A Story Inspired by Frustration

By
Marc Kaplan

How my company’s HIPrelay platform got me addicted to my Synology and less reliant on cloud storage

Overlay Policy enabling all clients to connect to Synology

Sitting in the beautiful Fairmont Hotel in Makati, Philippines, I found myself reflecting on what at first seemed like an odd topic for a blog: the joy and frustration of cloud storage.

It all started with a problem as all blogs typically do. I was trying to share a 6GB file with a few coworkers and partners, but was halted by the 5GB max size restriction enforced by my managed cloud storage provider. Refusing to succumb to the file size restriction, I foolishly believed that if I did enough research, I would stumble upon a rare gem that encompassed all the functionality I required (unrestricted file uploads, real-time collaboration, highly secure, flexible, inexpensive, etc.…). Desperate to get the files shared while still researching a complete solution, I moved my files to another cloud storage provider, only to hit another hurdle put in place to ensure pull-through revenue for the cloud provider. You see, managed storage providers bait you with a free account and then set considerable limitations, whether it be size or accessibility, enough to get a taste, but never enough to satisfy most scenarios – unless of course you choose to upgrade to the monthly subscription. Even with basic monthly subscriptions, the tiered model still creates more hurdles that force you to upgrade yet again. Even after all the upgrades, I still hit other hurdles in the form of accessibility.

Let’s walk through the accessibility challenge. Let’s say you invite several people to access files with you in real-time collaboration, a sync services model rather than web links. And let’s say you want to share a 6GB file, with your free account, you would only be able to use a web link to share the file, because your free account will only allow 2GB. But using a web link does not constitute real-time collaboration nor is it secure, when it’s limited to URL and password. What you really need is a way to specifically add people as collaborators, requiring them to use fat clients that allow real-time data sync and custom username and passwords per user, rather than a global password for each link. Why can’t you do that? Well, if your collaborators do not have an account with your cloud storage provider, they will need to create their own account. Maybe creating their own accounts is not a major hurdle, but it is mildly inconvenient. But consider if they create a free account, typically they only get 2GB free and you are trying to share a 6GB file with them. Now that is a major inconvenience, requiring every one of your collaborators to pay for a premium subscription just to get your 6GB file.

With all the hurdles, why do people remain reliant on cloud storage? Is it less expensive than in-house solutions? Does it allow better accessibility? Better security? There are lots of reasons for having cloud storage, but is it worth the premium we pay when there are other options.

Six years ago, I purchased my first Synology. It was a perfect NAS solution for storing GBs of videos and pictures that my wife and I accumulated over the years. Synology was amazingly easy to set up and use, and supported numerous built-in applications. However, sharing files outside of my LAN introduces hurdles that relegated sharing to just my local network. It was possible to share outside of my network, but not ideal.

Synology installed applications

Fast forward to the present – friends, family, partner, and their associated mishmash of network storage solutions are connected to my Synology NAS units (personal and business). With the connectivity issue solved, we now publish Synology applications (e.g. private secure chat, photo, music station, and docker containers). We were no longer restricted to cloud provider uploads and download restrictions, requiring our collaborators to create expensive accounts, using insecure URLs or putting all our trust in the security of the managed storage provider. What changed?

My company, Tempered Networks released the HIPrelay, the first crypto-identity overlay router (that is a mouthful but so accurate). What does the HIPrelay enable? Transparently, connectivity for users and devices over LAN or WAN, from almost any networks to any other network, regardless of the connection mechanism (radio, cellular, SATcom, cable MPLS, etc..).

The Relay stat dashboard

To better understand the functionality of the relay, let’s look at a real example: Gary and I needed to share files. He is sitting in a Texas Starbucks on their Wi-Fi and I am sitting in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (really hot and humid and did I mention no air-conditioning) on my Globe MiFi. We could have tried to send the files via email (2GB aka “not happening”) or file sync to our cloud storage (send up... send down) or… we ditch all the traditional options and go direct, secure machine to machine transfer.

How can this be?

Since Tempered Networks enables crypto-identity mapping to machine IP addressing, I could find Gary’s laptop (His Crypto-IP is 2.3.4.5) anywhere in the world regardless of what network he’s was connected to. With the globally distributed relays available, my laptop was able to find Gary’s laptop directly via his identity even though Gary was located in a Starbucks, where no inbound connection were available. The magic of the relays is their ability to transparently set up and route all identified crypto-identity bound connections. Within seconds, I opened my finder on my Mac, clicked on Gary’s share, authenticated and delivered the file. Done. Yeah, drop the mic…

Although the scenario of network to network, laptop to laptop or mobile to anything connectivity described is possible, we typically use our distributed Synology units to share files. We still use cloud storage, but only for edge cases. The majority of our file sharing is now hosted on distributed home and office Synology platforms, securely connected by our identity-defined network (IDN) platform. Just one month after launching, our clustered IDN has grown from 10 clients to well over 140 devices covering the who’s who of the OS world, from Windows (2012, 2008, 10, 8 and few Windows 7), diehard Linux and followed by the artistic and stylish macOS and iOS group. With the growth of IDN devices, we have also grown the Synology use from simple NAS to application platform.

Synology distributed security camera network, all distributed cameras protected and connected together via HIP Relays (see above)

Is managed cloud storage going away? No, but neither is the frustration associated with its limitations! What will hopefully be going away is the reliance on them as the only storage access anywhere option. The Tempered Networks’ HIPrelay has made my world a better-connected place.