We've got hard drives in our desktops and laptops. Then there are NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network) that we use at work. There are USB thumb/flash drives, SD and microSD memory cards that we use at home. And there are the myriad access protocols, whether local or network, such as SCSI, IDE, SATA, RAID, SMB, CIFS, NFS, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, etc. Storage seems to be everywhere and it’s dirt cheap, at around 20 cents a GB these days, and always dropping.
The one area that's still being developed is hosted storage. Remote storage is a tricky matter. Unlike local or even LAN storage, there are a number of things that can go wrong, chiefly circuit outages and bandwidth limitations. Imagine clicking on a drive letter and having to wait 5 minutes for the content to show. You get the picture.
Still there is no denying that the trend is pointing to remote storage. I know, this whole thin computing thing got a little ahead of itself, but I still think Sun's slogan still holds true, the network is the computer, or more appropriately, it will be the computer.
Rumors of Gdrive, Google's hosted storage have been circling for a couple of years now. While Gdrive rumors continue to persist, Google has begun to offer additional storage for some of its existing services like Gmail and Picasa. The additional storage comes in several sizes with annual fees, like $250/year for 100 GB. Gdrive might indeed be in the offing.
The front-runner in remote storage is Amazon.com who has had a hosted storage service for a couple of years now. Known as S3, it can be used to store anything and the interface schemes are the familiar SO (Service Oriented) protocols such as REST and SOAP. The cost is measured by capacity and bandwidth in 1 GB increments. $0.15/GB for storage, $0.10/GB for upload, and $0.18/GB for download.
These are good starts, but don't quite aspire to be simple drive letters on one's PC. The question now is when will the king of desktops, Microsoft, come up with such a service and tie it up to Windows? Monopoly concerns aside, one has to believe they are working on something. It could prove to be a lucrative venture. It's a win for consumers too. Imagine never having to worry about crashed drives, backups, running out of room, or being able to use your drive from anywhere. It may be closer to reality than we think.