Anyone who contends that we’re not reaching some kind of critical mass with complete solutions from cloud services should really look at what’s going on behind the scenes. Initially used for just point solutions by way of SaaS, and then infrastructure plays (Gmail replacing exchange, Amazon Web Services for hardware), we’re now rapidly getting to the point were entire service requirements can be met in the cloud.

One of the last services needed to round out this pool is cloud storage in a user-friendly way. Sure anyone can store something on S3, but until such time as we can have a cloud storage drive that looks, feels and works just like a disk within our own machine, the barriers to adoption will remain.

Rapidly however, we’re achieving this goal. In the past two weeks both Rackspace and Syncplicity have introduced cloud drive offerings and Google’s long rumored GDrive is getting closer to being an in-market reality. So first a quick review of what the newly released offerings can do;

Rackspace introduced two products, Rackspace Cloud Drive & Rackspace Server Backup.

networkdrive_noborderRackspace Cloud Drive allows users to access and store files online, via a network drive on their computer. It’s cross platform. And on top of the standard cloud drive functions also lets users;

  • Store and share files between other employees and/or team members
  • Synchronize folders across one or more computers
  • Use Rackspace Team Sync to ensure that team members are always working with the most recent version of a file
  • Set up automatic backups of data to the Rackspace Cloud and easily restore that data in the event of a hardware failure

Rackspace cloud is $4/user/month for 10 GB of storage.gdrive

Rackspace Server Backup enables you to automatically backup your Windows or Linux based server data to the cloud for $5/server/month, users get 10GB of storage space and an automated control panel to set , and forget, their backup routines.

syncp Syncplicity Business Edition also provides for centralized file management, automated backup, synchronization, sharing and collaboration for business users.

On top of the expected storage, sharing, backup and synchronization service that Syncplicity provides, it also offers an open platform that allows web applications to be integrated through to the desktop allowing, for example, a Word document on a users desktop to be associated with their Google docs account.

The new business edition includes the ability to allows users access to files from any device or web app no matter where the files were first saved. It also allows administrators to centrally manage data both inside and outside the firewall. It’s also integrated with Microsoft Office and provides for versioning to boot.

Syncplicity Business Edition is $45 per month for 3 users and 50 GB of storage, or up to 60 GB with an annual subscription.

gdrive Which brings us inexorably to GDrive… the famed, fabled, feted and as yet unreleased Google cloud drive solution. Expected for \over two years now, GDrive. While not yet released, we do have some information about GDrive from Google as the following string tells;

// Localized product category of GDrive
_CI_messages.CI_GDRIVE_CATEGORY = ‘Online file backup and storage‘;
// Localized short description of GDrive (1st
// of 2 description lines)
_CI_messages.CI_GDRIVE_DESCRIPTION_1 = ‘GDrive provides reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents‘;
// Localized short description of GDrive (2nd
// of 2 description lines)
_CI_messages.CI_GDRIVE_DESCRIPTION_2 = ‘GDrive allows you to access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device – be it from your desktop, web browser or cellular phone‘;

The interesting this about Google’s cloud storage offering is that, all things being equal, it should be a slam dunk. Look at what Google has in its favor;

  • Economies of scale that make other vendors shake
  • User numbers already in place for it’s different offerings (Picasa, GMail, Google Docs etc)
  • Market awareness
  • Pockets deep enough to take a short term financial hit in order to get customers

Bear in mind that Google is agitating heavily over ChromeOS and, while they’re pitching it right now as a Netbook offering, strategically it’s important for them to have GDrive in place and the various different business applications well integrated over a storage offering in order to leverage ChromeOS.

While we’ve been waiting for years – my pick is a GDrive unveiling within the next eight weeks – the upstarts are positioning themselves and Google needs to move soon to avoid being seen as a mere imitator.

Either way, and putting GDrive to the side, an integrated cloud storage offering that integrates with both desktop and web applications and across the different areas a user might need is a key milestone in a move to the clouds. Evens of the past few weeks (and if my prediction is right, of the next few weeks) will give this move yet more impetus.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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