Three Cloud Storage Alternatives

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.

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