Bitcasa: Your Infinite Drive in the Cloud

Recently out of beta and available for download, Bitcasa has a new Mac client and a new pricing plan. With a base plan of 10GB of free cloud storage, Bitcasa is definitely setting itself up to compete with the big boys.

But what is Bitcasa? If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s an online storage service which offers limitless – or nearly so – storage, online. With a free account, you can use Bitcasa as an online locker for cloud storage of some of your most used files or to share photos, videos, music, or documents with your friends. If you have a paid account, Bitcasa can automatically backup your entire computer. Size isn’t everything, though.

How does Bitcasa compare on speed and usability? We’ll find out!

Getting Started

Let’s assume you’ve gotten a Bitcasa account and have already installed the new Mac app on your computer, because you’re going to need to do both. A free Bitcasa account would have gotten you unlimited storage while the service was in beta, but you’ll still get a respectable 10GB. If that’s not enough, $10/month will get you infinite storage and backup.

If you’re just going to be sharing a few files or want to store documents in the cloud so you have access to them on another machine, that’s super easy, because Bitcasa is right there in the Finder right-click menu. After installation, in the right-click menu there will be a new submenu for Bitcasa. Select Copy This to Bitcasa to get anything into your Bitcasa drive. Choosing Send This To a Friend instead will generate a link to the file on Bitcasa that you can copy, email, or share on Facebook or Twitter, but the file won’t appear in your Bitcasa drive or eat up your 10GB if you have a free account.

Backup your files or share them with Bitcasa.

Backup your files or share them with Bitcasa.

Click the menu bar icon and select Send Files or Folders to get a drag and drop sharing window. Plop anything you want to share in the upper pane, and you’ll get a link and a share button below. Bitcasa will keep track of your shared files here, but again, anything dropped in this window won’t actually make it into your Bitcasa drive. If you lose the link, you’ve lost the file.

To keep active and consistent backups of folders and files, right-click on the folder, and in the Bitcasa menu, select Mirror This Folder to Bitcasa. Not only will the folder appear in your Bitcasa drive, but any changes you make on your computer will be mirrored on Bitcasa, too. This is perfect for backing up your entire computer if you have unlimited space; just choose to mirror your User folder. If you’ve got a free account, though, this is still a good bet for an active project you’re working on or any folders you need to access from another computer.

Right-click on any file or folder to get the Bitcasa menu.

Right-click on any file or folder to get the Bitcasa menu.

If you ever want a look-see inside your Bitcasa drive, it will have slapped itself all over the place, so you shouldn’t have far to look. Try the Bitcasa icon on your desktop or in your Finder sidebar (though my install gave me two Bitcasa drives in my sidebar). You can also select Show Bitcasa Infinite Drive or Access Bitcasa on the Web from the menu bar icon. If Bitcasa everywhere you look is too much–it was for me–you can dial it back in the Bitcasa preferences.

Speed vs. Space

Bitcasa isn’t the fastest thing out there, unfortunately. I uploaded the same folders full of files to Bitcasa, Dropbox, and Google Drive, all through their apps for Mac, and Bitcasa was definitely the slowest. I wasn’t doing any scientific speed tests or anything here, just throwing files into my various drives and watching the clock, but Bitcasa’s upload time was about twice as long as Dropbox and significantly slower than Google Drive.

Your Bitcasa drive will appear in your Finder sidebar.

Your Bitcasa drive will appear in your Finder sidebar.

The trade off is all that space. 10GB for free is a lot. I’m only getting half that with Google Drive, and Dropbox starts at 2GB before they start add on space for referrals. If you’re uploading a couple of GB of data at once, you could be here a while, sure, but if you’re just sharing a few pictures or getting a folder of documents mirrored and backed up, you might not even notice that Bitcasa is a bit sluggish.

Your Files in the Cloud

Taking a look at Bitcasa’s web app, it works really well as a photo browser and streaming music app, so if you decided to mirror all of your music or photos to Bitcasa, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. The downside is that everything needs to be in a folder before you upload it. I uploaded several individual music files, photos, and documents, and while they all just sort of fell into my main Bitcasa directory, when I tried to access the music, I found all of the album and artist information had been removed. Bitcasa now thought all of my songs were off of an album called “Getting Started,” which is a tutorial folder Bitcasa slips into your drive when you first sign up.

Similarly, all of my photos had been associated with “Getting Started.” While neither my music nor my photos were actually in the tutorial folder, when I clicked on those media sections of the Bitcasa web app, I would find my uploads buried in a mystery “Getting Started” directory. When I uploaded an entire album in a folder or several photos in their own folder, all of the track information for my music was preserved and my photos stayed together and away from the tutorial. I only tried this out on three or four files at a time, but if you uploaded hundreds of photos, mp3s, or other files, this would cause a huge problem when it comes to managing your files in Bitcasa.

The Bitcasa preferences can help fix some minor annoyances, but not everything is solvable.

The Bitcasa preferences can help fix some minor annoyances, but not everything is solvable.

