2021-08-09

Some Recent Troubles with pCloud and Google Chat

Originally, I was going to write a post just about my experiences with pCloud, following up on a recent post in which I wrote of wanting a secure cloud storage service that preserves data privacy and concluded that pCloud is the best option for my needs. Since then, Google forced me to migrate from Google Hangouts to the new Google Chat, so I decided to write about experiences with both of those in a single post. Note that this isn't a full review of either product, as I haven't explored either one in great depth. This is just a short write-up of my experiences using each product to satisfy my needs. Furthermore, in the interest of my own privacy, I won't be posting any screenshots.

pCloud

I have been using pCloud for the last 1.5 months. In that time, I have experienced a few benefits but significantly more concerning problems. The benefits are that the zero-knowledge encryption service seems trustworthy (to someone like me who has some technical knowledge but no specific expertise with encryption), the integration with Linux Mint seems reasonably good as it is possible to open both the standard and zero-knowledge encrypted folders using desktop file managers, the web interface makes sharing links with others easy, and it is cheap. Before I list the problems, I should note that I've only tried pCloud for my own purposes on my laptop that has Linux Mint 20 "Ulyana" MATE installed. Therefore, it isn't clear whether the problems are specific to this setup.

The problems are as follows.

  1. For folders protected by standard encryption, some folders don't transfer properly and may require multiple attempts to transfer, whether using the desktop file manager or the web interface. It may take a few sessions to figure out which folders didn't transfer properly. (It may also be possible that pCloud, having the encryption keys, is secretly deleting folders. This would be extremely troubling, but I haven't paid close enough attention to know whether a folder didn't transfer properly or whether it did but was later deleted.)
  2. File transfers are very slow, because while some transfers can go up to 20 MB per second (which is reasonable given that I have an Internet connection that allows for up to 100 MB per second in each direction), most file transfers are only around 1 MB per second. Any transfer that involves copying thousands of small files & folders especially seems to create a bottleneck and slow things down further. For this reason, it took me many hours over several days to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of files to pCloud.
  3. The web interface doesn't allow for uploading folders as such (only file contents within an existing folder).
  4. When transferring to folders protected by zero-knowledge encryption, timeouts occur unpredictably and require encrypting and again decrypting those folders. Additionally, such transfers have unpredictably but on multiple occasions (though certainly not on every occasion) caused the desktop to freeze.

These problems are troubling enough that I wouldn't recommend pCloud to others, despite the fact that it is one of the few secure cloud storage providers that protects data privacy (at least with zero-knowledge encryption) and ostensibly gives Linux users the same benefits as users of other operating systems. I'm a patient person and I've spent enough money on this, so I'm willing to put more time into making this work. However, if these problems keep occurring regularly or if I see even worse problems like evidence of pCloud deleting files that were uploaded without zero-knowledge encryption, I will likely switch to Tresorit and keep looking for other alternatives too.

Google Chat

Without even getting into the particular issues with Google Chat, I'd like to express how strange it is that Google seems to change its messaging platform around once every 4-5 years. It feels like Google thinks it has to catch up to other services or like Google really doesn't care about its messaging platform.

Having said that, there are benefits and problems with Google Chat. I do appreciate that it has migrated my previous conversations from Google Hangouts. Additionally, many of the features, like document sharing within conversations, seem pretty nifty. However, there are two big problems that I have with the design of Google Chat along with its companion program Google Meet.

  1. The version of Google Chat that is integrated into Gmail is missing quite a few features compared to the way that Google Hangouts was integrated into Gmail, like seeing contacts who are online (as opposed to only seeing previous conversation threads, which is a problem because before, I could have a chance of seeing someone pop online that I haven't talked to in a while and would therefore get the idea of reaching out to that person, whereas now, seeing only recent messages self-reinforces a narrowing group of conversations). The separate Google Chat website at least has the date or time of the most recent message in a thread (whereas the version of Google Chat integrated into Gmail lacks even this) but does not have the aforementioned feature of seeing contacts who are online.
  2. Splitting voice or video calls out of Google Hangouts and into Google Meet is problematic because Google Meet lacks the immediacy of a Google Hangouts call: when a call is placed on Google Hangouts, the website or app will immediately ring for all recipients, whereas when a Google Meet link is created, the sender must wait for recipients to react to a single beep indicating a new message containing the link.

I think I can get used to Google Chat and Google Meet soon enough. If nothing else, perhaps it is an ironic consolation that I won't have to deal with it so much because the group of people that I keep in touch with over Google Hangouts (and now Google Chat) has significantly narrowed over the years (as I now keep in touch with most people through platforms other than Facebook products or Google Chat).

2 comments:

  1. Hi, thank you for taking the time to write your concerns. If you need assistance or to discuss any of the points with pCloud's representative, please contact support@pcloud.com

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    Replies
    1. @pCloud: If things get worse, I'll be sure to reach out. Thanks for the comment!

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