Who’ll Pay for Online Storage?

1Vision Software, Inc. thinks it has a revolutionary idea: it plans to charge for online storage.

1Disk.com is a web storage drive that operates as a network server, allowing users to open files directly on the server with no file download. 1Disk.com allows users to track, find and open all files stored on the web storage drive, and all removable media, through a virtual database that appears as just another drive letter in Windows Explorer, Kelsey Kennedy, VP sales and marketing, told ASP News.

At last count, Kennedy found 26 companies offering online storage, most of which were business-to-consumer sites, commonly called B2C, which Kennedy refers to as “Free2C” for their tendency to offer their services for free while somehow trying to monetize the eyeballs through advertising.

Onedisk.com will target businesses, specifically ISPs and ASPs who will in turn resell the product to their customers. “Instead of having 26 sites giving away storage to consumers, we hope to have 6,000 ISPs and ASPs selling storage to business customers,” Kennedy said.

Onedisk.com is based on a patented Persistent File System that basically allows all files a user saves to external sources, including removable media or online storage, to appear to be mapped to a drive letter where the user can view the file whether or not the external source is resident. The external source must still be resident in order to work on the file, but Onedisk helps out by telling the user the type of source and its label to make it easier to find your files.

Onedisk.com consists of a piece of client software on the user’s PC and a server piece installed at the ISP or ASP. The difference is the method of accessing the files, Kennedy said. Most of the Free2C sites are based on FTP (file transfer protocol), so a user must download the whole file, work on it, and then upload the changed file. Onedisk.com allows concurrent users record-level access to work on files as if they were on a mapped drive, such as a local hard drive or a network drive.

Uses for this application include the obvious, such as document sharing and collaboration, as well as backup and recovery. But they also extend to areas like multi-location POS (point of sale), multi-user database access for CRM, accounting or ERP, or file server replacement for small businesses, Kennedy said.

“With a POS database, it won’t work if you have to upload and download every transaction. You either have to have 8 databases in 8 locations, or an expensive WAN setup,” Kennedy said.

Onedisk.com is proving attractive to ISPs for two main reasons: it provides another revenue stream, and it saves them bandwidth. “It simplifies the process because it happens over a local connection rather than the backbone of the Internet,” Kennedy said. “If someone else sells storage to their customers, the customer uses the ISP’s bandwidth without providing any revenue.”

ISPs also like Onedisk.com because it is sold on a revenue-sharing basis, and automatically does the administration, provisioning and billing, Kennedy said. “You can’t sell a product to ISPs if it doesn’t do billing,” he added.

Onedisk.com is entering a beta testing phase now with 6 ISPs so far. A release date is expected by the end of the year. Other products include the shrink-wrapped 1Disk file management system and the 1Safe advanced data protection, backup and restore system.

Other online storage providers are already making the move to B2B. See related ASP News story on InternetNews.com, Driveway Shifts Gears , Oct 9th 2000.

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