Online storage makes a lot of sense. Somebody else does the hard work of installing and managing the disks, taking the backups and providing the remote access for you, so your data is safe and accessible from anywhere you can get online. There are plenty of backup and sync-oriented services like Mozy and Dropbox that offer some free storage and the options of paying for more space, but they tend to be designed for consumers. If you just want a large amount of online disk space, you usually have to set something up yourself, or buy it as part of a web hosting package. Fasthosts' new Online Storage Service is a straightforward way to get what cloud has been promising; a simple storage service where someone else does the work.
You can buy anything from 50GB to 2TB of space, and you can order more space at any point and get it straight away — and you can drop back to less storage and pay less as well. Prices range from £20 a month (plus VAT) for 50GB to £75 a month for 500GB and £200 a month for 2TB; that's not exactly cheap but it's god value for storage that you can do just about anything with, that's automatically backed up for you. Fastshosts also promises "significant discounts" for annual payment.
The management dashboard is very basic; you can change the password for the account and order more space. If you're already using Fasthosts for web hosting or virtual servers, you can do the management through the same web interface.
Connecting to the storage to use it is also straightforward. You can connect through a web browser; the web interface is, frankly, ugly and not that intuitive (although it does have useful options like automatically unzipping compressed files that you upload), but you can use your favourite FTP client or just map the WebDAV location as a network location in Windows (use Connect to Server in Mac OS X) and use it like any other folder.
Multiple users can connect at the same time and the 100Mbps SSL connection means you can upload and download files as fast as your local Internet connection will allow. From a 6Mbps DSL connection in a small office, 5MB of files took about 90 seconds to upload; opening files certainly takes longer than opening a file on a local network server, but you can work against a live file and make changes without it feeling so slow that you want to copy the file locally to use.
If you want to experiment with cloud storage, or add an additional online layer to your existing storage system (the service would be ideal for offsite backup, for example), the Online Storage Service is a refreshingly simple way to do it.