Digital storage in the cloud for your documents, music, photos, videos and more is becoming a commodity with more choice for more space at less cost.
Especially for individuals and small- to medium-size businesses, arguably the pioneer in this area was Dropbox which, in 2008, started offering file hosting and sharing services that let you synchronise your content via the cloud across different computers and mobile devices. The service gives you 2 gigabytes of storage space free; you can pay for more space. Dropbox says it now has over 100 million users. (I joined Dropbox in 2008 and use it as a primary file sharing resource.)
In a strongly competitive landscape, other services include Google Drive, with its 5 gigabytes of free space to get you started; and SkyDrive from Microsoft (known previously as Windows Live SkyDrive, and Live Mesh before that), offering 7 gigabytes free to start. As with Dropbox, both of these services run a freemium business model, also offering a range of paid options to get more storage space and other features.
One characteristic in common among all such services is their robustness and ease of use where file synchronisation and access is seen simply as other folders and files in your computer’s file system. Part of the plumbing, so to speak.
(At the enterprise end of the scale is Amazon Web Services, a collection of services which make up a cloud computing platform, the most well known of which is Amazon S3 file storage: see detailed information in the Wikipedia entry.)
A new service entered the fray on January 19 in the shape of Mega from Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand-based internet entrepreneur who made global news headlines a year ago, in January 2012, when his Megaupload file-sharing service was shutdown in the midst of an FBI-led investigation into alleged global piracy and money laundering.
Now he’s back with its successor which may well be a cat among the pigeons in this market.
If you sign up for a free Mega account, you’ll get 50 gigabytes of file storage space – that’s between 7 and 25 times what you get free from competing services – which you can use in a similar fashion to those other services I described earlier. If you want more space, there are paid plans.
One feature that Mega is making a big play about – and may differentiate it in the minds of consumers – is security of access and use. When you sign up and create your password, it’s used to generate encryption keys that are your login credentials and used to encrypt all files you synchronise with your account in Mega’s cloud. They say it’s pretty robust as does Gizmodo although ZDNet sounds a cautionary note.
Still, as The Next Web reports, over one million people have signed up for a Mega account in the 24 hours following its formal public launch. I have, too, to kick the tyres, etc, and see what it’s about.
It may be a numbers game but I’m sure it will all come down to trust in the end.
[Later:] Mega is not a Dropbox alternative right now, says Martin Brinkmann, noting that Mega has “no desktop program or mobile app, which means that all the uploading and downloading happens in the browser.” I’d agree if you want a different service that does the same as Dropbox, ie, file synchronisation that’s automatic in the backgound with a desktop app and one for your mobile devices.
In a post on its blog on January 18, Mega outlines its post-launch development roadmap where the features it talks about look like closing gaps with not only Dropbox – programs and mobile apps – but also Google Apps.
Interesting times ahead.
Cloud storage is fine, but what’s needed to support it is fiber optic data processing and storage (aka photonic or optical computing) to increase processing speed, lower heat and energy consumption and to complement fiber optic data transmission. What’s more, it could be a huge new (highly lucrative) industry. A photon can serve the same computing function as the electron, without all that cumbersome mass.
The only current Europen alternative to Dropbox is CloudMe. With apps for both the desktop and mobile as well as smart tvs. Excels at both syncing and file sharing.
The dropbox app and client program are what make it so great. I dont have to worry about going somewhere to put a file in my cloud storage. It just happens.
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