Data Storage: DropBox, Wuala and USB Pen Drives

A combination of the recent Open Access Week and some technical difficulties I’ve been having lately (more on that later) has led me to write a blog entry on the way in which we store our data. I tend to divide my time between working on my Mac laptop at home and the desktop PC in my office. When I first began my Ph.D., the way I decided to ensure that I was always working on the latest version of my data was to store it on a pen drive and to work primarily from that USB pen drive. However, I soon realised that that wasn’t the best idea when some of my data started to become corrupted. Then I was introduced to Dropbox and thought that this would solve all my problems. I must say that I’ve found dropbox very useful in syncing data between the two computers – that is until the other week when my University computing account became locked out. This was especially problematic because my dropbox folder was located on the University servers (U Drive). This meant until I could get my university account unlocked I was unable to access my data and did not have another copy of it. As it turned out the issue with my university account was that an incorrect password was stored on my Mac which was continually locking me out of my account. However it took about a week to resolve this problem during which time I only had intermittent access to my files and my emails. As a result of this, I decided to back up the files that were in my dropbox onto a pen drive which I carry around with me so that if I do get locked out of my account in future I can still access my data. I guess the moral of this story is to always have another backup of your data!

Another issue with dropbox, however, is that it isn’t a secure way to store confidential information. Fortunately another service exists called Wuala, which is essentially an encrypted version of dropbox. I am currently working on a user guide for this service as part of the project, so hopefully more information will be available soon for people who want to make use of it. I am currently using Wuala to sync my confidential interview data between my Mac and University PC and it is proving to be very effective. In effect what Wuala does is it encrypts the data before it is transmitted across the Internet. Therefore if the data were to be intercepted no one would be able to decrypt it without the original password. An additional benefit of having both Wuala and Dropbox is that I can make use of both of the generous free allowances which is particularly useful because my Dropbox was rapidly filling up.

Whilst I’m discussing the secure storage and backup of data, I thought it might be worth mentioning the USB pen drive that I purchased recently. It’s the SanDisk Cruzer Contour which is recommended by the University IT department. The reason I purchased this is because it securely encrypts all the data that is stored on it and was significantly cheaper than the other USB pen drive recommended by the IT department. The other pen drive was the Kingston Data Traveller Vault Privacy and now that I’ve got the SanDisk pen drive I wish I had spent the extra money to get the Kingston one. The main reason for this is that the SanDisk pen drive, once encrypted, can only be accessed on a PC and not a Mac. As you can imagine this is proving quite inconvenient for me because I work across both platforms.

That’s all my grumbles for now. Thanks for reading!

Posted under Data management tools

This post was written by Philip Dennis Bremner on November 7, 2012

2 Comments so far

  1. Joss Winn November 7, 2012 18:00

    Why didn’t you access your dropbox data via using a web browser? You don’t have to use the sync client to access your data.

  2. Philip Bremner November 8, 2012 09:09

    Hi Joss. Thanks for your comment. That’s a very good point. I hadn’t thought of that. I think it would have been quite cumbersome to download the data, edit it and reupload it but definitely something to remember for the future.

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