Nothing separates the looky-loos from the serious customers like asking them to pay. Phil Ressler, Xdrive's senior vice president of marketing, expects to lose 90 percent of his 9.5 million customers as a result of his company's new $4.95 monthly minimum. But he figures he needs less than 20,000 users to make it a go, and he's already converted more than 95,000 to paying customers.
To further its professional appeal, Xdrive has upgraded its software platform to provide faster transfer speeds, heightened security, peer-to-peer file sharing and tech support. Through Xdrive, you can send files as e-mail attachments using any Web-enabled device, including mobile phones.
The company has also struck a deal with Microsoft so that its site is one of the options for storing Web pages online offered by the Web Publishing Wizard of Windows XP.
Partnerships like that can help companies attract customers in bulk. That's how My Docs Online of Naples, Florida, gets most of its subscribers. Bell Mobility and Nextel customers use My Docs' service to receive, view and forward files as e-mail attachments using Web-enabled devices.
My Docs never bought into the ad-supported model. Except for a few thousand Beta testers, individual subscriptions start at $34.95 per year for 50MB.
Although FreeDrive still offers a free 20MB "Test Drive," try to find out about it from the company's Web site. Arguably the largest storage provider, with 15.5 million subscribers, FreeDrive would rather you upgrade to at least a $4.95 monthly subscription.
FreeDrive president and COO Dave Falter says about 30 percent of his 2 million business users have followed suit-that's 30 times the rate of consumer upgrades.
FreeDrive subscribers enjoy online chat, private and public file sharing, Web page clipping and access to files from Palm handhelds. Companies can negotiate prices for storage in 1GB increments.
The best prices for large amounts of storage can be found at Everything Backup, which sidestepped the temptation to provide free storage. The still-small company's subscriptions start at $34.95 per month for 1GB of space.
Like most of the other providers, Everything Backup downloads an application to your desktop that you can use to map your drives. Everything Backup's software icon also lets you schedule automated backups of single files, directories or entire drives.
Online storage will never replace your local hard drive, but it's a necessary adjunct. And if you're storing sensitive data online, shouldn't it be in a secure facility whose operator has some chance of being there tomorrow?
| Room To Let|
Back it up. Download it. They'll take care of the rest.
Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's technology editor. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.