Do Consumers Care Where Their Content Is Stored?

Reading Om’s piece on Pogoplug this week, I started to think about how local network storage and cloud storage are becoming indistinguishable to the end user. While it’s not technically cloud storage, Pogoplug allows you to placeshift by accessing your locally stored content through the cloud, making anywhere access to content much simpler.

Previously, accessing local network storage remotely was accomplished by most through a process called FTP, or file transfer protcol. But most consumers have never heard of FTP. And honestly, if you’re using network storage at this point at all, you’re firmly planted in early adopter territory. While having a central repository for digital content in the home may be almost second nature for some of you, this is not true for mainstream consumers. A typical consumer – if and when he decides to back up files — uses the modern day equivalent of sneakernet, lugging a USB hard drive, flash thumb drive or even their media player from computer to computer, copying their photos and music to the device. Tools like Pogoplug offer the same kind of simplicity.

Sure, it’s easy to ask why won’t more consumers don’t use something that can connect over the network, but it comes down to one reason: simplicity. As a rule, anything involving the network is always guaranteed to be more difficult and have more problems. While Metcalfe didn’t include that in his law, maybe he should have. (Is it too late to call this Wolf’s law?) The interesting trend from the last few years is that some consumers may just choose to sidestep local storage altogether and jump to a cloud-based backup service such as those offered by Mozy, Carbonite and iDrive.

Why are consumers embracing online backup while consumer network storage languishes? In part, most consumers are already connected to the Internet, and an online backup service takes very little know-how to get up and running. Also, while many don’t think about this, a few consumers may actually choose to store their digital life off-site because they see it as safer than relying on a cheap piece of hardware that could get stolen or break down (it must be stated, however, cloud storage is not 100 percent foolproof).

Ultimately, as we see happening with Pogoplug, I envision a world where local and cloud-based network storage will intermingle. When a consumer goes to access photos, home video or their latest novel in progress, they may not even need to know from which source where their content is being served. We already have vendors like Netgear introducing online backup for their NAS devices, which makes a lot of sense to me (I have had a NAS drive fail!).  Apple has put its unique spin on things with the MobileMe suite of online services, which allows seamless remote access to a consumer’s files and information from anywhere. And while some mock Microsoft for their slowness to market, the software giant has one of the most forward looking products out there with Windows Live Mesh.

In the end, cloud storage will not be in competition with local storage, but an extension of it.

Question of the week

Do you use some form of online backup such as Carbonite, Mozy or MobileMe?
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Michael Wolf

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4 Comments Subscribers to comment
  1. Mark Jaquith Friday, May 8, 2009

    I use JungleDisk, which is an Amazon S3 interface. That backs up the contents of my home directory every night — about 125 GB (it only updates things that have changed).

    I use MobileMe and Spanning Sync to back up and sync my contacts and calendars.

    Of course, I also have multiple local backups (hourly Time Machine backups, nightly boot drive mirroring) — getting 125GB out of “the cloud” isn’t exactly fast. So ^^^for large amounts of data, the cloud can’t be the only solution — local backup recovery is orders of magnitude faster^^^.

  2. Kevin C. Tofel Thursday, May 14, 2009

    We’re finally starting to growth in the acceptance factor for online storage, which is great. I think that third-party services having access to data is still a sticking point for people. I could easily see a hybrid-model of local and online that you alluded to, but in the end, ^^^I think consumers will have simple and inexpensive choices that allow them to “host” their own data at home.^^^ Perhaps even apps could be running from home and they’re accessed on the road.

  3. Stephen Scanlon Monday, June 1, 2009

    Combining a home solution and a cloud solution I believe will win out over the long run.

    For example, a relatively inexpensive Windows Home Server solution gives me the satisfaction of control over my data locally while being able to share/host pictures, music, etc. for my ‘invited’ guests. The most important feature provided is nightly backup of all systems on my home network. From there, it’s off to the cloud (jungle disk at Amazon S3) to off site storage to prevent catastrophic events at home (server crash/hurricaines, etc.) from wiping out my lifetime of memories (data).

    The secret of any backup solution is “set and forget”. One must be confident that their backup solution is working once it is set up and then should be transparent to the user from that point forward.

    1. Set and forget is right. Too often, I find, there is an issue such as a firewall or something that makes the backup fail (I use Mozy, NAS and have been tinkering with Linksys’ Home Media Hub. – Mozy and the Media Hub sometimes won’t take and I have to tinker or manually initiate.

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