At the beginning of this year, I wrote Where will you store your data in which I was thinking about the move to on-line storage. With things like Flickr, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, all offering lots of disk space and the increasing availability of cheap, fast, reliable Internet access it only made sense.

I was reading about Companies I'd like to Profile (but don't exist) and noticed that the #1 idea on the list is Better and Cheaper Online File Storage.

We need a good product. Something as easy to use as the Flickr uploader on the client side, and easy web access. These tools need to go a generation or two beyond what xdrive is offering.
Features Id like to see: drag and drop file adding and removing, an rss feed for my files, tagging of every file for easy search later, easy sharing, and the ability to publish files to the web with permanent URLs. And off location backups in case your building burns down.

I have absolutely no doubt that we'll see that product (or one like it) emerge in the next 12-18 months. The pieces are all coming together and the economics keep getting better.

The other stuff on that list is good too.

It's no coincidence that I'm currently listening to Brewster Kahle on IT Conversations talking about Universal Access to All Knowledge.

Listen to it if you get a chance.

Posted by jzawodn at November 22, 2005 10:03 PM

Reader Comments
# Deepak said:

I saw the need for one-true-storage-accessible-anywhere long time back, when I saw my files scattered over multiple OSes, disks and computers.

I've been using esnips (http://www.esnips.com/) for a while now, and am happy with it.

on November 22, 2005 11:13 PM
# Guillaume said:

Well I keep repeating the same thing: After all the email storage thing and AJAX-based client, Y! briefcase really need an update

on November 23, 2005 02:28 AM
# 杨飞 said:

Yahoo! better merge everything that need take storage together,like briefcase,mail,flickr,foto...Just give us 2G in all,whatever u want,u can even upload1.9G fotos and leave the rest 0.1G for email......Too much waste on storage.Meaningless feature,who actually use 1G storage?!30mbBriefcase is really funny in this "G" world.We(at least,I) want a virtual Yahoo drive! orYahoo! storage center.

on November 23, 2005 02:51 AM
# Mellissa Pottle said:

Have you had a look at box.net Most of your list of demands is met I think, for $2.99 a month.

on November 23, 2005 05:07 AM
# Andrew Harbick said:

I've been hoping for the same thing, but I don't think it can scale with current broadband when you start taking high-res photos, and digital video? I've got about 500GB of data (and probably another 100GB on old Hi-8 tapes I haven't digitized yet) and no matter how cool the online data storage features are it's almost impossible to upload that much data. If you had a T-1 at 1.5Mbs you're looking at 31 days. Even a more modest 50GB of data would take 3 days. Am I missing something?

on November 23, 2005 05:34 AM
# Gudmundur Karlsson said:

I think it's amazing how people forget history. Sun and others pioneered the use of NFS to store user's home directories, allowing them to see the same data and desktop from any workstation (including diskless workstations).

This development stopped when windows NT came along. I was pretty surprised when I first used NT in 1992 and saw that there was no provision for this. It was a better windows98, not a better Unix. So 15 years has been lost not thinking about a better NFS for the masses.

To answer Jeremy's question, the data should be in the cloud.

There is a new dilemma that didn't exist when Sun started using NFS for this. Local storage is cheap and abundant, so we have to use it. There should be a smart internet server in every PC that caches and backs up the data on the internet. The user sees a huge disk drive with all his data but only some of it is stored locally. Huge files can be partially local and partially remote. If you start to use a huge file (like a movie) the server will use a built-in bittorrent algorithm to transparently stream it.

I tried to explain this here though I probably didn't do a good job of it:
http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-Y.5DkmA6erTpYek21zB0AQ--?p=63


on November 23, 2005 06:18 AM
# vanderwal said:

Not only tagging for search, but tagging for aggregation. Use tagging to pull files, bookmarks, calendar entries, people from address book, etc. together for projects, life events, etc. All of this is part of the Personal InfoCloud.

on November 23, 2005 07:31 AM
# Justin said:

What about http://www.strongspace.com/ - "Strongspace is a secure place to gather, store, back-up and share any type of file with your co-workers, friends and family. You can upload, download and manage your files over SFTP (Secure FTP) or with any modern web browser."

on November 23, 2005 07:32 AM
# Sheeri Kritzer said:

I definitely think online storage is the way to go. I recently wondered why folks still use things like Outlook, when you have the possibility of losing the information on your hard drive. Then someone explained it to me in a language I understood -- they said, "Imagine that Outlook is a local cache for your e-mail."

My laptops all sync to a server in colo, so I can access my data anywhere. It's a pain, though, because they're not really organized beyond the file heirarchy on the laptops.

