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Topia Technology, Tacoma-based company, launches signature file-sharing product to individual users

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on Aug. 22, 2012 at 5:00 am |
August 21, 2012 9:24 pm

A Tacoma-based technology company will announce today that its signature file-sharing software, used by several agencies in the federal government, is now available to individual users.

Topia Technology will offer Skoot as a more secure alternative to widely known cloud storage protocols such as Dropbox and Google Docs.

“Rather than moving all of your stuff into a location like a Dropbox file, it allows a user to establish their personal cloud,” Topia CEO Janine Terrano told The News Tribune.

Here’s how it works. Skoot is installed on all of a person’s devices: desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone. Then that person decides what data it wants Skoot to keep track of, including files stored in other corporate clouds such as Google Docs or Dropbox.

For example, a person would tell Skoot to keep track of all the files on the home computer in the “work” folder, as well as all the files on the work computer in the “personal” folder.

Using proprietary technology, Skoot then catalogues the content into a “roadmap” that allows a person to find, sync and share the files no matter where they’re stored.

“Think of it as a personal browser that keeps track of your files,” Terrano said. “We do not search the files themselves, because they are encrypted. We use the metadata (information about the files) to keep track of them.”

“You have a personal cloud to move and manage files securely,” Terrano added.

Skoot also will offer traditional cloud storage, called the Vault. Unlike most corporate cloud storage, Skoot fragments data, then encrypts those fragments from the point of upload and download so the data can’t be connected with an individual user.

Topia has been developing Skoot for years. Terrano estimated that the company, which employs 29 people downtown, has spent about $2 million so far. The company has been licensing the technology for about two years to companies across the globe. Skoot’s technology also is used by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Army and the Air Force.

Cloud storage options are everywhere, and many of them are free. Skoot will cost $4.95 a month, and users can pay more for more Vault space.

“The current folks in (cloud storage and computing) don’t have what we would call military grade security, and Skoot has that,” Terrano said.

As digital devices proliferate, data security will only become more important. The way people naturally operate is almost diametrically opposed to good security practices.

For example, keeping a business’s computer network secure dictates that people use their work computer only for work. But who wants to cart around multiple laptops – one for work, and one for everything else? And keeping personal data secure dictates using unique passwords for every website. But people naturally want to keep it simple and use one password everywhere.

Data security is “evolving so quickly that the industry doesn’t have a bulletproof approach either,” said DS Benbow, marketing director of Tacoma’s Internet Identity, a leading data security company.

“People are spending more time using (new technology) and getting the benefits from it rather than thinking about how it needs to be secured,” he said. And the businesses pushing out the new technology, from smartphones that track a person’s location to email that presents advertising based on keywords in a person’s messages, are more interested in market dominance than securing an individual’s data.

Terrano sees a future in Topia’s business model of helping people manage their data, not trying to mine the data.

“We wanted to create a utility out of the gate,” she said. “Let’s create a private place for data and we don’t have access to it. And we help people manage it across all devices.”

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