Thai flood disk shortage drives users to cloud

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Thai flood disk shortage drives users to cloud

Online storage services weigh on hard disk market.

Consumer cloud providers experienced "unusual" growth over the past year as the services became attractive alternatives to expensive hard disk drives in the wake of Thailand's floods, according to Gartner.

The floods, which occurred late last year, were Thailand's worst in more than 50 years and affected major hard drive manufacturing plants.

At the time, analyst firm iSuppli predicted a 30 percent drop in hard disk drive shipments for the fourth quarter of 2012.

The shortage saw major consumer drive makers such as Western Digital raise their hard disk prices, which was expected to flow to PC makers. In addition, enterprise disk makers such as HDS and NetApp also increased disk prices.

In the consumer space, the shortage and higher prices led consumers to examine alternatives; with cloud computing emerging as a winner.

Gartner said that the floods "provided an impetus for cloud storage adoption, leading to an unusual overall growth rate [for such services] between 2011 and 2012".

However, the adoption of cloud services is unlikely to be a short-term swap-out for users.

Rather, the analyst firm sees consumer reliance on cloud services increasing, reducing overall reliance on disk-based storage in the home.

The firm predicted the average storage per household will grow from 464 gigabytes in 2011 to 3.3 terabytes in 2016.

Over the same period, the share of that stored on-premises — in a user's house — is expected to fall from 93 percent to 64 percent in 2016.

Put another way, seven percent of a consumer's data was stored in the cloud last year. By 2016, that figure is expected to climb to 36 percent, presenting a boon for cloud storage service providers.

Initially, most of that growth is expected to be taken care of through free storage offered by social networks and other online services.

But mainstream take-up of direct-to-cloud models for data storage — where user-generated content can instantly be stored online — is expected to raise the bar for consumer storage requirements.

"Cloud storage will grow at an aggressive pace," Gartner predicted, pointing to North America and Western Europe as the most avid adopters over coming years.

"In the Asia/Pacific region, Japan and South Korea will witness the highest growth in cloud storage, where [cloud service providers] have been offering online storage and sync services for some years."

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