Final Thoughts

Bitcasa’s more than a little intrusive, with its multiple drive icons everywhere you look and useful but hard to escape Finder integration. If you’re finding a lot of utility in Bitcasa, you’re going to be happy it’s always there, but if you ever need to uninstall it, you’re not going to be able to just toss the Bitcasa app in your Trash.

No one can argue that 10GB of free storage isn’t great, and while the upload speed isn’t the best, it gets there in the end. If you’re going to be backing up an entire computer, though, you’re probably going to be here for a while. The organization on the web app leaves a lot to be desired and won’t exactly mirror what you’re seeing on your computer, but if you’re aware of that going in, you can prepare for it by making sure everything you upload is in a folder. While Bitcasa hits a few stumbling blocks, it is definitely a great effort at both free and even premium cloud storage.


Summary

Not bad for a lot of free storage, but if you're going premium, you'll be disappointed with upload speeds and the functionality of the web app.

7
  • tobi

    – A note to the data security –
    Bitcasa is advertised to be secure (see their website) by an encryption. Together with Bitcasa it is indeed Fuse for OSX installed. However, they don’t separate the Bitcasa login credentials and the encryption password.
    In other words, you cannot exclude the possibility that Bitcasa can decrypt all (!) your information and use it somehow.
    A real secure versions would require this separation of website-login and encryption password. Furthermore, it would require some kind of further plugin into the browser to access the (encrypted) information

    • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

      This is great security information! Thanks!

    • JD

      “In other words, you cannot exclude the possibility that Bitcasa can decrypt all (!) your information and use it somehow.”

      Well, that’s what they do in fact already!

      They need to know what file you upload as they only keep one copy of that file if multiple people upload the same file. They are assuming that the most data uploaded to the bitcasa servers would be musik and video libraries. (that’s why/how they can offer the so-called “infinite” storage plan – which seems to be far from infinite, btw)

      So much for the subject of privacy!

      Here’s a article about the encryption technique: http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/18/bitcasa-explains-encryption/

      (there’s more information in the comments than the article itself, actually)

  • lio

    I was looking for an alternative to Dropbox, and tried out Bitcasa as soon as it was out of Beta. Having an unlimited storage in the cloud available at anytime is great. Being able to synchronize any folder of your computer – or just copying files is what Dropbox lacks.
    For 50$ a year for the full premium service, I thought I could give it a try and have a nice backup solution, we’ll debrief this after a year though.

  • Santi

    I think it will be a great alternative to Dropbox, although it is not yet.

    As a example, when you sync (mirror) any folder to the Bitcasa cloud, you can’t modify any file in that folder from other computer as you do in Dropbox.

    This is a big lack for me…

    • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

      I agree that there is room to grow.

  • Johnny Winter

    I’ve been using this since it was in beta. It’s a great idea and one that I was really looking forward to using, and I understood that whilst in beta it would not be perfect.

    Now it’s out of beta, I’m left disappointed. There are so many issues with their website, user interfaces, passwords (having problems with special characters) and not letting you log in that this feels like a completely unfinished product.

    I wanted to like this so much, I even paid for the infinite storage plan (which appears to be limited to 569TB or so (who’da thought infinity was limited?).

    The amount of storage is not really the issue, 569TB should see me OK for a few months, it is the fact that the service is unusable. For example:

    - it will not allow me to delete an empty folder that I created earlier – regardless of how I try to delete it.
    - it is very (VERY) slow at uploading data.
    - it does not allow me to derestrict upload speeds (perhaps I am blowing harder than Bitcasa sucks?)
    - it does not allow me to schedule uploads (i.e.: between midnight and 8am when my broadband usage is free)
    - the app is clunky
    - the app tells me I’m on the FREE plan, even though I paid for ‘infinite’ storage
    - if you stop an upload, after some hours, none of that data appears in bitcasa – none at all!

    ….and those are just the problems I’ve found in a few minutes of using it.

    DropBox is seamless in the way it works. It’s easy to understand and it never (rarely) gets in your way. Bitcasa, on the other hand, is a great idea that completely fails to deliver. With DropBox I am happy to pay for extra storage. With Bitcasa I feel like I’ve been ripped off.

    • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

      Hey Johnny! I didn’t have the “empty folder” problem at all! I added and deleted all sorts of folders; in fact, the folders used for the screen shot were empty and have been deleted since. They’re not visible on either the web app or via the Mac app anymore. I wonder what the difference was…

      I agree Bitcasa is slower, but when uploading documents or an album’s worth of MP3s, it wasn’t noticeable unless I watched the clock. It was when I tried to upload a ton of data that I ran into problems, which is definitely an issue for premium customers.

      I didn’t find the Mac app especially clunky, though I really didn’t like the web app. What didn’t you like about the Mac app?

      Bitcasa definitely isn’t on the Dropbox level yet, and the web app is, let’s just say it, terrible, but if you’re using it for free storage, the speed isn’t bad, and that’s A LOT of free storage!

      • Johnny Winter

        Hi Paula.

        Further problems. Just tried getting support from Bitcasa and their support system won’t let me log in. In fact, it claims I don’t exist as a customer.

