We've all been there: on the move with a laptop, only to realize you need a file on your desktop. Now a team of former Apple employees calling themselves Avatron thinks it has the answer. The product is called Everydisk: a secure, direct connection between whichever computer you’re using and the others you have access to. In terms of accessing your files, it’s the same as sitting in front of whichever computer you’re using the files of.
Avatron is hoping that their prototype—currently about to close its Kickstarter campaign—will trigger a fundamental shift in the cloud storage space. But will it?
Avatron founder and CEO Dave Howell says that current cloud services break down in a single—but crucial—use case. "Every once in a while we wish that we had access to a particular file that we didn’t have the foresight to put into the special Dropbox folder," he says. "Perhaps it’s too big a file to put in. Perhaps it’s a file that sits on a particular server on a local area network." Everydisk solves this problem by allowing you to access your computer—and any external drives or servers connected to it—from any Internet-connected device. Here's how it works.
Everydisk uses a peer-to-peer direct connection similar to Skype. Through a downloadable piece of software users create a gateway in the cloud—referred to as the "Air Connect." Through this they log in to the service and select the computer they want to connect to. Air Connect then establishes a direct, private, AES-encrypted data channel between the two machines. To tunnel through even the most unforgiving of corporate firewalls, Air Connect uses a technique called UDP hole punching. Once the connection is made, Avatron’s server gets out of the exchange.
"As long as your devices can access the Internet and our website, they can get to each other," Howell says.
While part of the benefit of Everydisk is the idea of flexible workflows—since users don’t need to know in advance which files they’re going to need access to on any given day—Howell singles out two other reasons why Everydisk is a viable alternative to cloud-based storage systems. The first revolves around cost.
"Because we’re not storing your files on the cloud we don’t incur bandwidth or storage costs," he says. "That means that we can make Everydisk a cheaper service. If you want to use two terabytes of storage on our system it costs the same as using two kilobytes, since you already own the storage. On Dropbox, two terabytes will cost users around $1,600 a year. With us, it’s $25 for that same period."
Cost is certainly an important consideration, but there is another—arguably more important—reason why the general public may choose to embrace a system like this over one that asks users to migrate their files to the cloud.
"Privacy concerns have really heightened because of the revelations about government hacking," Howell says. "Corporate espionage has also always been a concern for business users. We’re not promising an NSA-proof system, but our solution does limit your exposure. If someone really wants to gain access to your files, the easiest way for them to do so is to break into your home, take your computer, and copy your hard drive. There’s nothing we can do about that—but what we can say on the privacy front is that we don’t store your files anywhere on our servers, and we don’t create a new vector for attack. The files stay on your computer, and the only change is that you’re accessing them from a remote location."
To make its service as NSA-resistant as possible, Everydisk keys are sent over secure SSL connections, employing 256-bit AES. As Howell says, it’s not a total solution (something that would be practically impossible), but it is one that may alleviate user fears.
[Image: Flickr user Wickenden]