When It Comes to Cloud Storage, There’s a New, Old Competitor In Town
By Jason Reynolds
One year ago yesterday, a task force of New Zealand special forces held a raid on a NZ $30 million compound at the request of the United States FBI, shutting down one of the largest cloud storage sites on the internet, MegaUpload. Despite of, or perhaps in spite of this investigation, the original founder of MegaUpload.com announced yesterday (yes, the 1 year anniversary of his mansion being raided), the opening of a new cloud storage site, Mega.co.uz, which aims directly at similar offerings from Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Service, Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
In an exclusive interview two days ago in the Guardian (UK), Dotcom tells reporter Toby Manhire, ”We want to show the world that we are innovators. We want to show the world that cloud storage has a right to exist. And, of course, when you launch something like this, you can expect some controversy. The content industry is going to react really emotionally about this. The US government will probably try and destroy the new business … you’ve got to stand up against that, and fight that, and I’m doing that … I will not allow them to chill me.”
The new cloud storage site is impressive. There are four levels of accounts, one free and three premium. They break down as follows:
- The Free online storage locker offers a whopping 50 Gigabytes of storage, and the premium paid services are just as impressive.
- For *$9.99 month or $99.99 year, you can get a Pro I account with 500GB of space and 1 TB bandwidth.
- $19.99 month or $199.99 year nets you a Pro II account with 2 Terabytes of online storage and 4 TB bandwidth.
- Pro III account will offer 4 TB of storage and 8 TB bandwidth for only $29.99 month, or a discounted rate of $299.99/year.
*Above amounts are listed in Euros
Compared to Microsoft SkyDrive’s 7GB, DropBox’s 2GB, Amazon Cloud’s 5GB, or even Google Drive’s 5GB, the free 50GB plan that Mega is offering is huge. A comparison of the premium services shows the others falling just as far behind. For example, 1TB on Google Drive is $49.99 month.
Setting up an account couldn’t be easier. It is recommended by Mega that you use Chrome, Google’s web browser. If you are using another browser, you can download and install Chrome from www.google.com/chrome. Once you have done that, simply go to mega.co.nz and click the button labeled “Register” in the upper right. You will be prompted to provide your name, your email address and create a password. A checkbox indicates that you understand and agree to Mega’s Terms of Service. Click that, and press create, and a verification email will be sent to the email address you signed up with. Once you get that email (It only took this reviewer seconds to receive his), click the link, enter your password once more, and you will be taken to the File Manager.
Other “Mega” Benefits to Mega Cloud Storage
The File Manager screen looks very similar to a file explorer in Windows or iOS. You can create new folders, delete others, check your inbox and even manage contacts. This latter feature is important, because it will be another way to share files with other users. Across the top are buttons to upload individual files or complete folders.
As reported by NextWeb, every user will apparently be getting their own Cloud Drive, with the ability to download and upload files, as well as sort them into folders. The File transfer section meanwhile shows what you would expect: file name, size, transfer type, status progress bar with a percentage, speed, elapsed time, and remaining time. Even more interesting, there’s an Inbox, and a Contacts section, suggesting you’ll be able to message other users and keep a tab on what others are doing on the service.
The upload speeds are fairly impressive. I was able to upload two chunky e-book textbooks that I own in just a few seconds. Sharing the files was even easier. You are given an auto-generated link that includes a public key that can decrypt your file. Send this to whoever you want to share with, and they can click the link, download your file from the cloud and it is decrypted for them to see on their computer.
It is this encryption/decryption that really separates Mega from its competition. In light of the founder’s earlier (and ongoing) legal woes with the US Government and the MPAA over alleged copyright infringement, Mega has instituted a way to allow them to host any kind of data without knowledge. In storing files to the cloud, they are encrypted with a 2048 bit RSA encryption that is stored on your own computer. This private key ensures that data held on Mega’s servers are indecipherable, even to them.
When you (or someone you provide a public key to) download the file, the encrypted data is downloaded first, then decrypted on the client side, thus ensuring that Mega never sees any unencrypted data. In addition, because of this, if Mega is ever served a subpoena that requires them to give up data that was stored by a particular user, the data that they might turn over would be completely useless because Mega would not have the key to decrypt the data.
Mega or Not So Mega Issues?
There are some issues with Mega that a potential user should be aware of. First, while the service is starting up, expect some hiccups. As of this writing, the founder, Kim Dotcom, has tweeted that there were 100,000 signups in the first hour. This means that there might be service interruptions from the millions of users trying to access the site. As this business model proves itself and Mega gains hosting partners, expect the service to smooth out as increased server locations and bandwidth are increased to meet demand.
Secondly, be aware that your data is only as safe as your encryption key. This means that you should only share data with people that you know and trust. Lastly, it is yet to be seen how the US Government will react to this new business model. According to NextWeb, the DOJ will be watching it closely.
The closure of MegaUpload meant that users lost more than 25 Petabytes of data combined (One Petabyte is 1000 Gigabytes). Don’t upload irreplaceable things, like the only copy of Grandma’s home movies, just yet.
So, should you run out and sign up for a Mega account? It is this reviewer’s opinion that yes, you should. The benefits greatly outweigh the potential downsides, most of which will be smoothed out as Kim Dotcom’s business venture grows. Cloud storage and the inevitable file sharing it brings does not mean that rampant piracy is in the future, any more than being able to rip your own CD’s and burn music mixes for your car did. What it does mean is that you can access your legally owned music and digital movies while at a friend’s house, or that with the right link, grandma and grandpa can see your latest home movies and pictures from the comfort of their own home.
It will be extremely interesting to see how this latest growth of cloud storage plays out in the legal arena. But in the meantime, this reviewer, along with millions of others, is embracing the future of online file storage now. What about you? Will you use it? If you do, let us know what you think about it. And if you don’t, you can still let us know what you think about it because we love to hear what YOU think!