There’re a lot of cloud storage providers lately: Dropbox, Google Drive, and an open source product called ownCloud. The biggest difference between these products and something like rsync is the cloud factor, but that’s enough.
DropBox is the one I use most often, being perfectly honest. It’s one of the older ones, and getting a sizeable account was pretty easy; it’s got filesystem and web access modes, so I can share conveniently (via filesystem) or from anywhere (via the web). I can share directories with specific users, and I have a public directory from which I can offer URLs to the world.
The drawback is that the Linux client is a little clunky. C’est la vie; it’s part of using Linux, when it comes to some vendors. It’s a python script that you start when you want a connection to Dropbox; it’s certainly something that can be started automatically but it’s still a little inelegant in my opinion.
Google Drive is a storage service that integrates with Google Docs. Apparently it can store other kinds of files, too, but it’s not a filesystem sync like DropBox is. It’s accessed via the web, although I’ve seen plugins for other applications (like LibreOffice) that allow them to integrate more cleanly.
I’ve used some of them; personally, I think it’s easier to use Google Docs than an integration point with Google Docs. LibreOffice Writer and Microsoft Word are much better than Google Docs (as if anyone wondered) but the distance between using Google Docs to update a document and using LibreOffice to work with a remote document adds up – if I store on Google Drive, then I’m using Google Docs.
And that’s exactly what Google wants, I think. There may be some who have no issue with that mental distance, and more power to you if you’re one of them, but I find those endless little compromises wearying.
I know GIMP is great. I know SuperTux is fun (or so my kids suggest, as they build all of these custom levels for it); however, I’m sorry, the standard is still PhotoShop. Super Mario still stands as the measuring stick. Word is still the standard for writers, no matter how good LibreOffice is (and how would I love to change this!) — and the compromises that are required by sticking with Gimp, or LibreOffice, add up.
That’s the way I feel about Google Drive; it pushes me towards Google Docs, and while that’s not a terrible thing, it’s not a good thing either – not in the “antithesis of evil” definition of “good thing”, but in the “this is suboptimal” definition.
Google Drive has not impressed me yet. Maybe when there’s an open source client for it – which is probably being worked on – my feelings will change. As of now, I’m an inadvertent user (because I do use Google Docs on occasion, particularly for songwriting).
ownCloud, though… ownCloud is interesting. It’s an open source cloud sync package. You set up a cloud instance, and then you get an interesting application to work with. It has a calendar application; you get WebDAV access to your files (with WebDAV integrating very well into most OSes, including Linux), and specific media player compatibilities.
So it’s a start down the path of being a Google Drive competitor, except it’s open source, and doesn’t nudge you toward a specific application suite. I can use LibreOffice Writer as I choose, and store on a filesystem mounted locally (via davfs2), and get the benefits of cloud storage – including remote access.
And since it’s open source, I can think about features I need and want – like, errr, public access to a resource a la DropBox’ public folders – and put them in if my skill level allows me to do so. And since it’s open source, I don’t have to worry about some nefarious vendor deciding to include or remove features at their discretion – and as it’s on my servers, I have control over how much there is, or how little there is.
Maybe that control is a bad thing – it’s certainly something else to think about (just like running ZNC on EC2, it’s doable but it’s something you get to maintain.) But sometimes you do want control – and the openness of ownCloud makes it very attractive indeed.