On my home network I have a fileserver with all my documents, music and videos which is around 100 GB. Wouldn’t it be great if I just could put these files on some kind of online storage provider and access it as easily from anywhere and simply throw out my local harddrive(s)? Is it possible? Is it usable? Read on to see what my conclusions are.
If keeping everything online, I could access my music at work (working in a cubicle, you need to put your earphones in now and then to get some privacy) or my videos during business travelling (ever been to France and stayed at a hotel and trying to watch a movie? Don’t even think about it! Everything is dubbed) or even on the airplane (I would love to test streaming on my next long-haul flight). And my documents – I always want them available!
So this is my search for a service that provides me to put my 100 GB of documents/music/video online and access it from anywhere – anytime. Will any provider enable me to do this today or do I need to come back next year?
So let’s break down my requirements:
- 100 GB of space – what’s the price? Since I guess noone offers this for free (yet)
- Price reasonable and prize available on their webpage. When I mean reasonable it should be cheaper than setting up a server yourself and putting it in some co-location datacenter which can go for as low as around $400 a year for 1U
- Must have free trial-period for testing
- Reasonable transfer limits – 1 GB files should be allowed and reasonable transfer limits. Last thing I want is that I need a document and can’t download it because I just streamed some music.
- Files easily accessable from my desktop. It shouldn’t take me much more time to access the files than it does today
- Serious business – Last thing I want is my files stored on cheap IDE-disks without backup or slow Internet pipes or a funky businees handling my private files
Also, maybe this is a little bit too much to ask, but I would also like it accessible with SMB/SAMBA/CIFS, XBMSP or ReplayTV since that’s what XBMC supports.
When looking at the first requirement, it rules out most of the suppliers out there. When choosing which one to check, I used the Free Online Storage list on lights.com and Tech Crunch article. There’s an additional link to a list at my Online Storage-section.
If I’ve missed anyone – please comment on this post!
So this leaves only 3 competitors: Elephantdrive, FlipDrive and Mediamax. Not many considering the 50-80 suppliers I’ve checked. Let’s look at them a little bit closer:
Elephantdrive works so that you download and install a client called ElephantDesktop. You start the application and login. Then you either select to do a backup or upload a specific item. When backing up you select your whole drive or specific filetypes. These kind of jobs can also be run at specific intervals. When uploading a specific item you can simply do drag’n’drop.
Elephantdrive is more of a backup/restore application where you can backup files at a scheduled basis and restore if necessary. So it’s not meant for active day-to-day usuage. For backup/restore it does the job – and better off – it’s completely free with no limit (for now during the beta anyway)! So if you’re looking for backing up your data but only accessing it when something has gone wrong – check it out. For day-to-day usuage – you better look at some other service.
Flipdrive features a webinterface which is quite nice and fast. You can browse directories in a tree just like Windows Explorer. When uploading you can select the basic uploading where you add file by file or a power upload (java) where you can select multiple files by holding down the shift. Both features a progress bar which gives you the KBs/time left.
You can search through your drive and you have a nice feature called “Photo Albums” where you can add pictures to different albums you create. You also have a simple personal Address Book and Calendar.
So how does it work if I would switch to Flipdrive for day-to-day usuage? Well firstly, it’s quite slow. Don’t get me wrong, the interface is fast but not as compared to using your local storage. When you click files you get the typical “Open With…” or “Save To…” when so you can choose to always open your media files with a Media Player. You can cut’n’paste files, rename files, delete files, send files (it will send a link via e-mail). With MP3’s you can mark the file and choose Play and it will play the file using the Flipdrive Player so you don’t have to download the file before playing. This doesn’t work for AVI’s though. If you want to watch an AVI you have to download the complete file first and then play it in your ordinary mediaplayer.
MediaMax offers a similar file manager webinterface as Flipdrive. You can create folders, move files, edit, send files (either as a link or the actual files).
You also have some tabs with some specific feature:
- Video Share and Photo Share enables you to create albums, view them, tag them and share with others
- TV & Movie Locker enables you to upload videos and categorize them, create playlists, download and view
- Music Locker enables you to upload music, play, create playlists and lists music by albums, genre and artists
- Mail. You also have an e-mail address at Mediamax
Upload is pretty straightforward and there’s a java multi-file uploader featuring drag’n’drop from Explorer. You have a progressbar during upload. However, it can take some time from upload until the files are added to your directories.
So how does it work if I would switch to Mediamax for day-to-day usuage? The speed is much like Flipdrive, but I do get annoyed with the delay from upload until the files are actually published to your account.
The Video and Photo features are quite nice to organize your collection of videos and photos. It includes thumbnails and you can tag everything and create albums and add videos to certain albums and view them directly.
You can play music files directly from your online storage and it will stream rather than download using your locally installed player like Winamp but you can also download if you want. Using the Music Locker you can add music to playlists and stream certain playlists.
My conslusion of this study:
As of writing in September 2006 – I can make the following conclusions to my study: I wouldn’t say that any online storage provider would be able to replace my local storage. Why?
- The interfaces are too slow. If I would replace my local storage they have to be faster and more reliable./li>
- Not as easy as local storage to access your files. You have to go to your personal online storage, login and so on. There are solutions such as Omnidrive that lets you mount the drive in Explorer, but it’s not yet public and has no pricing on 100 GB
- Usability compared to local storage is low. For example, you don’t have all drag’n’drop capabilites. For as with videofiles you can’t simply click them and the video starts within a few seconds. Often, you have to download them first.
I know all these demands are too much to ask for the services today but that’s what I want! That is what is needed to enable me to give up my local storage. And I guess I simply have to come back in 2007 and see if the services out there have evolved. I’m sure that some day I can throw my local harddrive out the window and just keep that bootable flash drive in my local PC.
If I had to decide on a winner I would say Mediamax – because of some nice exclusive features.