Wednesday, February 11, 2015

All your files in your pocket. Without saying goodbye to privacy.

The amount of files, photos, and videos generated and stored has grown dramatically following the digital revolution, and growing at an annualized growth rate of 49% according to Gartner[1].  This “information tsunami” has created new challenges in data management, not only in terms of time and effort spent organizing, classifying and discovering digital assets, but also in protecting files from accidental loss and managing security.

Current industry solutions are anchored around two opposing paradigms. On one side, “on-premise” solutions that rely on locally owned-and-operated hardware & software. On the other, “pure cloud” solutions that host and manage data. Each of these present trade-offs affecting universal access, data availability, total cost of ownership, and privacy.  

Cloud storage has been a disruptive force. It’s a convenient way to store everything, without having to worry about backups, and having access to all your files anytime, anywhere, on any device. But it also has some disadvantages.

First, it may take a long time to upload all your content into the cloud, before it’s even accessible. For example, if you want to upload 200GB of files into the cloud, with upload speeds of 5Mbps (approximately 500KB/s), will take about 5 entire days. Second, it will cost you money (though the storage costs are rapidly racing to $0, as companies are competing for customers).

But lastly, and most importantly, is the hidden cost - the cost of giving up privacy by storing all our stuff in third party servers.  The privacy and security of your data is no longer in your control, since the data is hosted and managed by a third party (not by you).

As Geoff Webb recently shared his insights in the article “Say Goodbye to Privacy”, it’s the combination of cloud, smart tech and mobility that are expanding the disruptive nature of the Internet of Things (iOT) and how it will impact our lives, particularly in the dimension of privacy.   There have also been concerns about our what happens to voice data captured by Smart TVs, and how it’s shared with third parties.  Also check out Natasha Lomas's post on Techcrunch about the “sensornet”, and also Samantha Murphy Kelly’s post, “Samsung TV aren’t the only devices listening to you”.

Fortunately, the ability to self-host our own private clouds is now a reality. This wasn’t even possible just a few years ago.  The affordability of high speed Internet, combined with low cost of local storage, and the processing capabilities of today’s personal computers, now make it possible to run your own “cloud” using our own devices.   These are what we call “personal clouds”.  The merits of personal clouds are well articulated by Bradley Cohen from BitTorrent in his article.

We believe that personal clouds provide a no-compromise solution, where users can get the full benefits of universal access without sacrificing privacy, at a reasonable cost.  That’s why we’re building Alterante. Now, you have a choice in terms of where your data is stored.

[1] Source: "Forecast: Consumer Digital Storage Needs, 2010-2016", Gartner -

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