Software as a Service – My Pet Peeve Business Model

Imagine that you were walking from your car to a store. There’s an event in the neighborhood, so parking was difficult and you have a couple blocks to walk. Along the way, this nice-looking guy comes up to you, all smiles. He’s wearing a pink t-shirt with a lemniscate on it and he offers you that for the low, low price of $99 a year, he’ll let you delete files from your computer. You give him a quizzical look, and try to explain that you’re already able to delete files from your computer. However, he expertly avoids that issue and steers the conversation to fancy words like “cloud,” “backup,” and “encryption.” Suitably impressed, you let him swipe your credit card. Right?

Wrong, I’m sure you are screaming in your head. Of course, that would never happen. What? You wouldn’t swipe your credit card on the street, even if the guy with the card reader was wearing a fancy t-shirt bearing a symbol whose name you didn’t know? In your neighborhood there’s never anything going on that would make parking near your destination difficult? Or you don’t even have a car? Sorry. Anyway, welcome to the real world, this is actually happening, and people are doing it.

What am I talking about? Right back, after this commercial break:
Introducing odrive – the only cloud sync client you’ll ever need! Connect all your cloud storage accounts, and log in once to all of them! Sync automatically in the background! Choose external folders to be synced to your odrive! Encrypt folders securely to protect them from the tech giants, with zero-knowledge encryption! Simple share links to any file or folder you want, and revoke access automatically whenever you want! Password protect your shared files, unsync to placeholder files to save disk space, then click to sync if you need the files later! You can even share entire folders with friends, allowing them write access to spaces in your cloud drives. What more could you want? Get odrive premium today!

odrive logo

No.

No.

No.

No, that was not a real commercial. No, they didn’t pay me for that. And no, I don’t have odrive premium myself, and I doubt I ever will. But I had to present it to you that way so that it sounded natural, and it was slightly easier for you to consume with a clean slate, as opposed to through the lens I’d been crafting earlier in the post. And yes, that thing which they use instead of the O and the D is called a lemniscate, if you skip the snorkel.

Anyway, if I’m any good at ad copy, you might be interested in purchasing odrive now, or at least looking into it more. I actually first heard of odrive from a friend, who, having discussed sync with me in the past, knew i’d be interested. I neglected to try it for a while, but then I wanted to wipe my computer and reinstall an operating system or two, and I wanted as fresh a start as possible. That meant cloud backup of any important files so I could format the hard-drive and start fresh. I had no interest in opening a tab in chrome and uploading stuff to google drive there for a couple days. Firstly, that would mean leaving my computer perpetually on and not ever closing that one chrome window. Second, if I accidentally shut the chrome window or the internet disconnected due to a flaky connection or my laptop’s battery died, I would have to start over. On google drive if you start a new upload, you get new files, even if there are files with the same name. Google uses a unique identifier to keep track of each file instead of relying on actual folder names and paths. This has benefits and drawbacks, and not overwriting same-name files is one of the drawbacks, at least from this angle. How many copies do you think I need?

Sync software was necessary. I’ve had bad experiences with google drive sync in the past (wrong files being deleted, deleted files being redownloaded, and just feeling slow, etc;), so I figured I’d try odrive. Setup was a breeze, and I quickly had several of my folders (projects folder on my desktop, a few screen recorder folders, documents and pictures folders) mapped into odrive. For the next week, my computer was on perpetually, uploading old screen recordings in the background of whatever else I was doing. After that week, my odrive pro trial ended, so my folder mappings stopped working. I didn’t know that synced folders outside of the main odrive directory were a pro feature. That left me with several half-synced directories which I had to move into the actual odrive folder in order to get them to keep syncing.  I figured I would upload the first ~200 GB, then clear the drive and upload the rest, which didn’t fit on the SSD until something would be synced and deleted.

Let me take a step back here and explain what I’m attempting to accomplish with odrive long-term. I understand that computers do not live forever. Sometimes, hardware just dies. If you’re lucky, there are signs of failure early on and you can rescue most of your data, but sometimes hard-drives just stop responding to anything (usually after many years of use). Then you can try taking them somewhere to get the data off, if the only problem was the connector, not the actual data – but these places charge an arm and a leg, because, quite frankly, they can – how else will you get your data back? You have to choose, the arm or the data. So my idea here is to have my important files synced cloudward automatically in the background in order to minimize my losses if I push my hardware past it’s manufacturer-intended life expectancy for too long. In addition, I have screen recordings of games which I don’t want taking up space on my local drives forever, but I don’t want to delete them either – I just want to offload them to the cloud and forget about them until some point in the future. Once they’re uploaded, I don’t need them again unless something goes majorly wrong, so I just want them uploaded and then deleted and swapped for placeholders.

The folder mapping thing isn’t a big deal, as you can actually change the location that Windows stores your documents, videos, pictures, and even Desktop into the odrive folder, alleviating the need to pay for pro there. However, you cannot unsync particular folders without a pro subscription. That is, you cannot upload some large files that you won’t need for a long time and then delete your local copy, replacing it with a takes-up-zero-space placeholder – unless you pay. There is a workaround (which I was forced to use), which is to de-authorize your odrive account, delete or rename the old odrive folder, and then log in to the odrive sync client again. However, this will also switch everything else to placeholders. If your Desktop or other important folders are in the odrive folder, you might have to immediately download everything that you still need, or even reconfigure their locations, if Windows is smart enough to move them when you rename the parent folder (haven’t tried this). In any case, it’s mightily inconvenient.

Odrive is selling their software as a service with a monthly subscription fee. $99 a year. Why can’t it be a one time fee of, say, $35? Perhaps this only bothers me because I’m not the one licensing the software, but what are they selling me anyway? All these cloud systems have open API interfaces, just nobody has unified them the way odrive is trying to. I have a google drive account already, and I have my files already. I just want odrive to move them to google drive and then let me remove them from my computer, just as if I uploaded to drive in google chrome and then deleted my local copies. The software to do that should be free, and therefore that part of odrive should be free. Honestly, they aren’t charging $99 a month just for unsync – but I don’t need the other features and therefore can’t justify spending the additional money. The global spaces requires they have servers doing stuff, so it makes sense to charge for that. And encryption stuff, although it’s all done on your machine, is the kind of thing that matters more to entities who have something making them money that they need protecting, and they can afford to fork over more money for that protection anyway. But unsyncing my files – deleting local copies without deleting the cloud copy – how can odrive charge for that “privilege?!” Software as a service is fine if you are providing the software and the service, but if your software is just connecting me to someone else’s service, just what are you charging for?

If anyone needs the kind of backup that I described, perhaps you’ll have more luck with Google Drive’s new free Backup and Sync software. I didn’t get to try it because I switched to Linux right before I found it existed, and Google didn’t bother with a Linux client. Sigh. However, it might not support unsync, which brings me back to square one. Square one. A happy place!