The idea of cloud collaboration has some potential, although there are some big issues that still make the concept unattractive, namely cost, security and privacy. As we recently noted in another article someone always owns the cloud, be that Dropbox, Apple or the many other companies offering cloud services. The LA Times has a very good article on the cloud and some of these issues, it’s well worth reading it here
Transporter aims to deal with all three issues of cost, security and privacy in one go. Transporter is a cloud that YOU own, offering a Dropbox like experience from a piece of hardware. Transporter starts for less than £100 with Transporter Sync, a device that attaches to your network and then you add your own USB2 drive to it. The drive is not in the cloud, it’s a physical drive sitting in your studio, it’s private and secure. You can back it up as often as you wish to a second drive - you can even swap the drive for a larger one when space runs out. There are no ongoing subscription costs and if you have two Transporters on the same account then they automatically sync with each other - imagine having two studios or working in a collaborative environment, this is possible. Even better you can sync your Transporter account with any device that has the software on it - so I have it on my MacBook and my iPhone, just like Dropbox. It can run on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Kindle.
I wanted to see if Transporter was all it was cracked up to be, it sounded too good to be true, so I put out the £79 for the Transporter Sync.
The Transporter Sync is a cinch to set up, attach a USB2 drive to it (warning it formats the drive as soon as you attach it) plug it into your network, download the Transporter software and then run it. It finds the drive and sets it up in a matter of seconds. Then you simply drag your stuff onto the Transporter.
It has a number of ways of dealing with the files. In essence there is content that can sit on the local network, content that sits on your cloud and shares with all your devices, then there is content your can share with others when you want to collaborate.
Testing It For Collaboration
To test the collaboration aspect of Transfomer I dropped a Pro Tools session onto the Transporter and then shared it with James Ivey and asked him to drop a new guitar part on the track. To do this he set up an account and then downloaded the Transporter software to his Mac. He placed his Transporter folder on one of his audio drives, so that any sessions would be in the right place when he wanted to work on them. Once he accepted my invitation then it took a couple of minutes for the Pro Tools session to appear on his machine.
I then simply shared a secure link with him of the Pro Tools session folder and 15 minutes later he emailed me to tell me it was done. I then reopened the session in my Transporter folder and it now had a guitar part on it. Now my Transporter is sitting on a network so just in case I turned on Disk Caching to make sure Pro Tools did not fall over - of course I could have dragged it to my audio drive as I now had the new session, but I wanted to see how Pro Tools performed. Of course I could write an Automator app in less than 5 minutes that could move any audio content sitting on my Transformer drive back onto my audio drive.
James said at his end the whole process was seamless, he said he didn’t even have to open Pro Tools, he simply clicked on the session and it opened, then he tracked the guitar part and saved it - job done. A few minutes later my version was up to date on the drive sitting in my studio. He did say that one plug-in was missing but not anything that stopped the session - at worst I could have simply offline bounced that track to disk.
As I said at the start of this article most of the issues that concern us about cloud collaboration are not technical. Firstly privacy, this has been highlighted in the last year with stories of everyone from the NSA to Google and Facebook abusing our trust. Secondly they are about security, what happens if the servers crash in the cloud, what happens if have have an account issue or the internet goes down? Finally they are about cost, cloud based subscriptions can mount up over time and in the current economic climate anything we can do to reduce recurring costs the better. Some also ask about ownership - who owns the data when it sits on the server of a third party? This question is not always clearly answered by some of the biggest names in cloud storage - that kind of ambiguity needs to be cleared up when we are dealing with creative content like albums , TV or movies.
Transporter aims to answer all those questions, it offers the benefits of cloud collaboration with few of the downsides highlighted above.
It does have some odd idiosyncries with regard to operation, they are not so much faults simply workflows that you need to get your head around. One thing that it does lack right now is that you can’t see your content in a web browswer as you can with Dropbox or iCloud, but that may come at some point as they continue to develop the product. There site has developer APIs and a growing community so it is all moving in the right direction.
- One off low payment to own - no recurring costs.
- The drive is yours not in the cloud.
- Easy to back-up.
- No web app for files right now.
Jim from the Transporter team has responded to our review with some more information:
Russ - thanks for the great review. Regarding security, we use AES 256 encryption for all data in-flight and data is transferred directly from device-to-device in a peer-to-peer fashion. This means that data is never stored in the cloud and we never see anything about the files since they are encrypted before leaving the Transporter which ensures total data privacy.
Additionally we have an unclaim feature that acts much like the lost iPhone remote wipe that Apple offers should the device go missing.Your comment about web access is a fair one and something we are working on. As you can imagine, offering this while maintaining privacy adds a degree of difficulty that the public cloud vendors don’t have to deal with, but we do have a solution to this challenge that Engineering is working to implement.
Feel free to post this email as a comment to the review if you’d like.
Warm Regards, Jim Sherhart - VP Marketing