Cloud storage leader Dropbox might have serious competition at last. LogMeIn has announced the beta of its rival 'Cubby' service, featuring higher data limits, a P2P data sync feature and the promise of user-managed encryption keys.
Built on top of the company's proprietary Gravity Data Service platform, Cubby offers some flexibility missing from Dropbox, starting with its more generous free storage allowance of 5GB; Dropbox gives users 2GB.
Users can also synch data in P2P fashion between computers without impinging on their data limit, although this does mean that at least two of them have to be turned on at the same time.
Usefully, the application allows users to synchronise any folder to the Cubby cloud rather than having to save files to a designated folder containing pre-defined sub-folders, which allows it to work seamlessly as a cloud backup service.
Files saved into the designated folder or folders are sent to the cloud the instant they are saved, with the user being given a helpful visual notification that this is happening. Users decide which files are synched to which devices to avoid expense and bloat; Android, iPad, iPhone, and Mac applications are available.
As with Dropbox, the service allows sharing, including to individuals. The application itself is simple to set up and use and is in good shape. During testing, Techworld experienced no crashes or freezes.
The looming issue for all such cloud storage and synch services - and the list of available services is growing rapidly - remains security. Where is the data being held, under which country's data protection laws and who can see it under what circumstances?
Although not available in the Cubby beta, LogMeIn said it would offer users the ability to hold their own encryption keys (data is of course encrypted when stored on Cubby servers) in the near future.
Elaborating on that, LogMeIn director or corporate communications, Craig VerColen offered this slightly ambiguous comment to Techworld:
"Currently data stored in Cubby is held within the US. LogMeIn is EU safe harbor compliant, and has a large base of customers (both big and small) in the EU - we do currently store data for a large number of our customers in the EU," he said.
"With regards to encryption laws, US users are allowed to hold encryption keys, and data encryption laws typically come into place when technology is exported. We comply with related US export laws."
Assuming the phrase "US export laws" (which restrict the export of encryption technology), users outside the US will be fine. The keys to data are being generated beyond the US and so are not being 'exported' as such.
The market question is how Google (said to be near to launching its own free service) and Microsoft (which has the relatively clunky SkyDrive) will react to a clutch of cloud storage services that appear to be matching and now beating both themselves and Dropbox in terms of innovation.
Dropbox has had its sercurity issues, notably an account flaw last June that allowed some users to log into accounts using any password. This followed revelations that Dropbox employees could bypass the system's file encryption if asked to do so by police, something that was stated in the service's revised terms and conditions.
Pricing for Cubby cloud storage beyond the 5GB has not been announced. The service is being offered on an invitation-only basis during the beta period.