Your Data: In the Clouds or On Earth?

Data Security for Consumers

Gone are those days when people kept their memories on photo albums, filling shelves in their homes. Shelves are being gradually also relieved of transparency trays, video cassettes and other legacy media. All this could be kept on a few SD cards, fitting easily into your trouser's pockets, or, of course more commonly, onto a hard disk. But how safe are the valuable data there?


In the worst case, photos would fade, but remain usable at least for the next generation. In case of a break-in, burglars would not care about your photo albums, but grab this PC, the NAS and other valuable things. But even more common threats to user's data are hard disk crash and human errors. Keeping data safe becomes a challenge not only for companies but for consumers as well.

Cloud Services

Cloud offerings seem to jump in to solve the problem. SkyDrive, Google Drive, iCloud and more is there to help. All generous and selfless offerings? How easy is this to manage? Do users really have a choice for their devices? What if you have a Windows Phone, an iPad and a Samsung Camera? Every vendor tries to push the own standard. Chances are that without heavy configuration work your data will be scattered over a couple of cloud services. Often you don't have even a choice because of missing apps or closed APIs. Another question is: what happens to your data? Who really takes the time to read the fine print? Finally, Microsoft, Google and Apple want to make money! Being able to crawl through your data and harvesting patterns of your behavior, your preferences and what not is a valuable asset to resell to marketing firms!

Another issue is the data volume we would send uplink into the cloud. For mobile devices, uplink speeds are quite good nowadays with HSUPA and LTE, but the silent service running in the background eats up your highspeed quota of your so called “unlimited” data plan.


Syncing up your devices only when at home is a much more economical choice, as there are often still true flatrates, or at least more generous quotas available. Only the uplink data rates of those unsymmetrical accesses are often a bottleneck, speeds of 512 kbps up to 2 Mbps are quite common. So watching the video just taken with your iPhone on your desktop could involve sending the data to the iCloud through your uplink bottleneck and download it again onto your desktop. Of course, a USB cable could be used, but why not sync automatically locally to your router with a hard disk or NAS?

NAS devices become more and more popular. Often the router used for Internet access can be extended to act as a NAS by adding a USB hard disk. Wouldn't it make sense to backup all your mobile devices data automatically to your own NAS / hard disk as soon as you are in reach of your home WLAN? It means full control over and privacy of your own data, plus full highspeed access without any DSL bottleneck in between.

Speed, Control and Data Safety

On the other hand, as said at the beginning, having all your valuable unrecoverable data in a small box at home, accessible by family members, prone to human errors and HW failures, easy to steal, is by far not the best technically possible solution.

Having a backup of my data in a professionally operated data center? Definitely yes!

Two areas need attention: Uplink speed and confidentiality. Together with a local NAS devices, the uplink speed becomes less critical. Syncing your data from the NAS into the cloud could be a background task, running nightly and/or with low priority, not disturbing any interactive tasks. To ensure confidentiality, local encryption must be an option (unless data should be shared). In the light of the latest NSA revelations, a data center outside the U.S. might be desirable for many users.

The ISP could be the best backup loaction

Adding things up, offering a data backup service could be a valuable offering by ISPs. Local storage inside the ISPs network would not generate any peering costs and the used volume could be excluded from the general Internet traffic quota (if limited). Furthermore, ISPs can have control over CPEs to support configurations on customer premises.
There are solutions available, but how usable are those for the average consumer? An easy and trustworthy solution is needed.

For a successful solution, backup agent apps must be available for all major platforms. This is probably the most challenging task. The CPE needs to support only one protocol to the mobile client side and one towards the ISP cloud side.

Partial Solution Using a Synology DiskStation as NAS

Supported Services:

Cloud Station
- Synchronises files / folders between clients (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android), keeps file version history on the NAS
- NAT traversal support (from client on the Internet to NAS at home behind NAT router) with “QuickConnect ID”

Network Backup
- NAS acts as backup server for other rsync supporting servers- NAS can backup data to other rsync supporting servers
- Compression, encryption and block-level backup (only changed data) supported

Backup and Restore
- Backup NAS data to the Amazon S3 cloud
- Only Amazon supported

Glacier Backup
- Client to back NAS data to Amazon's Glacier service

HiDrive Backup
- Client to backup NAS data to Strato's HiDrive online storage- HiDrive protocols: WebDAV (free account), SMB, FTP, rsync, SCP
- Synology client uses rsync, needs paid account

Time Backup
- Backup NAS data in multiple versions (snapshots)

xCloud (see
- Mobile clients for: iOS, Android, (Windows Phone to be released)
- Some limitations, e.g. only iOS to PC supported


1) Client Sync (private cloud)
Synology Cloudstation agents installed on Linux and Windows7 clients. All files are kept synced between 3 clients and the Synology NAS.

I could not identify the protocol yet.

2) Internal backup
Data will be NAS internally backed up from HD1 to HD2 using “Time Backup”. Old versions can be recovered, accidentally deleted data can be recoverd.

3) Backup of NAS to Provider
The Strato HiDrive Backup app on the NAS syncs selected folder to the Strato HighDrive using rsync.

Not solved problems:
- There is no client for my Windows Phone yet to backup all data to my private cloud as soon as I am in reach of my WLAN. There are Cloud Station clients for Android and iOS, but I could verify the functionality yet.
- The backup to the provider cloud happens transport encrypted, but I could not find a way to store my data client encrypted at the provider.

A consumer friendly solution to store private data safe and confidential at one trustworthy location seems not to exist. Something it might be worth to work on.


0 #1 Micael Granberg 2016-04-22 13:42
Great article. Thanks!

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