Box.net – 50GB Free Online Storage for iOS Users

Online storage is becoming quite a popular commodity. Between Dropbox.com, iCloud, minus.com, Ubuntu One, and box.net, there’s no shortage of options if you find yourself running out of storage space locally.

Recently, box.net started a promotion where they’re offering 50GB of free storage to iOS 5 users. There’s no catch. You don’t have to have “x” number of friends sign up. You don’t have to tweet anything. You don’t even have to write a blog entry (hmm…). All you have to do is download the box.net iOS app to your iOS 5 powered iPhone or iPad and log in from the app. The promotion began on October 12th, and runs for 50 days.

Seems like a pretty good deal, especially given that Dropbox only offers 2GB for free. So.. is it?

Getting the free space is as easy as it sounds. As soon as you log into your account (or create a new one) within the iOS app, you’ll see that your account has been allocated 50GB. From there, it’s a bit touch-and-go. There’s a lot of upselling attempts going on. Make no mistake about it, the promotion is a loss leader, and box.net wants to convert as many accounts as possible to paid accounts. I’ve been signed up for one week, and have gotten two “I’d like to talk to you about upgrade options” emails.

Additionally, whereas Dropbox integrates seamlessly with your OS and allows you to copy/move files into a local folder that are then “synched” with your online Dropbox account, box.net offers no such utility. Not for free, at least. There are various “Apps” that box would like you to buy. There is an app called “box Sync”, with versions for both Windows and OS X. However, the description on the page states:

Box Sync is available for free to Box Business and Enterprise customers. If you would like to upgrade to Business or Enterprise and have Box Sync added to your account, please contact our sales team at 1-877-729-4269.

Assuming that you’re just looking for consumer-level storage, this means your only option for uploading files is via the browser. Which would make uploading folders, and specifically sub-folders, not a straightforward task.

The last “restriction” that I’m aware of is that there’s a 100MB file size limit per file. If you’re considering taking advantage of this offer with specific files in mind, make sure that they meet this requirement.

I believe that sums up the caveats. And while it may sound like I’m taking issue with the various limitations of the free offer, I’m not at all. I’m simply trying to let folks know up front what it is they’re getting. There’s a lot of talk in various forums about a “bait and switch”, because of the limitations and the upsell attempts. That’s an unfair and completely incorrect accusation. You are offered 50GB of free storage, and you get 50GB of free storage. You don’t have to purchase anything else. But if you want to, the option is there :)

I definitely think it’s worth signing up for. While the restrictions do limit the ways in which I can use the account, I think a perfect consumer-level use would be backing up documents and/or photos. We tend to take a lot of pictures (can’t help it, our kids are way cute), and while we do currently take steps to ensure that a single hard drive failure or other catastrophic event doesn’t wipe out all of our photos, it never hurts to add an additional level of insurance. None of our photos exceed the 100MB limit, so this offers me a bit more peace of mind with some of my more valuable data.