From Dropbox to Ubuntu One

With all the recent news about Dropbox, I decided to take a look at one open source solution that I have neglected for a while. It was time for me to consider Ubuntu One as a possible candidate for my cloud data needs.

Now, I’ve been a big proponent of Dropbox for years, practically since it was first released. And I’ve tested Ubuntu One several times. Each time finding myself wholly dissatisfied at the service. This time I decided to give it another shot, and to enhance it with some additional (and necessary) tools.

The following graph shows a quick comparison between Dropbox and Ubuntu One.

Dropbox Vs UbuntuOne

For more cloud syncing services, check out a recent article by Lifehacker.

Since I am primarily a Linux user, I don’t have much need for multiple operating system support. Additionally, since I use only Android-based devices, I don’t have much need for multiple device support either.  I realize this is a tight niche for most individuals, but there are plenty of hardcore Linux freaks (meant in a good way, of course).

Dropbox-only Features

Dropbox Indicator
All is well in the world. Dropbox is fully synchronized.

Dropbox has been around for a short while, though longer than its competition.  In its lifespan, the developers have introduced an efficient algorithm for data deduplication and delta encoding technology, resulting in reduced bandwidth and quickened file updates.  In each operating system, Dropbox has a minimalistic tray icon that handles the notifications and configuration of your cloud data.

If you want additional space but don’t want to pay for it, Dropbox allows you to refer others to its service, boosting your box size 250 MB for each referral, up to a total of 8 additional GB of space.

Ubuntu One-only Features

Ubuntu One Control Panel
The Ubuntu One Control Panel. Simply choose the folders to synchronize and let the magic happen.

Ubuntu One offers a complete solution for synchronizing your data in Ubuntu.  It ties into your home directory, the file manager itself, the default email client, and the default notes application with minimal configuration.  By default, the user is prompted to select the folders to be synchronized with each computer, saving the precious space on their netbooks.

Similarities Between the Two Services

Encryption: Both services encrypt data transmission but store files both locally and on their servers unencrypted. This is largely a requirement to ensure that your files can be shared with others when you want to share them. Encryption keys for the synchronization are stored on the servers, which can be troublesome should something happen. Along with a number of articles, both services recommend either not synchronizing sensitive material, or encrypting it yourself beforehand. LifeHacker has a handy guide on adding your own encrpytion here.

Web Interface: Both services offer a web interface so you can access your files on the go, from any computer.  I personally like the Ubuntu One web interface better.  It separates items more effectively and the dashboard offers news and suggestions on how you can become involved in the project.

Convincing Arguments to Consider Ubuntu One

  • Price: If you do the math, you’ll notice that with your 10GB of free space and your 50GB of paid space costs $9.99 for a total of 60GB.  With Ubuntu One, you’ll get 62GB for just $8.97.
  • Integration: Having your file backup utility directly integrated into your operating system means guaranteed updates and support.  With Ubuntu One Files for Android, any pictures taken on your phone can be automatically uploaded too!
  • Speed: From my test, Ubuntu One better utilized bandwidth when uploading files, maintaining a steady rate that was faster than Dropbox’s max rate which varied as it chugged along. Probably another advantage from operating system integration.

Ubuntu One’s Glaring Oversight, and How to Fix It

Ubuntu One Indicator

A perfect replacement for the Dropbox icon: UbuntuOne-Indicator.

What’s the biggest feature that Dropbox has and Ubuntu One does not?  A system tray icon.  For Dropbox, this is your constant indicator of your backup status.  It shows when your backup is in progress or when there is a problem that needs your attention.  When you click on the item, you get more information, including the files being synchronized or any status messages.  Ubuntu One, on the other hand, offers a Control Panel and no visible idea of what specifically is happening.

You can easily enable add this nifty feature to Ubuntu One, using a PPA by Roman Yepishev.  Just copy and paste the following into a terminal, then start the application from the menu:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rye/ubuntuone-extras
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntuone-indicator

Once you’ve run the program once, you’ll feel right at home every time you start your computer.  Your data will start synchronizing, and you can feel secure that you won’t fall victim to data loss.

I hope this post proved to be somewhat insightful.  Well, what are you waiting for?  Give Ubuntu One a chance, maybe you’ll like it so much you won’t look back!