Ubuntu One is an online storage Web site for Ubuntu users designed to help you and make money for Canonical, the main company behind Ubuntu. You can use Ubuntu One for good or evil, to help you or to run up massive data charges. Ubuntu One also works with mobile phones and Windows based computers.
Ubuntu One is available at one.ubuntu.com. You can install the most useful part of Ubuntu One, the profile synchronisation, on your own Web site. All the other features have alternatives. Ubuntu One has one big advantage over the competition, it is so easy to use with Ubuntu.
Synchronisation problem solved
You have two computers. You want your bookmarks for Firefox the same on both computers. No problem. Use Ubuntu One. The basic free Ubuntu One account will handle your Firefox bookmarks without a problem. The free account stores 2 GigaBytes and a large Firefox profile is less than 0.1 GB.
You could store your Thunderbird mailbox on Ubuntu One. My mailbox is not what I consider large, few of the email contain images or similar attachments, but my mailbox is already occupying 5 GB. I would need the 20 GB package costing US$2.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
Store music, photographs, and video
You could store all your files on Ubuntu One using the file synchronisation program. My netbook already has several times more data than would fit in an Ubuntu One 20 GB package. I would have to buy at least ten Ubuntu One packages to store my family photo collection and that would cost US$29.90 per month or $299.90 per year. For $70, I can buy an external 500 GB disk to store all my current photographs plus allow for several years expansion. Using the Ubuntu One system, I would be buying an extra 20 GB package every couple of months and would soon be spending $500 per year.
You could store all your music on Ubuntu One then stream the music to your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, or anywhere with a Web browser. You would pay monthly for storing all your music and you would pay monthly, as data charges, for streaming your music. The storage cost of a decent music library, say 10 GB, is $2.99 per month. The data charges from streaming that music might add $20 per month to your telephone bill. For for the same cost as one years storage, $29.99, I can buy a 16 GB micro SD card, load all my music on the card, and insert the card into my telephone.
The small amount of free storage is useful for synchronising profiles. The cost of storing anything else quickly mounts up. Plus there are the data charges for synchronisation, uploading and downloading. People are hit by excess data charges over a hundred dollars per month for their phone or iPad, iPhone, iEverything.
The first thing to do, before using Ubuntu One for giles, photos, or music, is to check your current data usage on broadband and your telephone. If you are already using all the allocated data, consider the cost of upgrading to the next larger account, perhaps another $10 or $20 per month, then look at the alternatives of SD cards, USB sticks, and external disks.
Some telephone companies offer their own storage systems then exempt the data transfers from data charges. This type of option might save you a lot of money when you are continually streaming music or video.
Do you have your own Web site? You could add extra storage to your own Web site for synchronising files. The Ubuntu One storage cost is lower than the storage cost for most Web hosting plans but many web site owners have to buy bigger plans to get more memory and end up with unused disk space.
Ubuntu One has a US$3.99/month option to stream music to your mobile phone but the music has to be MP3. When you have music stored in a quality format for playback on a sound system, you will have to crush it down to MP3 for streaming. The good news is
We are evaluating methods to increase support for OGG, AAC, FLAC, and other audio formats..
Ubuntu One supply free applications for Android and for people still using iPhones. Their streaming service will work with some other applications.
Ubuntu One for Windows is in beta testing. The Web interface works in Firefox and Chrome plus changes are under way to make the Web interface work in Internet Explorer.
No mention of Mac at Ubuntu One.
You can synchronise contacts on your mobile phone for US$3.99 per month. The $3.99 includes the music streaming. Ubuntu One are also working on synchronising photos from mobile phones to Ubuntu One then to your computer.
You have no control over the speed of the Ubuntu One storage. Synchronising large computers will be quick when the service is first offered and will slow down as more people start using it. The cost of providing fast access to large online stores is greater than the current Ubuntu One charge. The test will be to synchronise two computers containing a few hundred GB of tiny files with Ubuntu One. The synchronisation might have to look at over a million files with only a few changed. The comparison speed will be a real test of usability.
Consider start up time and synchronisation time. How long will you have to wait from the point where you start your computer to the point where you can use it safely knowing all your files are up to date? Some people on the road with corporate computers have to switch their computer on then go out for dinner while waiting for the corporate sync.
The problem hits you when you travel in the country, or another country, and wireless access is extremely slow. There may be almost nothing changed on your computer but the computer and Ubuntu One have to compare all the files on your computer to make sure nothing has changed.
Your data charges will also be higher. On a trip to Europe, one short call cost $15 more than the same call back home. The same extreme cost increase happens with data charges when travelling overseas.
Backup when travelling
Ubuntu One lets you pay by the month and change your storage size each month. Think about a three month road trip across America. You buy a cheap prepaid mobile phone with Wifi. You upload all your photographs to your netbook and back them up to Ubuntu One. You start with 20 GB then add another 20 GB each month. At the end of the trip you download everything to your home computer and cancel all the additional storage on Ubuntu One. Your total cost for backup is $2.99 for the first month, $5.98 for the second month, and $8.97 for the third month.
Ubuntu One sounds like a really good deal for temporary storage in countries where the data charges are really cheap. For countries where the upload charges from mobile phones (cell phones) are higher, look at uploading through Internet cafes. Hotel data charges are extremely high. If you are travelling to a conference, you might have free Internet access during the conference.
In one city there were two backpackers centres almost next to each other. The first one looked nice, had bad coffee, and the most expensive Internet access in the city. Almost next door was a plain looking backpacker building with friendly staff, bland food, good coffee, and cheap fast Internet access.
Ubuntu One are also working on copying photos from your mobile phone to Ubuntu One then your other computer. You could leave a computer switched on at home and backup your mobile phone photographs continually.
The good part of online backup while travelling is not having to take extra devices through customs and those airport security checks.
Ubuntu One is great for synchronising profiles and for cheap temporary storage while travelling. You will run into cost and time overheads when trying to use Ubuntu One for anything else.