bug with trash in explorer (not all files from trash were displayed)

7. Sync center works as per other OS sync tooling.  The “My syncs” folder concept is not used any more and desktop to different cloud folders can be mapped. ie. any folder can now be nominated for sync.  The free version has a restriction of 3 folders that can be sync’d

8. Encryption now supported (only for Personal Cloud or Business Cloud users.). In the Properties window it is possible to set a password for encryption of files during sync.

9. Small fix for Properties window for small screens. Scrolling works correctly now.

The Linux Cloud Tools can be used with the following Clouds:

Google Docs, Google Storage, Google Sites,
Amazon S3, MobileMe, Microsoft Live Mesh (read only),
Microsoft SkyDrive, DropBox, Azure Blob Storage,
Box.net, RackSpace Cloud Files, OpenStack Swift,
Gmail-as-a-Cloud, Email-as-a-Cloud, Mezeo,
HP Object Cloud Storage, S3 compliant Clouds such as (Eucalyptus Walrus),
Ubuntu One Cloud, iKeepinCloud, PogoPlug,
BaseCamp SaaS Service, IBM Connections Files,
EMC Atmos, Office365, SharePoint, CloudMe,
HostingSolutions.it, Scality, Alfresco (on-premise),
Zimbra Briefcase, SafeSync(WebDav enabled),
FilesAnywhere (WebDav enabled), and any WebDav enabled Cloud.

The tools can be downloaded from the Linux Cloud Tools Page.

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Cloud Computing Use Case: Editing Google Docs, Office365 and DropBox files in iWork on the iPad

We recently did a roll out of our Cloud File Server service to a company of just under 150 people. The primary driver of this was federating data sources, governance and auditing of data, and the ability to edit files directly on iWork on the iPad.

For this use case we’ll concentrate on the latter, enabling ubiquitous document editing on the iPad using the Apple iWork product which encompasses Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

The company is a technology company in which different parts of the businesses use different Cloud Services. The core business admin and management uses Office365. Google Docs is used by the sales team, primarily as a way to share Google Docs files easily with their customers and prospects, whom they found to be predominately Google Docs users. DropBox is used by the tech team who like the ability to have replicated to all their code, tech papers etc instantly to any device.

Interestingly, whereas you would think this disparate use of similar Cloud storage services is an edge case, we find it is not. The storage vendor names may change, but the disparate number, of what appear to be, similar services remains.

When questioned about why they don’t use the other in-house services each team had a different USP as to why:

Tech Team: “With DropBox I don’t have to remember to bring my files. They are always with me”

Admin / Management: “Office365 works and Syncs with what I use like my Outlook task list and calendar”

Sales Team: “most of our customers use Google Apps, so sharing files with the Google Group we have setup for Sales is the best way to get new deals / propositions to them”

One thing this company has jointly bought into was iPad’s. They all used them and their preference was to use Apple iWork as their document editor as they liked it’s simplicity, ease of use, and WYSIWYG features. The problem was it did not work with any of their Cloud products.as it only supported iCloud, MobileMe and WebDav.

The company in question had already bought into the SME Cloud File Server. It enabled them to audit files above all the clouds they used and provide Organisation Shared folders that worked above a “set” of Clouds, giving them a single view on disparate resources.

As the SME Cloud File Server also supports a WebDav protocol adaptor above any Cloud, something we call CloudDav, then it became very easy for all the teams to create, load, edit, and save documents to either Google Docs, Office365, or DropBox.

The steps to achieve this were simple:

1. Launch Pages, Numbers or Keynote

2. Click the ‘+’ button and choose ‘Copy from Webdav’ (assume a doc is to be loaded)

3. Enter https://Webdav.storagemadeeasy.com as the server address and your smestorage username and password as authentication. This will then load the file tree and the clouds available to the account.

4. Tap on a document to load it and start editing

5. When finished just choose the “Copy to WebDAV” button and it will be saved.

In this way documents in Clouds not supported by iWork can be edited and saved.

 

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Cloud Computing Case Study: Google Docs continuous backup / sync to DropBox

We very often have businesses who want to keep files in sync between two clouds. This can be as simple as having a backup copy held between two providers in the cloud for continuous availability should one provider go down, or it could be due to a particular use case in which files need to be made available on two Clouds. In any case the request is a common enough for us to highlight it in our Cloud use cases section to show how this is easily achieved using the SME Open Cloud Platform.

We will look at providing a continuous backup / sync between Google Docs and DropBox, in which Google Docs is what we will refer to as the primary cloud, and DropBox will be the backup cloud. The first thing to note is that this option that we highlight below is only available to users who have a personal business or Cloud File Server account with us, and that it is available in our normal hosted offering as well as our appliance offering.

The guide to setup the continuous backup / sync are outlined step by step below:

1. Log into the personal business or Cloud File Server account either on the web or the appliance

2. Navigate to the “My DashBoard” link

3. Choose to add a new Backup provider and choose DropBox

4.  Authorise the DropBox account to be accessed

5. The DropBox OAuth screen will appear an you can sign into DropBox and choose to authorise access

6. The sync will now be kicked off an you will see the settings screen of the backup provider you just added.

7. If we now visit the dropbox account we can see a new folder called “My GMail files” has been created

8. If we look inside this folder we can see the files and folders  have been copied across

After the initial sync any news files that are uploaded direct to Google Docs via SME are also backed up to DropBox. Any files uploaded direct to Google Docs are uploaded to DropBox when SME discovers them either through you accessing your account if real-time update is enabled or by forcing a refresh between the SME meta-data and Google Docs. You are also able to control whether files are deleted on the backup if they are deleted on the primary from the settings page in step 6.

Although we used Google Docs to DropBox as an example this is equally applicable to any of the 35 clouds that SME supports, including private data to public clouds or vice-versa.

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