It is time to face the reality that there are less and less reasons to avoid cloud storage. Competing cloud providers and their product offerings are now backed by some large players: Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google Drive, and the front-runner that made it all popular – Dropbox. Let’s be honest, who thought that cloud based syncing could remain exciting in 2012?
Cubby, LogMeIn’s entrant, is certainly no exception to the trend of exciting file sync and sharing apps. Cubby is combining all the things Dropbox and its contenders lack into a powerful product that is still in beta. Cubby has a great feature set and is a easily a strong contender for the cloud synchronization crown.
The first thing most users will have to ignore is the slightly daft name. Anyone over the age of 6 admitting to having their own online Cubby might get arrested. Don’t let the silly name scare you – Cubby has some serious bite behind its bark. Secondly, as unfair as it might be, most of the comparisons made in this arena are done against Dropbox. Like the iPad, Dropbox is the big dog on the block that we measure everything else against.
Cubby has most of the features we would all expect. It can automatically sync your local files across different devices and platforms. It can also provide links to those files so you can share them with friends, co-workers or the world. The difference in Cubby lies with the implementation of those features. For example, Cubby’s P2P synchronization technique and encryption plans – along with its “any folder can be a Cubby” philosophy – give old-school Dropbox users features they have been foaming at the mouth for. Cubby in its current beta form does indeed lack some of the polish found in competing products. Dropbox, for example, has had the time to enhance and stabilize its platform. Can Cubby show up this late in the game and expect a victory? Let’s find out.
Cubby’s P2P syncing is much like Dropbox’s LAN syncing. Dropbox, after it has copied a file to the cloud, will then look to destinations on the local LAN to interact with. This improves performance by bypassing the need for local devices to download files from the WAN. Cubby implements a similar syncing structure, but it takes the concept further with what it describes as a network circle graph. Cubby creates a graph of computers that you sync with and instructs them to communicate with the next closest device. The beauty of this setup is it will help transfers over the LAN, local internet providers, and other network regions. How well this works is yet to be seen, but it is a step in the right direction for syncing services.
Another deviation from Dropbox is Cubby’s ability to natively sync any folder on your computer. Cubby provides the un-exciting home folder, “My Cubby”, but you are free to make any folder on your computer a source to be synced. Cubby also allows you to easily specify (from within the local Cubby interface) which devices the folder should sync to. This allows you to sync a large collection of files between computers while keeping that data out of your cloud storage space.
Another feature that I am particularly excited about includes the encryption enhancements that Cubby has on its roadmap. A major concern with many users in this space is the safety of the data they are entrusting to these providers. Cubby hopes to eliminate that by allowing users to dictate the encryption keys used when dealing with the Cubby cloud. If Cubby was comprised, your files would be safe as you would be the only person holding the necessary keys to decrypt them.
I would be remiss to not mention its other features such as multi-platform accessibility, native mobile applications, public file sharing, and file archive and recovery functions. Similar to Dropbox, these features help protect your files from any accidental “uh-ohs”.
The most notable advantage over Cubby is that Dropbox is a polished application with a host of third-party integrations. The popularity and strong user community presented by Dropbox might make migration to Cubby a challenge. As the old adage says, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it. Cubby is attempting to entice users during their closed beta by giving away 5GB of free cloud storage. Keep in mind, this is in addition to the unlimited amount of data you can sync between your own devices. If Cubby can implement the security plans it claims to have on the horizon (and before their public launch), there is little question that I will be using Cubby exclusively. Sure, creating a Cubby anywhere you want is nice, but having the confidence that Cubby can not accidentally release or review my files is just plain awesome.
Cubby isn’t without its issues. Most of those issues I would expect in any product that is in a closed beta. For example, the Cubby web interface is not as polished as Dropbox. Dropbox’s power is in its ability to accomplish so much with so little. Cubby, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a remarkable web interface. The file upload is functional but (again) unremarkable. It is not nearly as good as Dropbox. I’m also not a big fan of the scattered nature of Cubby’s help documentation. These are typical issues with any beta, but bouncing users from FAQ pages to random blog posts is a bad idea. A clean help and support experience will go a long way for users who don’t have the time or desire to figure something out. Let’s face it, they are competing with products that have an established base. If they want to win those users over, they need to make sure functionality is either similar in execution or provide better avenues to figure it all out.
I hate beta. I hate beta because it can entice developers to keep their product in a constant state of development (I’m looking at you, Google). Even in Cubby’s beta infancy, I believe it is the first true competitor to make a legitimate run on the cloud syncing crown. LogMeIn has a solid user base and they are known for producing a good product at the right price. If they extend that level of quality and product innovation into an already feature robust Cubby, Google Drive will be the least of Dropbox’s problems.