Thursday 13 June 2013

The Best Free Online Storage Services

Most areas of the UK qualify for faster Internet connections these days and things are only going to improve. Because of this, the so called 'cloud' is becoming more and more viable. Many businesses are moving their data and applications into the 'cloud' because their own Internet connections are good enough to make access possible and workable.

Keeping data in the cloud means that there is always a remote backup, and it becomes accesable no matter where you are, so long as there is a decent enough Internet connection.

However, there are now many free to use 'cloud' services which are of some benefit for home users. What this means is that people can copy their important files, pictures and documents up to these cloud based storage locations thus removing the worry of something happening to their local hard drive, and potentially losing everything. And, many of these services are free up to a point. Here are some of the most popular ones;

Microsoft SkyDrive
SkyDrive dates back to 2007 when it was then released to a limited audience when it was known as Windows Live Folders. It allows up to 7GB of online storage free of charge but additional capacity can be purchased from Microsoft for £32 per year for 100GB.

Users who sign up to the service do need to have either a Hotmail or Live mail email account but again, these are free to use services.

Data can be uploaded or accessed by either downloading some client software (availabvle for just about every platform, including smart phones) or via a web broswer, so is extremely versatile.

It is also possible to created shared and public folders as well as secure and private ones.

Apple iCloud
iCloud is Apple's online storage and backup service for those people who have an Apple device with an associated account. It boasts 5GB of storage which is included free of charge.

Devices connected will automatically upload any setting, pictures, internet favourites and even text massages to the iCloud which means that it is easy to restorte a device from a backup or transfer all of this to a newly upgraded device.

Extra storage is available for £14 per year for 15GB, £28 for 25GB or £70 for 55GB.

Google Drive
Google drive is another great way of keeping information in the cloud and is a must for those people who use Gmail.

Like iCloud, it comes with 5GB of free storage and has a client for all popular devices, operating systems and amrt phones, including Android and iPhone.

Google Drive also work in conjunction with Google Docs, which means that if you're working on a project in a shared environment, then any changes will be replicated for all users automatically.

Additional storage can be purchased and there are a number of different plans.

Dropbox has been around since 2008 and is one of the worlds most popular free online storage solutions.

It is available to anyone and does not insist on a user having a specific email account.

It boasts a friendly and easy to use uinterface, can be accessed by eithe client software or a web browser and has private and shared folder options.

A stagdard account comes with 2GB storage which is free. More can be purchased but the account does get topped up if you refer a friend.

Amazon Cloud Drive
This is the newest of the bunch and like Google Drive, it offers 5GB of free storage.

However, unlike the others, as well as the data storage, it also has a free 'Cloud Player' service. This allows for up to 250 songs to be stored which can be then played back by any number of compatiable devices which are connected to the Internet.

Again, additional storage plans can be purchased for anything from 20GB right up to 1000GB.

In summary, this is just the start. Internet connections will become faster and more reliable and storage costs will come down, resulting in more space being availbe for less cost. Who knows, at some point in the future local data storage could become  a thing of the past.

One final thought - where is the 'cloud'?

Thursday 6 June 2013

Should Internet Service Providers filter content?

Recent news reports are suggesting that four of the UK's major ISP's are planning to introduce content filtering on their domestic home broadband services. These measures are to be put into place so as to protect our children from the ever increasing amount of pornographic material which is popping up (if you'll pardon the pun) all over the net.

But is it the responisibilty of the ISP to filter this kind of content or does the buck firmly lie with the parents?

There are many software prducts on the market which do filter out webistes which have either 'adult' or 'dubious' content. Some are even free to download, and as a parent myself, I have to say that the free one I use is very effective as it asks for a password for any site which it's not sure about.  In the last 2 years we have not had any problems at all.

Of course even if an ISP does decide to set content filtering at a network wide level, there are always ways around it. One suggestion has been to do this at DNS level, a bit of a blunt hammer, but also very easy to get around with a variety of methods. However, we're not going to discuss or condone those methods in this article.

The big question though is, if this happens, then will it open the floodgates for further sensorship and moderation? Are we just one step closer to Orwell's 1984?

As an ISP, we will not be content filtering any of our broadband ADSL services!

Tuesday 4 June 2013

What is a DDoS Attack?

In the world of computer networking, a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) or a denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) is considered to be a malicious attempt to severely affect the performance of a computer or resource on the Internet, or to stop it from working completely.

There are many varied reasons why individuals or organisations carry out these attacks and also many different methods. For example, DDoS attackers may target their competitor’s websites, especially if it is an e-commerce site, they may also wish to disrupt news, financial organisations such as banks, and even DNS servers.

One way of thinking about how these attacks take place is to imagine a Call Centre, selling products, which has (for arguments sake) 50 incoming telephone lines. If 50 people called and got through, then all of the incoming lines would be busy, this would mean that nobody else with a genuine sales enquiry would be able to get through to buy something. In simple terms this is how a DDoS attack works, but instead of telephone lines, it hogs most or all of the available Internet bandwidth available to the computer or resource. In a nutshell it is all about limiting or disabling communication.

The good news is that there are several ways of stopping such attacks from taking place. However, varying levels of protection means varying costs, meaning that the most robust form of protection can cost a small fortune.

In the UK, denial-of-service-attacks are a criminal offence and can lead to a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years.