Consumers are flocking to cloud-based resources, with analyst firm IHS predicting there could be a half-billion personal cloud storage subscriptions by the end of this year with double-digit growth levels expected for at least the next half decade.
IHS estimates that personal cloud storage subscriptions have increased from 300 million last year to 500 million this year, and they're expected to hit 625 million next year. By 2017, there could be 1.3 billion personal cloud subscriptions from major providers such as Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple's iCloud and Google Drive.
But IHS says as consumers increasingly use these services they will expect a seamless ability to upload various types of media -- photos, videos, music and documents -- to the cloud from a range of devices, while being able to access the data from any of the devices they're using.
That, IHS predicts, will be hard to do.
MORE CLOUD: 12 hot cloud computing companies worth watching
CHEAP TECHNOLOGY! Great tech for $25 or less: Affordable gadget roundup
Cloud providers, such as Dropbox, Box, Carbonite, SugarSync and Syncplicity, will be at a disadvantage because offering pure-play cloud storage by itself is a cash-flow negative business model, the firm says. The real value, for both businesses and consumers, will be adding services on top of the cloud-based storage.
IHS believes mobile network operators are well positioned to make a play in the space. "Wireless operators are uniquely positioned to provide such a digital vault -- or trusted hub -- for digital media assets," the firm concludes in a recent report. "Unlike Google and Facebook, wireless operators and carriers do not need to mine the data for marketing purposes." That, the firm says, will help assuage concerns consumers have with posting information in clouds of major corporations, as fragmentation, portability and security remain concerns that vendors will have to address.
Mobile operators, it says, have the ability to offer cloud-storage services through their subscription services, while providing integration with hardware devices their customers are already using. To build out the services, IHS says mobile operators may need to team with pure-play cloud offerings, but ultimately they may be in a better position to offer attractive options for consumers.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.