IT Trends | Research

User Storage Shifting to the Cloud

The arrival of the "post-PC" era is leading users to turn to the cloud for their storage needs. In fact, by 2016, about a third of consumer digital content will be stored on cloud-based services, according to a new Gartner research report.

The report, "Forecast: Consumer Digital Storage Needs, 2010-2016," estimated that just 7 percent of consumer content was stored in the cloud last year; but that's expected to grow to 36 percent over the next four years.

The change in practice has several causes. Historically, users have stored digital content on their own computers. "But as we enter the post-PC era, consumers are using multiple connected devices, the majority of which are equipped with cameras. This is leading to a massive increase in new user-generated content that requires storage," said Shalini Verma, principal research analyst at Gartner. "With the emergence of the personal cloud, this fast-growing consumer digital content will quickly get disaggregated from connected devices."

The "personal cloud" is a term that the company uses to describe how the user will shift away from the personal computer and toward the use of multiple devices all syncing back to the same online resource.

Cloud adoption is also being carried along by a dramatic growth in the amount of storage users need. The research firm estimated that the average storage per household would grow from 464 GB in 2011 to 3.3 TB in 2016.

Whereas previously those storage needs might have been addressed by users adding new hard disk drives or upgrading to a larger capacity, floods in Thailand in the first half of this year have resulted in a shortage in the supply of drives and consolidation among HDD makers has resulted in greater producer control over pricing, driving up costs and inspiring users to try out cloud storage adoption as an alternative.

Also, users are simply becoming more comfortable with the use of the cloud by virtue of their social networking habits. According to Gartner, the bulk of the cloud storage needs of consumers in the near term will be met by social media sites such as Facebook, which offer free storage space for uploading photos and videos for social sharing. Verma noted that while online backup services such as Dropbox and iCloud may be the most well known cloud storage providers, the amount of storage they allocate to consumers is "small relative to that maintained by social media sites."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.