        I assure you, I have a folder in Bitcasa that will not delete.

        I agree with you, uploading a single m4v or mp3, for instance, works fine – and fast. But it is advertised as a service that can “mirror folders”, and when you have an iTunes Library, iPhoto Library or a folder full of documents, the uploading just is not happening.

        Furthermore, it appears that you have to successfully upload all of the data (extremely slowly) before you can see it – it does not upload a file at a time. This is a huge drawback as there is no way of pausing the syncing (the pause button does not appear to work at all) if you need your broadband connection for something more important, and critical, like VoIP.

        To be frank, in its current form, I do not believe that the product is fit for purpose. If it is, then there is a disjoint between their explanation and my expectation.

        The more I try to use this (I signed up less than 24 hours ago for the infinite account) the more problems I discover. This is still a beta product, the difference being that I’m now paying and its not performing as I expected.

        Oh, and I can’t get any support from them because their helpdesk doesn’t recognise me.

      • Johnny Winter

        In the interests of fairness and balance, I managed to contact Bitcasa within 24 hours of signing up and they agree with my points but have said they do not want unhappy customers. Bitcasa has cancelled my account and has said that it will refund me in full. They have also asked that I keep an eye on Bitcasa and perhaps try it at a later date.

        TBH, I thought they were going to be difficult. They weren’t. They were understanding and did what was required to make me happy. All credit to them for that.

        Like I said before, this is a great idea, I want it to work and I really hope they can iron out the issues to make it a great product.

    • Stacy

      I agree with everything you said.

      I *wanted* to love Bitcasa, and was so excited to come across it as an alternative to Dropbox. However, it fails to deliver on several fronts, most notably in their communication to customers.

      Dropbox wins this battle because the service is easy to understand and it just works no matter what. Bitcasa on the other hand has a hard time explaining what it is they do on their website (good luck trying to get your Mom to understand the difference between mirroring, infinite, etc).

      The worst part is that when I share a folder with my business partner, it’s buggy at best and unusable the rest of the time. We couldn’t ever figure out what the deal was, but it seemed that the folder only shared what was in it *at the time of sharing* rather than keeping it updated. Big time deal breaker.

      In the end, I bought a networked hard drive, and that is working better – without the ongoing cost of Dropbox.

    • http://blog.adeweb.co.uk Ade Rowbotham

      I concur with all of that. I wish I’d found this thread before handing over my $69.99

  • http://moises-studios.tk Moises

    The service is excellent. I’ve never paid for a service like this before but when I tried it I came in love with it and now I am moving all my files to it. I have several hard disks which I’m emptying by copying the files to the service. I have not experienced any problems with it. I can stream my music and videos, and view my photos and documents. I like the apps as well. The Windows 8 app is a great companion to my OS which I can have it snapped and still work on the PC on other things. Really amazing and looking forward to future improvements. Here is one happy customer.

    • Graxxor Anandro Vidhelssen

      You’d have to be nuts to trust your data to the cloud without a local backup… There have been complaints of file corruption/loss and other problems with this service… Use at your own (BIG) risk.

  • BreakPhreak

    Still there are critical bugs that makes the app unusable (such as inability to login in my case). I am sure guys are pushing all the buttons to move forward, probably the server-side is rock solid, but my personal feeling about the Mac OS client is a half-baked product that made a very short way through a poor testing cycle.

  • Adam

    Thanks for adding these comments everyone. I use Dropbox to sync large image files I work on at my studio so I am able to work on them at home, and routinely hit my 100GB limit with Dropbox. I was about to jump ship over to Bitcasa but after reading your reviews, I think I’ll stick with Dropbox. I really wanted Bitcasa to be the answer to my problems but if the uploads are as slow as everyone says and the files don’t upload one at a time, it’s a big red flag to me.

    • http://blog.adeweb.co.uk Ade Rowbotham

      Wise.

      (An unhappy Bitcasa customer)

  • Derek

    I was using the beta and then bought a subscription when it was available but since then I have had my money refunded. The service as it stands is a joke. The one and only thing it is supposed to be able to do: back up your files, it fails miserably at. Files either disappear on upload or are corrupted. The support is friendly but impotent, nothing is ever resolved. I had one issue with files not being accessible and the only fix was for me to run a terminal command on the file(s). ? Seriously??

    If you look on the bitcasa forums you will see tons and tons of unhappy customers who have lost data, if you get to the thread before they delete it. I really wanted to like this service but you can’t trust them with your data and you can’t trust them if they are trying to sweep any bad press under the rug. They knowingly released a product that didn’t work and risked their customers data but they did it anyway. Not the kind of people I want to trust my data with.

    Huge two thumbs all the way down.

  • http://agenciagira.com.br Ricardo Torres

    SugarSync does everything Bitcasa can do and maybe more. It is actually perfect: great upload speed, reliable sync between devices, etc.

    • Santi

      Yeah, but it can’t handle “bundled folders” on Mac’s…

      A BIG mistake, Sugar boys…

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow