Nearly 15 years ago, a little company called Juno provided free internet and email access in exchange for displaying an ad-bar during internet browsing. The storage space you got with the mail client was minimal by today’s standards, and even when you switched their pay service you only got about 5 megabytes of storage space. Fast forward a few years; Microsoft and Yahoo are in the e-mail game, competing with the likes of AOL. Yahoo’s mail service begins offering a 100-megabyte email service, which Microsoft’s Hotmail soon matches. Even later, Google enters the market, offering an unprecedented 1 gigabyte of data, though only for users invited to the beta test of their Gmail service. Now, many email providers are in the gigabyte game, though Google still remains one of the largest email service providers, offering over 7 gigabytes of storage for the cost of a signup.
Of course, along with the mail storage offered by these providers came websites offering a similar service, though for data instead of mail. Sites like Rapidshare and Megaupload became hosts for data that consumers needed to be stored, which they would then be able to send to others to retrieve, or could get it back themselves at a later date or different location.
With a push for faster data transfers and superior internet providers will come an increased ability to store data online; not only in “cyberlockers” like those listed above but also through new services which will be able to provide data over the internet in real-time. Google already has services which work like this to an extent (Google Docs, for example,) though these are small-scale examples. A larger-scale example of this might be storing a large program on a private off-site server which you could connect to and run from any computer. The potential uses for this are limitless, though the clear advantage would be the ability to produce and store programs larger than the average consumer level hard-drive can reasonably hold. Of course, the issue of processing comes into play, but that could be remedied itself by utilizing on-site processing to perform tasks, and shipping coded data on the fly.
As the world tries to find the next “big thing” in storage, will we continue to develop personal physical media, and simply increase the storage space of our internal/external hard drives and disk mediums, or will we move toward more digital solutions? The answer to this question will almost certainly be decided by the market, but either way, the future looks bright.