Tuesday, March 25, 2008

People and Permissions

One of the questions that we've been discussing recently is the question of who should be able to see what in a multi-computer environment (e.g. a home or small office).

We spent time thinking through a number of approaches:
  • each user could have private and public files (like the "shared folder" concept)
    • Pros - easy to mix private and public
    • Cons - Requires the user to organize their work in a specific way
  • different computers could encrypt files differently so that even the administrator could not access a user's files
    • Pros - One user can be completely private from the administrator
    • Cons - A user can be completely private from the administrator, accessing files remotely becomes difficult
  • there could be an "administrator" class and a "limited" class of users with administrator class being able to do everything and limited users only being able to see their files
    • Pros - This is familiar model. In a high-trust environment everyone can have administrator rights. In a privacy-conscious environment there can be one administrator and a series of limited users. For total privacy, each user should have their own account.
    • Cons - There's no way, other than separate accounts, for a limited user to protect their data from the administrator.
In the end, we decided to opt for the two classes of user because:
  1. It is simple to understand
  2. It covers several key situations well:
    • a small business owner and a number of staff
    • a family where someone takes care of the computer(s) and other family members are users
    • a small business with an IT person
  3. It is straightforward to implement all of the Athena Backup features in this context
You can look forward to seeing this feature released in the next month or two!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Extending Online Backup

Once your files are on a remote server there are some really useful things that can be done with those files. We've been working to get these capabilities out to Athena Backup users.

Here are some of the useful new features that we're working on for Athena Backup.

Basic file access can be provided via a web page. This is great to allow retrieve a specific file by drilling down through a set of folders when you're somewhere else (e.g. work) and you need to get a file from your computer at home (or vice-versa). Here's a screenshot of a prototype Athena Backup website viewing files.

The next level of functionality is for the system to understand more about the files. Providing a search by file type and/or date, especially across multiple computers allows users to easily find the file they're looking for, especially when it isn't obvious where it is. Here's a screen shot of a prototype of the web-based searching functionality for Athena Backup.

The level of functionality beyond this is to allow users to do useful things with their online files like creating albums and allowing people to link to files, etc... Here's a screenshot of Athena Backup showing the files found in thumbnail view. From here they will be able to be added to albums, emailed, etc...

All of these feature are planned for release next month. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

To Limit Or Not To Limit - That Is The Question

We've spend a lot of time at Athena Backup debating whether to offer unlimited storage.

There are some great things about an unlimited service:
  • people don't need to wonder about whether the service will work for you (well actually they do - but more on that later)
  • people don't have to make tricky decisions about what is worth backing up
Sadly, however, there are big downsides to an unlimited service. Storage costs are still significant (for example Amazon charges $0.15/GB/month) for storage so 100 GB is $15 - more than many services are charging. Clearly storage can be had for less than $0.15/GB, but by the time it's on the 'net it's a significant portion of that. What this means is:
  • a backup service either needs to cut off heavy users (you see language like that buried in the legalese for most services) OR
  • implement some sort of throttling to stop/slow the backing up of data until the user, in frustration, stops backing up so much data
Neither of these options is much good for the user. Will the service really backup the data you have? There's no way to tell...

So, after much soul searching, we've decided to price Athena Backup at $4.95/month for 50 GB.

Why 50 GB? We believe that 50 GB is a good amount of storage for photos and music. It provides clarity to our users and let's them manage their personal data. It let's us provide a great service and still be profitable without making people's lives difficult, either by cutting off their service or crippling their service.

Now to see what users think!

Monday, February 25, 2008

In the Beginning...

This is the first post of the Athena blog. The Athena blog talks about the Athena family of products - products which are designed to protect and share your personal files over the internet.

I am Andrew McGregor, one of the founders of Bronze Age Software Corp., the creators of the Athena family of products.

We're planning to use this blog as a place to present and discuss issues with the Athena products, including usability, new features and product direction. Stay tuned for more information!