The State of Online Storage


Ever since Yahoo shocked the world by shuttering Yahoo Briefcase, I have been stumbling around, punch drunk, trying to find a new home for my online storage needs.

Not really.

But I do have online storage needs and I have been trying to come up with a long term game plan.  I am a long-time Box.Net user, and the recent site updates made an elegant and easy to use (and share) site even better.  From the user experience perspective, Box.Net is the clear leader.  It has the must have “drag and drop” upload feature, and the sharing options are intuitive and extensive.  In sum, it’s just cool.  But all that coolness comes at a price, at least if you want to upgrade your account.  5GB of space is $80 a year, and 15GB is $200 a year.  If you really want to go all-in on online storage, even 15GB is too little.  I suspect that I will keep my Box.Net account for some stuff, and because I like the interface so well, I may upgrade at some point.

I have also looked at ADrive (here’s a detailed review).  You can get 50GB of storage space for free, and it has the drag and drop feature.  100GB is $140 a year, and 250GB is $340.  These prices are much lower, but ADrive doesn’t have all the features Box.Net has.  The deal killer for me is that you can’t stream audio files from ADrive, though the FAQ says that feature is coming.  See me when it gets here.  Also, I don’t have the history with ADrive that I do with Box.Net, and putting a gigabyte or so of files on Box.Net seems less risky than putting 100GB or so on ADrive.  Still, if I got comfortable that ADrive was here to stay and it enabled audio file streaming, I’d probably give it a try.

wlive Then, there’s Windows Live or SkyDrive or whatever they call it.  The good news is that free accounts get 25GB of space, plus the staying power generated by Microsoft’s pile of dollars and desire to capture a part of the online app/social media/whatever you want to call it market.  Shuttering all these Live or whatever they call it apps would not be conducive to that effort.  So I think we can assume that these apps will be around for a while (though as a Photo Story mourner I should probably know better).  But, gawd, are those Microsoft sites ugly.  Microsoft needs badly to do two things: pick a name and brand build it into the public’s consciousness and turn their web designers loose to create something pretty, with consistent, cutting edge (and not last year’s) features.  Microsoft has the brand (only angry geeks and hardcore Apple fanboys hate Microsoft), the money and presumably the talent to be a major player in this online app game.  I can’t figure out why they have had such a hard time becoming one, but I think it has more to do with presentation than features.  Well, except for one.  Unless it’s hidden somewhere, I don’t see any drag and drop uploading.  No one who values his or her time is going to go through the hell on earth of browse and choosing a bunch of files to upload.  I gave up before I could figure out the sharing and streaming situation.

The elephant in the room in all of this is Amazon’s S3 service.  A lot of the Web 2.0 companies buy their space and bandwidth from Amazon, and users can buy theirs directly from Amazon as well.  You’ll need a front end to manage the file transfers and there are some not entirely intuitive procedures to enable access, sharing and streaming.  But more and more front ends are available all the time.  There’s a good one for redundant backups via Windows Home Server (now there’s an excellent Microsoft product), with more on the way.  I don’t want to have to worry so much about bandwidth (S3 charges based on space and amount of date transferred), but I continue to monitor S3 and the emerging enabling applications.  In sum, it’s not the best choice now, but it may be later.

Lastly, of course, there’s the maybe soon to be released Google GDrive.  As I noted the other day, if anyone can bring the cloud to the people, it’s probably Google.  Google has the brand and the money, but after the shuttering of Google Notebook and other apps, we can’t assume (like we thought we could) that all Google apps have staying power.  Still, GDrive will probably become the space leader the day it launches.

There are a lot of choices out there.  For now, I’m sticking with Box.Net.  ADrive is the number one contender.  GDrive is the x-factor.

I bet that list changes significantly by this time next year.