At last, some innovation in the online storage marketspace. There are numerous online storage services eg. Xdrive, Box.net, Mozy, Omnidrive, Streamload and iStorage. The typical online strorage involves users uploading their files to remote servers for storage/backup and able to retrieve and access the files anywhere.
Wuala, going public beta today, is offering its innovative, new kind of online storage application. Unlike existing online storage services, it adopted the concept of distributed computing, by harnessing idle storage resources of participating computers. Here are two interesting ideas introduced by Wuala:
- Storage, Bittorrent-style Typical online storage requires you to upload files to centralized servers. Wuala does it differently. Each file uploaded to online storage encrypted (128 bit AES algorithm for encryption and 2048 bit RSA for authentication) and break into fragments. The fragments of the files are then stored in servers and across its grid network. The grid consists of idle resources of participating computers (eg. users who trade their idle storage for additional online storage capacity). For redundancy, your encrypted files are stored in Wuala’s servers, in your computer’s local cache. When a user download a file, he downloads pieces of the files from different sources. This makes downloading and uploading of files faster compared to conventional online storage services.
- From Storage to Online Storage When Wuala gives you additional storage space, it just convert your local storage into online storage. With the online storage, you get to access your files anywhere, even if your computer is not online. Rather than giving you storage space on Wuala servers, they enable greater storage capacity online.
To start using Wuala, you need to download a desktop client, available for Mac, Linux and Windows. With the latest version of Wuala, you can either install Wuala desktop client (Mac, Linux, Windows) on your computer or you can opt to use its web-based version (especially useful if you are accessing Wuala from public terminals e.g. Internet cafe). You get 1Gb storage space to start off. There are several ways to increase the storage capacity:
- Invite your friends to sign-up (you’ll get an additional 1Gb for each friend signed up) (during private Alpha period only).
- Purchase additional storage from Wuala (10 GB for $25, 50 GB for $95, 100 GB for $160, 500 GB for $630, 1 TB for $1000 per year)
- Trade your idle storage for additional online storage space (only if you can stay online for about 4 hours a day)
Wuala blurs the boundaries between desktop and web. Even on its web-based client, it almost feel like one is interacting with a locally installed application. You can right-click to perform various functions e.g. download, share, cut, copy link, copy file, rename, delete, and add comments.
Wuala – ‘Public’ Storage Area
You can set the access control folders – Private, Shared or Public. ‘Private’ means invincible to everyone; ‘Shared’ allows you to share with selected friends (password-protected); ‘Public’ enables everyone to access the folder. The ‘Public’ files are shared in the ‘World’ section (see screenshot above). Wuala social-ize its storage with the ‘World’, where community members share document, photo, music and video. You don’t need Wuala account to access public and password-protected files (of course, you’ll still need password from the file owner to access the restricted file).
Dominik Grolimund and Luzius Meisser started development of Wuala some 3.5 years ago at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). In 2007, it transformed from a research project into a start-up venture with the formation of Caleido AG in Switzerland. During its closed beta period, it has over 30,000 users using the application.
Wuala plans to open-source its web start and persistent hash map during the upcoming OpenExpo 2008 in Switzerland. Opening up its storage ‘platform’ to third-party developers is also in the pipeline. Wuala has identified three revenue streams, namely advertisement, photo printing (commission for each photo printed directly from Wuala) and selling of storage.
Note: As the time of this posting, Wuala website went offline. “We are moving our server and will be right back.”