Since we saw the beta release of Windows Live Folders a couple of days ago, I thought that now would be a good time to take a look at the different online storage solutions that are out there now. So, without further ado here are six places to store your files online.
Their Facebook application lets you upload files into a special shared folder in your Box account from either the Box.net website or your Facebook page and share them with your friends, right in Facebook. It's good that they have features like this to keep people coming back because their storage limits are a little bit...limiting:
Free - 1 GB/10 GB of bandwidth/10MB file size limit
$80/yr - 5 GB/unlimited bandwidth/1 GB file size limit
$199/yr - 15 GB/unlimited bandwidth/1 GB file size
1 gig of storage space for free gives you a little bit to work with and you probably won't run into the 10 GB bandwidth limit, but my main concern is with the 10MB file size limit. While you should be able to upload most music to Box, aside from maybe Stairway, 10 MB is really limiting when it comes to video. The paid plans are also definitely on the high side for the amount of storage that you get for the price. Although there are other services out there with better price to storage ratios, the real value of Box.net lies with the additional features and services that it offers to compliment the storage.
The shot, seen above, is of Mozy's client application. Upon installation, Mozy checked off a bunch of folders that I might want to backup. One more click and a backup of those files was scheduled for the next time my computer was idle. Granted, I did a clean install of my operating system about a month ago, so I do not have a ton of stuff on my computer right now, the entire backup only took up 33% of my storage limit. Speaking of storage limits, here's how Mozy breaks it down:
Free - 2 GB
$55/yr - Unlimited space
Both of these packages come with unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on file size. The $55 a year package for unlimited storage allows for the backup of only one computer, so don't think that you are going to be able to backup every computer in your house at this price.
Free - 1 GB/5 GB of bandwidth
$40/yr - 10 GB/20 GB of bandwidth
$99/yr - 25 GB/50 GB of bandwidth
$199/yr - 50 GB/100 GB of bandwidth
Omnidrive is a little bit on the low end as far as its free offering goes, but their paid offerings are priced competitively with the other services. For uploading, Omnidrive also offers the choice of a browser based tool or a standalone application for both Mac and PC. It also includes functionality for sharing with other Omnidrive users and also for making files publicly downloadable.
$0.15 per GB-Month of storage used
$0.10 per GB - all data transfer in
$0.18 per GB - first 10 TB / month data transfer out
$0.16 per GB - next 40 TB / month data transfer out
$0.13 per GB - data transfer out / month over 50 TB
The pricing may look a bit daunting, but it is really pretty simple. The concept is that you only pay for what you use. Why pay for 50 GB when you are only going to use 45? Amazon is hoping that people will see the upside of flexible pricing and start storing their data with them. The other benefit to going with someone like Amazon is that they are really reliable and fast. So, when that crucial moment hits and you absolutely need a file, it is almost guaranteed that Amazon will be there to serve it up.
Windows Live Folders
Windows Live Folders, currently in the early stages of beta, provides the least amount of storage of any of these services that I have gone through. The free package, which is the only package that they have for right now, gives you 500 MB of storage and a cap on file size, set at 50 MB.
Chris Jones, Corporate VP for Windows Live Experience Program Management is saying that 500 MB is enough for this service since it is built to store and share documents as opposed to music and video, despite one of the default folders created with new accounts being named "Music." Although Folders does include the standard sharing and publishing features that the other services do, there is little else there right now. Keep in mind that this is a beta product and that by the time it is released, we could see drastic changes. It's not that Folders is a bad service by any means, but I personally expect a lot more from Microsoft and their web services. I think that they have the talent and the resources to be able to compete with anyone in the industry, but they need to take a step back and see what the users really want.
ConclusionWhen it comes down to figuring out which of these services are the best, I like to take a few things into consideration. First, I'll look at the amount of storage space/bandwidth/file size limit. Second, I have to consider the pricing. Finally, the make or break factor: features.
AOL's Xdrive wins hands down in amount of storage offered. You really can't beat getting 5 GB of storage with unlimited bandwidth and no file size cap for free. Even the pricing for the paid plan is very reasonable. For pricing, I would have to say that I like Amazon's S3 the best. I really give them credit for going with a pricing structure that is completely different from any of their competitors. Although it is geared more towards developers, it would be really nice to see Amazon bring S3 into the mainstream. Who knows, maybe pay as you go is the next big thing. Finally, we come to features. Box.net wins the contest for best features in a landslide. None of the other services integrate sharing, widgets, a variety of access and uploading points, and third party application development anywhere near as well. Box.net's storage is on the low end, but as I said before, their innovative features and implementation more than make up for it.