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Summary:

There’s certainly no shortage of places online to store your files these days. Indeed, sometimes it seems hard to find a web 2.0 site that doesn’t allow you to upload files. Whether it’s attachments in GMail, files in Basecamp, or pure online storage at sites like […]

There’s certainly no shortage of places online to store your files these days. Indeed, sometimes it seems hard to find a web 2.0 site that doesn’t allow you to upload files. Whether it’s attachments in GMail, files in Basecamp, or pure online storage at sites like Xdrive or Box.net, moving your files to the web is as simple as deciding where you want to put them.

But there’s a qualitative difference between all of these online disks and the emerging category of “cloud storage.” For an online site to fall into the cloud storage category, it needs to be architected so that other sites and services can depend on it to provide a reliable and transparent storage backend. This reliability and transparency means three things:

  • A way to flexibly and infinitely expand the amount of available storage space
  • Redundancy that provides very high uptime numbers
  • An API for access directly by other services

The category is new, so right now there aren’t a lot of choices. But here are three to think about if you need cloud storage.

Amazon Simple Storage Service – better known as Amazon S3 – pretty much established the category. Nobody worries about whether Amazon’s servers will keep running, and they offer REST and SOAP interfaces to the data you store there. They charge utility rates (recently lowered) for storage and transfer, so it’s a pay-as-you-go plan. As the ones who came up with the category, they’re clearly the market leader – but the fact that they’ve established the market has others sniffing around now.

Mosso’s CloudFS is one of those others. Mosso is a division of hosting company Rackspace, and they’ve announced pay-as-you-go storage at 15 cents per gigabyte (comparable to S3 rates), with replication for data protection. They are planing both a REST API and specific APIs for .NET, Java, PHP, Ruby, and Python. The main catch is that you can’t use the service today, unless you’re lucky enough to get into their private beta test. Launch is slated for Q3.

Memopal is a lesser-known competitor who is clearly moving in the direction of offering cloud storage. Right now they’re positioned as a transparent online backup company, with a Windows client and 250GB of storage for $99 per year. But if you dig into their site, you’ll find that they’ve built their own distributed, redundant file system designed for scalability. They’ve also announced a June release for a developer SDK (as well as Mac and Linux clients). Memopal is likely to be more attractive for European startups, as their location in Italy should enable them to offer lower rates on that side of the Atlantic.

Amazon’s lead in this market is going to be hard for anyone to overcome (though obviously companies like Google or Microsoft could make a serious play for it if they wanted to). But at the very least, the appearance of companies like Mosso and Memopal should help keep Amazon’s rates low, as well as enabling users to choose on the basis of customer service and API availability as well as price.

  1. Backing up your data is also important, and doing so online provides many benefits – automated behind-the-scenes process, protects against fire/theft, protects all your data, etc. Fabrik offers an online backup service called, Fabrik Ultimate Backup, http://www.FabrikUltimateBackup.com. You get 2GB for free, or you can upgrade to unlimited capacity for only $4.95 per month. Data is encrypted and safe, and is stored on Fortune 500 servers, so it will be there if/when you need it.

    Erin
    Fabrik Inc.

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  2. there is also a new similar service from Google called AppEngine.

    It’s mainly for web applications more than just storage but their package include all 3 Amazon services ( EC2, S3 and SimpleDB ).

    I’m not sure if you can choose which of the 3 options you can use or if you have to build your entire application with their API.

    I know when it just came out, it only supported Python but they are planning on making it available for multiple programming languages.

    Unfortunately for now, it is being tested and limited to only 10 000 developers.

    http://code.google.com/appengine/

    The SDK is available for download.

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  3. Simon – we covered AppEngine: http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/04/21/hands-on-with-google-app-engine/ – they seem to be opening up the beta progressively.

    But right now, I don’t think it’s in the “cloud storage” category. There’s not a direct API specifically for storage access from outside of AppEngine (though you could code your own in Python). More to the point, there’s a 500MB per application fixed storage limit. They might remove or raise that after the service comes out of beta, but right now AppEngine is clearly aimed at the application layer rather than the storage layer.

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  4. Calvin Spealman Thursday, May 8, 2008

    So the article here about 3 cloud storage options includes 1 that is closed beta and 1 that doesnt even exist yet?

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  5. you totally forgot one of the major players… Nirvanix. Like Amazon S3 they have REST and SOAP services, for the easy to access API component, they are also in the pay-as-you-go model for max scalability or “infinite expansion” as you call it. Word around town is they have faster upload times and much better uptime statistics. And @ Calvin… yes they do exist, and they’re long out of beta. pretty cool stuff. for those interested: http://www.nirvanix.com

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  6. I’m currently using a startup Cloud storage provider called SMEStorage (www.smestorage.com). They have not officially launched yet but these guys have some cool stuff. Firstly their back-end is Amazon S3 so the storage is secure. Currently you subscribe to their service but they tell me they are soon going to open it up so you can enter your own Amazon S3 keys and pay a $1 a month for their services.

    You can do all the usual stuff like upload your files, tag etc. They have a nice File Browser. They also allow file sharing via email in which you can set a deadline for the link to the file to expire which is nice. The killer feature for me is the group sharing functionality in which you can create a group, add users to the group and then share a file with the group or individual users – I use this a lot as a mechanism to keep partners up to date with collateral for my business.

    They released an API a while back so you can access all these features via their REST API, and I’m currently testing the beta of a Firefox plug-in that uses this API.

    Lastly I’m beta testing their IPhone version which I have to say is pretty amazing. This is at http://thesmespace.com/smeutils/msmestorage/.

    As far as I know these guys have not launched yet and there is little documentation but they have put a lot thought into what they are doing and I thought they deserved a mention as they are taking the cloud services and layering useful functionality on top of it.

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  7. @ 1 Erin

    What are “Fortune 500″ servers?

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  8. I’ve been trialing idrive (idrive.com). I rarely see it mentioned in these types of reviews, but it appears to be a more cost effective online storage solution than most of the others.

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  9. For those interested in building and owning their own cloud storage infrastructure you might want to check out a company called Caringo. Very cool clustered storage using commodity server hardware that is self healing and self managing. Very low cost up front and minimal administrative effort. It’s not a service, it’s a product and it enables you to implement the kind of infrastructure some of the cloud providers use.

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  10. Could you guys review free cloud hosting services? Also, need a cloud data hosting product with a good client–could you review cloud clients? thank you

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