Web 2.0 can work for storage

The internet has revolutionised the way that organisations operate, and data storage can also benefit from this new way of working

With several major IT suppliers discussing their Web 2.0 strategies over the past few weeks, it seems that soon everyone will be jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon as a way to sell users more IT systems.

At first, it may not be obvious where storage fits with Web 2.0. Although it is a given that user-generated content - a pillar of Web 2.0 - will increase storage requirements, possibly in a less predictable way than internal content, unless you are planning to be the next MySpace or YouTube, that is unlikely to be a big issue.

The impact on storage is quite the reverse. On the consumer-facing web there are any number of ways to share information. Sites such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail offer users an almost unlimited amount of e-mail storage. In contrast, corporate e-mail is crippled by wholly impractical inbox size limits.

The next generation of employees, brought up on Web 2.0 technologies and unlimited inbox sizes, will find corporate e-mail counter-productive. And when the corporate e-mail system begins to creak or the inbox is full, users will simply switch to personal e-mail accounts.

It may not suit everyone, but web e-mail does have its advantages, particularly given the attraction of a third-party managing the storage and archiving.

Now let's take this to another level. E-mail is one thing, but the same principles apply to storage. There is no reason why storage cannot be accessed via an internet connection.

Every day thousands of people log onto Salesforce.com's pay-per-use customer relationship management application via a web browser. Is it that far-fetched to expect that storage will be delivered in a similar way in the future?

Yes, internet access to applications - particularly browser-based applications - may have its drawbacks, as such applications tend to be restricted by the limitations of the web. But internet storage is completely different. Documents and folders are accessed the same way and shared disc drives look the same. Thanks to the IP revolution, the network administrator simply routes all storage access to the external provider's servers.

There are many people who will argue that this could never work, it is insecure, not robust enough for business, and users will never accept it. But it can be secured and users are happy with remote access. The virtual private network has made it possible to connect to remote servers over the internet in a safe and secure manner.

As for robustness, let us not forget that the internet's forefather, Arpanet, was conceived as a resilient network for the US military that could maintain communications if parts of the network failed.

So while the industry continues to develop the next big concept in storage, it is easy to forget that sometimes a less sophisticated approach - based on proven concepts and technology - can often solve modern storage problems elegantly.

MySpace, YouTube successes open door to Web 2.0 dangers >>

Web development pay rates surge as Web 2.0 takes off >>

Listen to Cliff Saran speak to Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics - How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, on the economics of Web 2.0 >>

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