The internet weather has been turning somewhat cloudy in recent years and by saying that I now don't mean to start another discussion about (important) Net neutrality here but rather to bring up the smooth transition to a trend of moving data to indefinite "shadowy" remote storage sometimes referred to as "The Cloud", the shape and volume of which is mostly determined by various storage providers, instead of keeping it safe and sound on "trustworthy" local data storage.
Chances are you are already entrusting this mystical cloud with your data by dropping it into the famous box, watching it skydive, uploading it with unseen simplicity or just backing it up securely with Mozy (ran out of metaphors on this one). The catch is, this fluffy "cloud" in reality consists of hardware that doesn't come in lite or free versions, thus inflicting these otherwise great services with individual usage caps on free accounts, usually set at around 2GB with the exception of SkyDrive which has some other disadvantages, though. Of course, obtaining additional on-line storage with a paid membership is a decent choice... Until you familiarize yourself with the idea propelling Wuala.
Update: Wuala announced in August 2015 that it will shut down the service on November 15, 2015.
Wuala takes a unique approach to secure online storage. After registering for a free account, you immediately get 1 free gigabyte of online storage managed through a convenient cross-platform client (JRE required). What? 1GB, are you kidding? Behold, this is merely the beginning. Obviously, if you are serious about full-scale online backup of the majority of your data or just need to store/share large files in a long-term fashion, 2 gigs just won't cut it and Wuala's 1GB won't even cut through half. That is, unless you buy additional storage at competitive rates or, even better, begin trading your local diskspace for remote space.
Wuala doesn't stop at simply storing user data in encrypted form on their back-bone servers. It boosts its overall accessibility, speed and reliability ahead of the competition using deliberate redundancy - by spreading encrypted chunks of received files over a vast network of peers who decided to become "pro" members merely by giving up an unused portion of their hard drive in exchange for secure online storage accessible from anywhere and due to the very nature of the system expandable to sizes never seen before with free accounts.
Who is eligible to participate in this storage-trading network you ask? Well, all you need is some spare space on your HDD, reliable internet connection and the ability to meet a requirement of staying on-line in the long term for at least 17% of the time. What if you fail to meet the last criteria later on? Don't worry. If your on-line presence drops, you won't be allowed to upload more until you match up again but you will NOT lose your data. Clearly, your disk space is of little use if it cannot be accessed at least now and then. Therefore, the calculation determining the amount of online space you receive in exchange for your local space takes into account two factors: amount of shared space and your online presence. Simple math tells us a realistic rate to expect would be somewhere between 170MB and 700MB for 1GB of your harddisk space, which is not bad, provided you have some spare gigabytes to pass around. I, for instance, have been online for about 35% of the time (and rising) since signing up a few days ago, thus earning a total of 8GB online so far for the 20GBs shared with the world. With my 0.5TB HDD half-empty, I'm aiming for about 100GB of online space in the future... Oh, did I mention Wuala keeps old file versions and lets you share uploaded files, create public groups or set up folders on your computer to be synced online regularly?
To make myself clear, I still don't put full trust in the "The Cloud" with my data. I always use it to either mirror my data to remote storage for backup purposes or upload files of less importance with the mere intention of sharing/accessing them online. If your data is really valuable to you, never rely solely on remote storage, no matter how extremely safe and secure it allegedly is.
Got some spare gigabytes to share with the internets? Don't hesitate to join in! Got more questions about security, privacy and sharing options? Check out the extensive FAQ.