i-drive Surpasses One Petabyte of Online Storage

i-drive isn’t the only company offering free personal storage space on the Net. It isn’t even the most generous with its offering. But thanks to a bevy of key partnerships, including deals with 35 universities nationwide and popular online music plays like MP3.com, it may very well be the largest.

The San Francisco-based company announced today it has topped one petabyte of file storage in its users’ accounts. This is the first time that any company in the space, including i-drive’s two main competitors, driveway and X:drive, have made such a claim.

“Our growth rate is phenomenal,” says Jeff Bonforte, chairman and founder of i-drive. “These numbers clearly demonstrate that our users continue to increase their reliance on online storage. Whether storing documents, favorite MP3s, eCommerce receipts, or family photos, our members recognize that i-drive is the most practical and reliable way to store and access files from multiple locations.”

A petabyte is one quadrillion bytes, or a little over 1000 terabytes. From a more “manageable” perspective, that equals the comparative storage capacity of 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets full of paper, 500 million floppy disks, 1.7 million CD-Roms, 200 KB for every person on the planet, or the equivalent of 100 Libraries of Congress

Or one really really really nice picture of Britney Spears.

Interestingly, while i-drive has reached the one petabyte milestone in logical storage, its physical storage requirements are much smaller because the company’s distributed file metadata database enables single sourcing of common files across millions of i-drive users.

“In other words, i-drive physically stores just one copy of each unique file regardless of how many accounts have that file stored,” says Bonforte. “This enables users to instantaneously transfer large files between accounts.”

Despite the growth, online storage still has a way to go. Technical issues with all the players are still fairly common, especially when trying to access the services behind a firewall. Ron Jones, an analysts with San Jose-based Dataquest, says major consolidation is in store for the industry, and it still remains to be seen whether companies offering free storage space can achieve profitability, something none of them have yet do.

The issue of personal storage also taps into murky copyright waters, most notably represented in the $53.4 million MP3.com coughed up to Seagram’s Universal Music Group last November after the music house sued the company over its music storage service, claiming it allowed users to share songs through a network similar to that of Redwood City-based Napster.

In the meantime, surfers prone to clutter might want to get a piece of the peta while it lasts.

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