Bitcasa has delivered infinite storage as a cloud utility. Cloud storage exists today, but the content types are application-specific to sharing and/or backup. Bitcasa stands out because it replaces consumers’ hard drives with a cloud storage service that the users’ applications treat as local storage, and which can be shared with smart mobile devices.
For $9.99 per month, users get infinite storage as a cloud service. It mirrors the user’s hard drive, making it accessible to the user’s other networked homogeneous and heterogeneous devices. Consumers have large repositories of photos, music, movies and documents on their computers that are not easily shared with smart mobile devices. Bitcasa is a post-PC era solution to the consumer use of computers, tablets and smartphones. According to IDC, 918 million smartphones and 229 million tablets will ship in 2013, a large number of which will need access to legacy computer data.
All the files mirrored to Bitcasa are available on the mobile device and can be opened with the associated app with limited incremental latency. In preparation for this story, I cycled 300 large (500 KB to 1 MB) jpeg images using ifranView. The difference in latency between cycling the display of local and mirrored images was not material and approximately the same as cycling medium-sized (100KB – 300KB) images compared to large images. The difference in latency when opening documents and spreadsheets from Bitcasa’s infinite drive compared to local storage is similar. Cycling quickly through the same images using the ifranView client to display images mirrored on Bitcasa was smoother compared to photo-sharing sites. According to Bitcasa CEO Tony Gauda, the infinite drive software tries to anticipate what users want to see next, and prefetches the data accordingly. Applications, such as large Microsoft Access SQL queries that are likely more susceptible to latency, were not tested. But for the processes that most users do with a file system, the convenience of mirroring data to all devices in all locations outweighs a slight increase in latency.
I mirrored a 720p HD video on Bitcasa on both a notebook and a Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.2.2, then upped it to a 1080p HD video. Streamed playback was smooth for both.
Even if the use case of computers and smart mobile devices using a single data repository did not exist, a computer user would see the benefit of a Bitcasa in two key use cases. The first is backup. In the backup category, Carbonite Home Premier costs $12 per month and Bitcasa $10 per month, although this is not an exact comparison because Carbonite has system imaging and settings backup. The second case for Bitcasa is the ability to revert a modified file to a previous state. For example, a spreadsheet that was changed and saved in error could be reverted to any stored state from the present to when it was first mirrored on Bitcasa. Bitcasa supports MACs, Andoid, iOS and Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and RT. Bitcasa encrypts the user data before it is sent from a computer or mobile device. Bitcasa receives encrypted blocks of data and stores it. The BitCasa app on mobile devices and computers, authenticated with the user name and password, is the only means to decrypt the data. Bitcasa can’t read user data so it can’t monetize it through advertising, scan for copyrights, or otherwise process user files.
According to Gauda:
"it is Bitcasa’s goal to disappear on the user’s device so they don't realize it’s there."
From an ease of installation and use of the mirrored directories, Bitcasa has accomplished this. It is now focused on UX (user experience) due to introduce a new version of its Android App with a new design based on user studies. For example, the new version will give the user more direct control of mirrored directories, better and faster sharing with other Bitcasa and non-Bitcasa users, and will give the user a better understanding of the app choices for opening a file.
Bitcasa has paying customers in 160 countries and stores 20 petabytes of rapidly growing user files since completing its Beta on February 5, 2013. It has delivered cloud storage that serves most consumer applications and satisfies the growing need to use data just as well on PCs as on mobile devices. If the next Android release is indicative of the company’s direction, Bitcasa will be improving the UX by making itself less prominent on the consumers’ devices and more useful by satisfying consumers’ use of data how they want to use it, where they want to use it, and on the device they are using at the moment. As network and processor speeds improve, Bitcasa will benefit.