DivShare: Free, unlimited storage, forever

* New entrant into the online storage market

Many years ago – I think it was 1996 or 1997 just as the ‘Net was getting hot – I got a load of the Compuserve executives on the phone and pitched them on what I thought was a pretty solid idea: Online storage. My idea was to provide reliable online storage for backing up your critical data and sharing files and as they had a mongo user population and lots of hardware it seemed, at least to me, a business that would get somewhere.

Well, the execs didn’t get it and acted like they were talking to a crazy person. Needless to say nothing came of it and they missed the boat. Which is OK because they are all dead now. Nah, just kidding.

Since then a number of online data storage services have appeared and met with varying degrees of success. Among these providers are:

* Xdrive, 5GB free.

* IBackup at around $9.95 per month for 5GB.

* Acpana Data Deposit Box for $2 per GB per month.

* Connected DataProtector at around $9.95 per month for 500MB.

* Streamload.com which offers 25GB of storage for free.

* Amazon S3 which is charged at 15 cents per GB per month and 20 cents per GB of data transfer.

But with disk storage cost not so much falling as plummeting, these companies are meeting stiff competition from small upstarts that have lower overheads. Such is the case with a new entrant into the online storage market: DivShare provided by Diversion Web Publishing.

DivShare is completely free. After you register you can upload as many files as you want up to 100MB at a time (in other words each individual data transfer must be 100MB or less); track when your files are accessed on your “dashboard”; create a photo gallery; automatically create thumbnails of JPG, GIF and PNG images. The best part is that there’s no limit to how much storage you can use and your files stay online forever, there's no expiration date.

Signing up requires minimal information and the usage policy makes it clear that you are on your own, indemnify them, etc., etc. The privacy policy is a standard “we won’t share your data” with the usual “but if we liquidate or are acquired all bets are off” clause. Pretty standard stuff, and the upshot is that they won’t sell your personal details to anyone.

Once you’ve signed up and responded to the verification e-mail message your storage is ready to go. You can upload files immediately but only in groups of five – there’s no true bulk upload which is a shame because it makes uploading a photograph collection fairly painful.

Once the files are uploaded you are shown the file names and a link for downloading each one. DivShare also provides the URL and an HTML fragment to add to a Web page, a link to a thumbnail if it is an image file; a forum link; a Facebook file sharing link; a link to launch AIM to transfer the file over IM; and a link to Digg the file.

From your Dashboard you can manage your files and see how many times it was downloaded and when the last download was. Following a link to an image saved in a gallery will take you to the gallery with the chosen image selected and a filmstrip of the other gallery images underneath. Files that haven’t been specifically added to a gallery aren’t grouped and can only be accessed individually.

So what’s the business model? David Altschul, Diversion Web Publishing’s Creative Director, told me that “We'll slowly be integrating minimal non-intrusive ads throughout the site … We have low overhead (outside of server costs) and have figured out the equation for how many page views per average user uploads are needed to stay profitable and are 100% confident we'll far exceed that.”

For the price, this service is unbeatable. I hope they consider adding premium plans that will provide bulk uploading and other “advanced” features, but their challenge for the future will be to stay ahead of the big boys – if Diversion can make the economics work so can much bigger players. Ultimately, companies like Diversion may be forced into niche markets but for the next few years they could well build a nice business and hope that the big boys decide to acquire them.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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