Cloud computing is changing the way we do business, and forcing some consumer online storage services to rethink their long term pricing strategies, as the proliferation of cheap and powerful computing resources complicates their growth. Once viable pricing structures have been thrown off track by a combination of users’ increasing storage demands and the greater variety of competing services available today. Let’s take a look at how the increasingly diverse playing field is monetizing their unique offerings.
Just a few years ago, consumer back-up services like Carbonite, Mozy and SugarSync seemed poised to dominate the home computing market by offering peace of mind and easy remote access to stored media files for a low, and often flat, monthly price. Now, these companies are retooling their services to reflect a rapidly changing game while agile competitors like Amazon Web services entice users with 5 free gigabytes of online storage, a free cloud computing tier offering set amounts of free bandwidth and processing per month, and totally elastic cloud computing that is charged per usage. Amazon aims to make the barrier to entry virtually non-existent so that users become comfortable with their services and begin to use them more frequently.
In order to stay current, Carbonite has undergone a massive transformation, bringing all their customer support services back to the US from India to increase the quality of their user experience. In addition to expanding their back-up services Home edition to include support for video files and automatic full-system back-ups, Carbonite now offers back-up and restore support for external hard-drives and the ability to initiate system recoveries via e-mail. Known as HomePlus and HomePremier, the two new tiers of service will cost $99 and $149 per year, respectively.
Meanwhile, Apple is vying to enter the consumer cloud market in a big way with iCloud, which features their familiar brand of intuitive and streamlined software. Meant to simplify media access for users across all of their devices, iCloud is built into applications and the latest Mac operating system to make new data purchases, as well as users’ music, movie and picture collections instantly available on all synced devices.
Users with home desktops, office computers, iPhones and iPads will have access to a personal cloud that serves their data wherever they go. Launching in conjunction with iCloud is iMatch, a new service that allows you to supplement your personal music cloud with songs and albums you haven’t purchased from iTunes. For $24.99 per year, users will be able to make their entire music collection available across all their devices regardless of where it originally came from. In making all purchases available everywhere and easy to access, Apple hopes to increase media sales through iTunes and compel users to upgrade their online storage, which starts at 10GB for $20 per year and climbs to $100 per year for 50GB.
Microsoft is taking a different approach to monetizing cloud storage with SkyDrive, a quieter entry that appeared in 2007. SkyDrive gives users 25GB of storage space for free, and makes its money entirely off of on-site advertising. Although many cloud based back-up services offer a nominal amount of storage for free, SkyDrive’s free offering is considerable and might do the trick for users looking to store documents. Movie buffs look elsewhere. The catch is that no file can be larger than 50MB.
Box.net is a cloud based back-up service that particularly aims to court professionals who collaborate online. In addition to standard storage and recovery features, Box.net users have access to content collaboration features that make sharing even large files snappy and simple. Instead of attempting to attach files via e-mail, that may or may not survive their recipient’s company firewall, Box.net users can push their large files online and simply e-mail a private link to collaborators. This makes videos and presentations instantly available to multiple users.
Box.net service comes with mobile support for today’s popular smart phones and it integrates with popular business suites like Google Apps. Box.net’s personal service is free, and grants anyone up to 50GB of space for files as large as 1GB each. The next tier allows 3-500 users access to up to 1000GB of content and raises the individual file size limit to 2GB each for only $15 per user per month. Box.net’s personal service could be seen as a promotional tool to increase awareness of its solid and reasonably priced business tiers.
The number of cloud based backup options are growing and each entrant seems more feature-rich than the last. While it seems certain that cloud back-ups are here to stay, individual companies that don’t keep pace with the rapidly changing industry might not be.