Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Online storage: what's in store?

Not to long ago, Amazon launched their S3-service which is an online storage service where you pay per used Gb. In the near future Omnidrive, Streamload and Box.net (a company backed by Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban) will launch similar services and there are several rumors about Google's Google-drive or Microsoft's Live Drive (although both products are as of yet unannounced). So there will be numerous offerings for people to choose from.

People aren't afraid to store their files online, whether it's their mail (Gmail / Hotmail) or their pictures (Flickr) so there's bound to be a market for this. And there are some advantages for putting your files online. There's a build-in backup for example and you can access your files from any computer with a browser and internet connection.

But what about the drawbacks? Privacy and security issues are just two of those. Are people willing to put their tax information or personal bank statements in an online storage service? With the chance of a storage provider being hacked they might not be inclined to do so. And what will companies do with the files which are put on their servers? Is your privacy being guarded as well as it should? And what about the costs?
Some consumers might want multiple gigs of storage, but it'll be difficult to convince most of them to sign up if the service isn't free or relatively cheap.

The real money for these companies will come from business clients, who are willing to pay if what's on offer is worth it. The storage providers will need to offer a package of features (back up options, accessibility, security) and pricing that is about the same or better then having to purchase an on-site backup or file server and maintaining/managing that hardware and software. If on top of that the storage companies can persuade their business customers that there are relatively no security issues and it's safe to put their critical databases and files on their servers, this can become a very profitable business.

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