Online File Storage: The Chinese are Coming!

Now that the Chinese economy is in its stride, Chinese Internet service providers have grown rapidly to meet a burgeoning demand. But why stop at one and a half billion people, when there are another five or six billion elsewhere on the planet? Chinese ISPs like Tencent, the largest in China, are clearly eyeing the international market. They are also making free online storage offers to customers that leave some Western counterparts looking, well, ridiculous.

“Store EVERYTHING You Have for Free”

This (if it was part of the promotional marketing) would probably not be a vain promise. That’s because where established online file storage providers like Dropbox offer a few free gigabytes, the Chinese way is to offer free terabytes. Yes, you read that right. Chinese provider Baidu Pan offers two terabytes. And Tencent offers ten (terabytes) of free storage. 360 Cloud Drive offers 360 GB of storage (generous by any other standards) and then upgrades clients to 10 terabytes at signup.  The company’s client application for Windows and Mac speeds file upload and download (browser X-loads are possible too). You can also share files and folders over the Net with anyone, whether they have a 360 Cloud Drive account or not.

Brush Up on Your Chinese

There is just one wrinkle however, even if it is gradually being ironed out. Desktop file management clients and even signup interfaces may be in Chinese. If you can get past this hurdle, then you will be rewarded with huge storage riches. Enterprising non-Chinese users have been running the instructions through online translators to see which buttons to click on and when. However, the ISPs, Tencent among them, are it seems working on increased English language capability.

Is “All You Can Eat” a Good Idea?

The thing is, what would you really do with 10 terabytes of online file storage space? As the average consumer, you’d have to take a huge number of photos (for instance) to start making a dent in this number. By way of example, 1 gigabyte is good for about 100 to 400 reasonably high resolution images (this depends on your camera, of course). To fill up your Tencent or 360 Cloud Drive space to the max, plan on taking between 1 and 4 million such photos. That’s about one per second for seven years (without sleeping either). Naturally, providers everywhere have played the ‘free space game’ for decades, knowing that very few users will come anywhere near the maximum. But is this huge storage limit being offered at the expense of other items – like functionality or security?

Not Everybody is Taking the Bait

Japanese authorities have warned their own national organizations to exercise care with such online storage enticements. They are concerned that such storage facilities necessarily mean data being vulnerable to breaches of confidentiality. Tencent has spotted the potential problem and advertises its storage server farms as being located outside China. That may help those concerned that Chinese agencies might take a little too close an interest in their files. However, anyone with a ton of commercial or family videos (they use up space faster than photos) and nowhere to store them might not be so picky when all those terabytes can be had – just for the asking.