Mozy redefines 'Unlimited'

It means 50MB; more unlimited is 125MB, but costs twice as much

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Unlimited free or very low-cost online storage was one of those things you knew had to go away at some point, like when Pets.com thought it was more convenient and cheaper to ask customers to pay to have a 50lb. bag of pet food delivered rather than pay a dollar more to pick it up at a grocery store they had to go to anyway.

Online storage is handy for some things -- mainly documents it would be too much of a pain to email or that you don't want to carry around on a flash drive (though why, I don't know).

It's impractical for most backup, recovery and other uses just because of the relatively slow upload/download speed.

Even for purpose-build online backup services, it often makes more sense for a customer to back up data from one machine to a tape or disk, then back up the backup to the Web version, according to Jason Donahue, CEO of Acronis, which specializes in bakcup and offers it online as well.

Mozy, among the best-known free or way-cheap unlimited online storage companies, is now apparently cutting back on the whole "unlimited" thing.

Until now Mozy has offered unlimited storage for $4.95 per month. Now 50GB will cost $5.99 per month, or $9.99 per month for $125 GB.

Still not a terribly high cost, but multiply $4.95 by its million customers and you get, well, still not terribly much, at least to storage mega-giant EMC, which bought Mozy in 2007.

At least one of the proximate causes was "power users" storing big video or image files on Mozy.

But "free" just isn't a sustainable price for storage or any other online service. Gartner analyst Adam Couture expects other storage providers -- such as Carbonite -- to raise prices or start charging. He expects other cloud services to move in that direction as well.

It's not true that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch; it's just that no matter how much sense it makes to the cook to give lunch away free, eventually you have to kick in a few bucks to help buy the burgers.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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