Worried about people accessing your personal files stored on cloud storage services? The new online-storage service Mega proposes a solution — encrypt them with its software.|
But Mega is an inherently controversial company. Kim Dotcom, the site's notorious founder, ran the Megaupload peer-to-peer service before it was shut down by the U.S. government for supporting illegal copyright infringement.
Dotcom insists that his new service is legal. "Every pixel of this website has been scrutinized by lawyers," he said during the launch event held for journalists at his New Zealand compound.
By encrypting files on a user's browser before they are uploaded to the site, Dotcom hopes to avoid a repeat of his legal troubles: He will not be able to tell whether users are illegally sharing copyrighted material.
Despite its rather bad reputation, Mega is an exceptionally easy way to make your documents both secure and accessible. You can keep copies of your files in the cloud, so that you can get to them from another computer.
It's always a good idea to store copies of your files in case something goes wrong with your computer and you can't retrieve data from your hard drive. And if you have a lot of files, Mega offers a lot of storage.
Mega allocates 50 gigabytes of free storage — 10 times or more the amount of competitors such as Google and DropBox — to each user.
However, until Mega stands the legal test of time, you shouldn't rely on it as the only form of backup because the service could be shut down without notification. As happened to Megaupload users, all files would then be out of reach to their owners.
Mega recommends using Google's Chrome browser for the smoothest experience rather than alternatives such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, which have proved to be a bit unstable during uploading and downloading.
To get started, register on the site with your name, email and a strong password. You'll receive an email to confirm your account. Click on the included link, and you'll be redirected back to the Mega website.
Uploading and downloading files takes place in Mega's File Manager. You can drag and drop files from your computer to the Cloud Drive in the same way that you do in other cloud systems such as Dropbox and Google Drive. The encryption of each file will happen automatically.
You can also add contacts to your account using an email address. Once the person joins Mega, you will be able to share files with the contact by dragging and dropping to your contact list. In the future, Mega will add an instant messaging service for use between contacts.
However, sharing files is not limited to Mega users — you can share with anyone. You share your encrypted files by requesting a link to give to others. The link is very long and includes both a URL address and a secret key.
To get a link for file sharing, click the link icon under URL at the far right of the file listing. By default, Mega shows the file link and the file key, but you may uncheck "file key" to separate the URL from its key.
In this way, you can copy each part and send them separately to the person with whom you want to share the file. Mega suggests users send links using an encrypted email or instant messaging service.
Folders can be uploaded by dragging them into the Cloud Drive in the same way as individual files. But folders can only be shared with Mega users — you won't see a link to share via email.
File-sharing is only the beginning for Mega. The company says on its site that it plans to provide the same browser-based privacy for email, calls, chats and streaming video.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at email@example.com, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.
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