Mounting Cloud Drives

Cloud drives are everywhere. OneDrive, Google, Dropbox, Amazon, Box, and a dozen others I haven’t remembered.  You can create your own with OwnCloud or even just WebDAV if you need.

But the problem with having a half-dozen cloud drives (and we all do) is a half-dozen sync apps to interface with them.  That can go from annoying to crippling depending on the app.  Even when you have them working together well, do you always want a sync or do you sometimes want cloud storage instead, so you can free up local drive space?

Leaving the reminder that a cloud-only file is not backed up and should be considered a transient storage solution, what can you do?  Well if you’re on Windows, look for ExpanDrive, StableBit Cloud Drive or NetDrive.  I have no opinion of the Windows version of these, as I run a Mac.

So what do I use on the Mac?

I have both ExpanDrive and Eltima CloudMounter.  I bought the latter first, because it was on a ridiculous deal in the Mac App Store, but I always considered ExpanDrive appeared to be the premier app for this purpose.  I bought it for that reason, plus the fact that it supported Amazon Cloud Drive, which at the time of my purchase was unlimited*1!

ExpanDrive

Pros:

Supports Amazon Cloud Drive

Available on Windows (and Linux in private beta)

Cons:

Amazon Cloud Drive is super slow, much slower than the native uploader.

Copying large amounts of files hangs up Finder.  It seems like it splits files into proprietary chunks with a database interface.

No per-file progress indicator.  One global menubar indicator, an if you drop down the menu you will see the file currently being transferred.

CloudMounter

Pros:

Nice Dropbox-style icons to show queued, encryption and uploading status.

Yeah, you saw it… client-side encryption!  This could be significant.  You can transparently encrypt your sensitive files and upload them.

Fast!  Caching seems to handle on a per-file basis.

Cheaper – including a competitive upgrade discount, and many bundle deals include it.

Cons:

No Amazon Cloud Drive

No information about encryption.  Based on a single password, so it’s probably crackable.  It would also be nice if there was an open source decryptor so you could retrieve your data if your Mac ever blows up, or at least you know that you won’t irretrievably lose your sensitive data.

Again, the encryption – apparently you can configure only specific directories to be encrypted but I can’t see any way to do it.

Conclusion

Each app has its own advantages that the other lacks.  I wonder the real advantage of the Amazon Cloud Drive interface, as nice as it might be.  The first-party app seems to do the same thing, if a little more clumsily.  The encryption for CloudMounter was just released today, so it may have some development and documentation coming soon.  As it stands now, I think I am most impressed with CloudMounter.  I expect development and improvement from both products soon.

The Open Solutions

You can get a couple of open source products like acd_cli (for Amazon Cloud Drive only), the speedster google-drive-ocamlfuse (for Google Drive) and a super cloud-storage toolkit rclone (for several cloud drives).  These can each be used with FUSE so you can mount the remote drives into your file system and use native tools, at least for reading.

The Update

Before I even got a chance to polish and publish this, ExpanDrive came out with a major update to v6.x.  They fixed the responsiveness and added amazing features to their product.  Namely:

It appears now that they are using at least 4 threads to upload, and you can monitor progress in the menubar dropdown (percentage complete).

You can browse the filesystem right from the menu, without opening Finder.  Search files also (which is extremely quick, at least on Google!)

Finder integration, Offline file sync support, file versioning, and probably a few other things.

All in all this is a fantastic upgrade, and reverses my preference from CloudMounter to ExpanDrive.  A solid, solid release.

  1. Which they quickly throttled, then revoked.  Now you get 1TB for that price – which would be reasonable if it wasn’t so slow, unreliable and inaccessible

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