Here’s Why I Love(d) Bitcasa, But You May Not Get The Chance To
A couple of months back, a friend forwarded an email to me that he had received from his coworker. “Save 20% on infinite storage!” Infinite? I had dabbled with Box and Dropbox, and regularly use Google Drive for document creation and storage, but none of them appealed enough to switch away from a free plan to something more substantial.
As with any new cloud storage service that comes from an unknown (unlike the storage services offered by heavyweights like Microsoft, Amazon or Google), there’s always an element of doubt. If the company can’t stay afloat, it could close up shop at any given moment, taking your data along with it. Bitcasa was well funded by venture capital, which is a good sign, and their push to the market had been strong. Offering unlimited storage for such a relatively low yearly price seemed unsustainable on one hand, but given how the average user needs relatively little in terms of storage, I could see this being profitable regardless. When a new round of venture capital came in a week or so ago, I felt confident that the service was here to stay, and that my data was safe.
Everything changed yesterday, and that’s why this is no longer an article about what a great service this is, and how strongly I recommend it. In fact, given that it’s only been two months since I’ve been experimenting with Bitcasa, while I’ve talked about it here and there to friends and family, I was planning on living with it for another month or so before formally endorsing it. Sadly, now it seems I’m no longer able to. As of yesterday, Bitcasa has shifted to a pricing plan that takes it well out of the realm of possibility for most.
Once 100$ a year, their infinite service (in essence the only thing that convinced me to move to a paid subscription) is now 1000$ a year, and that’s for consumers only. Business pricing is coming soon. Needless to say, a price increase of such severity is being met with considerable pushback. With grandfathered clients worried about how long their 100$/year renewal would be honored, Bitcasa’s best response was met with warranted suspicion:
As an existing client, I’m grandfathered in. Wooohooo, right? Well, the celebration ends there. Unless I’m guaranteed this price in perpetuity, a sudden move like this serves to simply underline our vulnerability as consumers in a digital market. If you didn’t understand the hubbub when Google pulled its Reader service, imagine that had been Gmail or Youtube instead. We entwine our lives with the services of companies that could pull them at any time, or change the price for our access at any moment, which means that even the established companies I mentioned earlier shouldn’t be taken for granted when it comes to the digital storage of your data.
With Bitcasa, the biggest risk at this point, is that at these prices, they will most likely cease to attract the market share necessary to keep the service going. Meaning, while these prices may make sense for their bottom line in the short term, they’re unlikely to attract the volume of customers necessary for survival in the longterm. That puts my data at risk.
In fact, the irony of all this is that existing, grandfathered, clients are actually the most vulnerable. On the one hand, we’re being told that there are “honestly no plans” to eventually raise the price on us, but that’s difficult to trust given yesterday’s drastic hike. On the other, we need to believe in the company’s ability to continue doing business and maintain our data if this blunder (characterized as a trainwreck by Bitcasa’s former CEO) translates into decreased market share. After all, this is a business that only came out of beta at the beginning of this year, so its customer base, while having exceeded growth expectations, is nowhere near that of the bigger players.
For me, this boils down to one simple question: do I continue to upload more data? I’ve paid for it, so I will, but my offline backups will have to be meticulous, since I no longer have the optimism and confidence in the service I once did. I will be following this closely, and while Bitcasa staff have been helpful and diligent in responding to customer complaints, I am not convinced that this will be enough to steady the course. Thankfully, there are other companies offering unlimited storage and many of the same benefits of Bitcasa, so while I will be looking at those closely when it comes time to renew, for the moment, I will be staying put.