The team at Opera Software, makers of the Opera browser, released Opera Unite. Unite is a browser-based web-server that allows individuals to share files, host web sites, post notes, share photos, and remotely access music and videos.
The concept and potential for collaborative communications is great. The reality, however, may not live up to the vision.
Definitely the target customer for Unite, home users will be able to create personal and public web presences with little effort at no cost. The downside, however, is bandwidth. Your 5 Mbps DSL speed is download. Upload speed — how fast data moves from your computer out to the Internet — is likely no more than 768 Kbps. Accessing Unite sites can be slow and choppy, failing to provide a viable user experience.
Of greater concern, is the networking ports that need to be opened. Your cable Internet or DSL provider probably delivered a router with all inbound access blocked. You can surf the web because the web site is responding to a request that you made. With Unite, you will need to open ports to allow access to initiate from the outside world. Automatic port scanners used by Internet villains will find your computer and you will be attacked. It is only a matter of time.
The thought of free web site development and hosting is very tempting to many small businesses. But small businesses face the same issues as home users with respect to security and performance.
In addition, the file sharing capabilities may put your data at risk.
Larger companies with security policies are not going to allow outside traffic into the company’s network for Unite sites. It is risky from a security standpoint and with respect to the risk to confidential information via the file sharing feature. Internally, cheap and easy sites for project teams and other collaboration are tempting.
Using Unite within a business, however, creates a host of issues. A collection of disjoint collaboration sites makes it nearly impossible to ensure sensitive data remains private, information on the sites is backed up, and that hosting a local web site does not impede business applications.
In short, the vision and concept behind Opera Unite is pretty cool. The reality of how it can and will be used remains a risky proposition. One of the benefits of using a cloud- or SaaS-based solution is that the vendor provides security and operates on neutral turf. With a service provider, you can work, share, and collaborate without opening your network and computer to outsiders. A little money can save a lot of headache.