Web Storage

Last Tuesday Amazon unveiled an online storage service named S3 for which users will pay $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used and $0.20 per GB of data transferred. Ars-technica ran this story following this press release regarding the service. One thing not obvious from some of the buzz surrounding this annoucement is that this seems to primarily be aimed at application developers. As far as I can tell as of now there is no friendly client software or web portal with wich an end-user can easily store their data. That said, this service does offer some interesting possibilities.

The firs thing I thought of is an online backup system. With prices this low the average user could store a DVD’s worth of documents for about seventy-five cents a month (plus transfer). That starts to look appealing as most users don’t have more than a few gigabytes of documents to backup. heck, for prices like that they could even backup their media collections, digital photographs, etc. Think of it this way, for $50 a year (plus transfer) you could have offsite backup of over 25GB of data. That’s appealing to me. The first thing is for someone to write a client for this. If it was me I’d be looking at the ultra-efficient Unison file synchonization software. You may need to get Amazon to support it or just use a simialr idea for differential transfers but either way it would keep transfer costs and associated badnwidth to a minimum. I’ve started using a procees like this for backing up my own data to an offsite server and once I got the initial upload completed the syncing happens quite quickly. The other problem I can forsee is a question of security. With the recent government inquiries regarding search results people need to feel that their data will be secure on Amazon’s servers. The application will need to have built in encryption to prevent access to sensitive data by anyone at Amazon or any outside company or government. With an easy to use file differential based and encrypted backup solution I can see a service like this becoming quite popular.

The second thought I had is that a service like this could be a boon to podcasters who seem to chew through bandwidth like there’s no tomorrow. With built-in support for the bittorrent protocol the only thing that remains to be seen is what type of sustained transfer rate Amazon can support. This could be a great in-between spot for those podcasters who have outgrown most web hosts but aren’t big enough to get a contract with a content distribution network. One report I looked at suggest estimating 60GB of transfer a month costing $40/month compare that with hosting on Amazon’s S3 service which would cost around $12. Savings like that can add up pretty quickly when you’re an independant podcaster. Again, the big holdup is that someone needs to write a client for this.

It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of applications take off and will take advantage of this service. There are some rumblings about Google offering a similar service which could make things even more interesting.

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