Some folks use/used GMail for storing data, which is fine, except that e-mail is an unsecure medium. And with lots of folks using wireless connections, security issues abound.

There are interesting issues, too -- what do people store on their hard drives they'd want access too? Documents are great, but what about music? If you have a slow computer, or a slow 'net connection, you probably don't want to stream all your music. Or movies, for that matter.

How will businesses be convinced to outsource their VPN and shared drives to this similar method? (authenticate to shared storage online)

Might we see a movement towards less hardware? Computers with large amounts of processing power, RAM, and tiny hard drives?

What's the psychological impact? Handheld computers haven't taken off; why not? I think people actually like to have a big laptop at their disposal, and carry it around. Otherwise we'd all be on the smallest laptop possible.

I'd also like to know how these companies store the information and what happens when *their* server(s) crash. One of my biggest annoyances is that personal computer hardware lasts a maximum of 5 years in my experience. Hard drives fail, monitors blow out (CRT, I haven't had an LCD long enough to test), etc. My biggest push for using online storage is so I do not lose my data -- it's in someone else's hands, and they are responsible for it. Having access to information and documents anywhere there's 'net is really secondary for me.

on November 23, 2005 08:08 AM
# Jason said:

http://wwww.XDrive.com (an AOL company now :-)
has like 50GIG for $300 a year.

I think the problem is people expect backed up hard drive space over the Internet to be the same cost as a backup drive on their desktop.

I have two 300gig drives that were like $250 each.

I'd love to have this on the Internet but I think it would cost like $1,800 ($299 per 50GIG)

on November 23, 2005 08:40 AM
# Keith Wannamaker said:

The product you describe is http://www.xythos.com/ ; the free demo site is http://www.sharemation.com/

on November 23, 2005 06:40 PM
# James Day said:

One thing missing, generally, is the same protection that the stored information would get if it was on your own computer in your own home. Things like requiring a warrant to enter and look at the material.

Jason, xdrive is probably unsuitable for most readers here because it's terms of service prohibit uploading copyrighted works. So, nothing from an email you or someone else wrote to a program or photograph or video you or I took would be permitted. That also prohibits all licensed content, even something like BSD licensed.

Their support team will readily clarify that it is not intended to include works where the end user is the copyright holder but as is usual, the legal agreement says such statements are to be ignored.

Better a service where you're actually allowed by the legal agreement to do what you want to do.

on November 23, 2005 08:08 PM
# 杨飞 said:

I really wish u mean it will be offered by Yahoo! 12-18 months later,hahahaha.

on November 24, 2005 02:01 PM
# grumpY! said:

Net backup is already cheap - SNEAKERNET

go buy and external hard drive at Fry's for $200, keep in a safe place that you control, and use it to stripe data on to whatever box you need (or not, just plug the disk in and mount it and read from it as needed).

you only pay once, no latency issues, no paranoia of who is reading your data...and if you are insanely into redundancy just buy two. you can back up your data twice over USB2 in less time than it takes to send it once over the net.

on November 24, 2005 03:44 PM
# bob said:

bandwidth is the obvious issue for hundreds of gb, esp considering most broadband is still assymetrical.

I've always wondered if a model based on snail mailing burnt dvd's for the initial uploads could work cost wise. You could also have the option to burn everything stored to dvd and send it back to you, in the event you need urgent recovery.

You would probably want to provide a program to do the burning to dvd, so it could add a hash for peace of mind. It could also stamp the account number on, so the manual input is limited to opening the mail and throwing the dvd's into a hopper.

Sure, bandwidth will continue increasing, but there will be a singificant chunk of the market that will remain inadequate for this use or a good while to come.

on November 25, 2005 02:56 AM
# Joe Zawodny said:

If this is a viable service, why not just clone the flickr code base remove the requirement for the files being uploaded to be photos (Jpegs). Strip out the resizing code. Toss all of the interestingness and thumbnail stuff and you have created a service that will store your files, give search and sort capability via tags, and be ready to deploy in about a month. I must be missing something - like how to keep the MPAA and RIAA happy - that prevents this from happening. I agree with earlier comments about the time to upload, but shouldn't this be for quasi-static data/files?

on November 25, 2005 01:31 PM
# John said:

This allready exists. It is called Streamload. I don't know how they do it, but they allow unlimited uploads and only charge by the downloads. You can download 10 GB per month for $10 per month. I am just paranoid that with this crazy cheap price for unlimited space that they keep everything backed up.

on November 27, 2005 10:28 AM
# Mike said:

If you are looking for a totally FREE online storage try www.limaspace.com . With Lima Space u get 3GB Free of storage space and Unlimited Bandwidth.

on November 28, 2005 08:11 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.

 

Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.