Monday, December 3, 2007

Wuala, a P2P online storage

I was recently looking for a good way to store some of my files online and needed something more interesting than a simple storage space. I found “Wuala”, an effort by Swiss students, Dominik Grolimund and Luzius Meisser. It uses the P2P technology to store your files across multiple computers in the internet grid.

SETI@Home was an effort to use the idle CPU resource of computers in the internet. Similarly, Wuala aims to use the idle hard drive resource of participant’s computer in the internet. A user is deemed a participant if their computer is turned ON for at least 17% of the time.

Wuala provides 1GB of space and the next 4GB of space is provided in a cloud of computers that participate. Since it is not possible to risk storing a file at just one location, Wuala uses a system of breaking files in to chunks and distributing across multiple computers, thus providing persistent storage.

When the user uploads a file, the file is encrypted and then broken in to chunks. Some of the chunks are stored in Wuala’s server and the rest are stored across various computers. When the file is requested to be read from the cloud, these chunks are brought together. With the better adoption of the system by more users, Wuala server will be replaced by just the computers on the internet.

The speed of upload is dictated by speed of download, implying that a user allowing more upload rate gets preference for higher download rate.

Wuala has been written in Java and is available on most platforms. It allows the user to specify folders as private, shared (with friends) and public. I tested the alpha version on a Windows machine and found their drag and drop feature to be very handy. It also provides an encryption system which allows your files to be stored securely and is better than other storage systems. Since the system is decentralized, it comes with a safety feature of being persistent by default. It allows the user to search the file names or tag them for a better search. I would recommend the system for folks who need a lot of storage space at no cost (who wouldn’t?).

My only wish is that, Wuala should be accessible in the future without any installation. If I am using a computer locked up for any installation but I still need to access some files, then I should be able to access it using a browser. It is currently in their agenda and I hope it will appear soon.