Hosting firm Strato has introduced a free version of its HiDrive online storage service offering 5GB of space to store and access music, photos or files using a PC or mobile device.
Available immediately, the new service is based around the same secure platform as Strato's existing HiDrive products, as reviewed by V3 last year.
Strato chief executive Damian Schmidt said that the company is looking to extend its customer base to a broader audience, especially younger web-savvy people who are used to free services being available via the web.
Schmidt admitted that 5GB is not a huge capacity compared to modern hard drives, but said that Strato is offering "enough space to secure everything of value, like holiday pictures and music".
The firm, which is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, also hopes to sell paid-for services with more capacity if customers outgrow the 5GB free product, he added.
To this end, Strato will soon offer HiDrive 100 and HiDrive 500 services, offering 100GB and 500GB of space for monthly fees of €9.90 (£8.70) and €29.90 (£26.35) respectively.
Schmidt said that HiDrive storage is "easy and convenient" as files can be accessed via a web browser using the HiDrive File Manager, using the secure WebDav protocol, or even by configuring the HiDrive so it appears as an additional logical drive on a Windows PC.
Strato also provides a HiDrive App to allow smartphone users with Android or Windows Phone 7 devices to access files. BlackBerry and Symbian handsets can be configured for WebDav access, while an iPhone app exists but has yet to be approved by Apple, Schmidt said.
Customer data is held in one of Strato's datacentres in Germany, which has some of the strictest data privacy laws in the world, making it a more secure option than US-based services, Strato claimed.
The company also operates an automated backup that allows customers to roll back and retrieve files that may have been deleted up to six weeks ago.
Customers can sign up for a free HiDrive account with their email address and a username and password.
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