Bitcasa - a Different Kind of Cloud
Posted on May 19th, 2013
I've started several blog posts about Bitcasa since I began beta testing it in the middle of last year. Most of these posts were rants and concerns however and I felt it wouldn't be fair to post them without giving Bitcasa some more time to fix their problems. I also didn't want to start talking about it or recommending it to friends before it was ready. As of last week the desktop clients (especially the Mac client) have finally reached a point where I feel it is stable enough to use - and to talk about.
How is Bitcasa different?
These days there is no shortage of 'me-too' companies trying to clone Dropbox. Bitcasa is not Dropbox. First off, they are not trying to solve the 'sync' problem. Secondly they are not selling you 'mega bytes'. Or to put it another way they are not charging per per megabyte. They offer one of the few 'unlimited' storage plans around. The only other unlimited plans I know of are backup services, and they don't give you the flexibility that Bitcasa does.
So what is it? To put it in simple terms, Bitcasa gives you a 'Infinite' virtual hard drive in the cloud. It mounts on your desktop like an external hard drive - only one what never runs out of space. Frequently accessed data is automatically accessed locally (there is no manual control yet) and the rest is pulled from the cloud on demand. There are other features of course like version control, de-duplication with full encryption as well as more features promised, but just the simple idea of infinite cloud storage is enough to make it worth taking a look. They support Mac, Windows and Linux (alpha at least) as well as iOS and Android devices. They also have a Web portal. One of the coolest thing about the Web portal and mobile clients is that they will transcode and stream media. For me that means I can access my full home video collection from any web enabled device without any local storage concerns - and without waiting for the full video to download. (It's like having my own personal Netflix).
Real World Scenarios
Besides the obvious use case of getting a backup of all your stuff in the cloud I want to give a couple scenarios that are not really possible with the Dropboxes of the world. First lets take a look at the trend towards small, tiny notebooks like the Macbook air. They are very easy to carry with you and are pretty powerful. But they come with tiny SSD drives. So you have to decide what to take with you, and what to leave behind. Imagine instead that you could just 'mount' all your data and media from the cloud. Now as long as you had an Internet connection, that tiny 11" Macbook air could have access to your entire terabyte collection of music, photos, and video regardless of local drive size.
Or for a more extreme example, lets take the case of your phone. It has even less storage space than the Macbook air. But imagine you had your entire collection of home video and DVD backups (fair use copies of DVDs you own) in Bitcasa. You could access them from anywhere at anytime. The Bitcasa mobile app is smart enough to stream the video down at a lower quality more appropriate for your device to save on bandwidth costs - the heavy lifting is done at the server side. Though I haven't tested it, I believe the web portal will even work with a Chromebook, letting you access your media on a device with virtually no local storage. Now that is cool. The mobile apps also support automatically uploading all the photos you take on your phone. With infinite storage you won't have to worry about using ally your cloud space with your photos.
I admit I'm a bit of an early adopter. I'll try most anything tech related - if it is free. But very, very rarely will I actually hand out my hard earned cash for a technology subscription. Yet that is exactly what I did with Bitcasa, as soon as it left beta. Now as a beta tester I did get a very good deal for my first year, but unless something better comes along, I won't have any problem paying full price next year. For 99.00 / year or 10.00 a month you can have unlimited storage in the cloud that you can just access like a regular drive - no hassle. I currently have around over 500GB stored in Bitcasa. That would cost me 500.00 a year with Dropbox! I now have all my irreplaceable home movies and photos safely backed up, offsite, in the cloud. That peace of mind alone is worth the price, the rest, like near instant access from any device, is just a bonus.