Multiple Devices

Despite all the cloud storage and syncing solutions out there, most consumers still struggle with accessing all of their files across multiple devices. A big part of the problem is that the average user is said to have roughly one terabyte worth of files across all digital life (aka 1,024 gigabytes, or the equivalent of 250,000 standard digital photos or 128 video DVDs), a number that’s increasing rapidly. Even the best consumer-grade solutions to date have been best suited for a few dozen gigabytes of data at most.

Today, Los Angeles startup Entangled Media is launching its personal cloud service younity hoping to pick up where cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and data syncing solutions like iCloud end. The free platform skips the messy and expensive aspects of cloud backup and instead focuses on “device unification,” aka universal file access.

Younity ensures that every file across all of a user’s devices, including music, photos, videos, documents, and the like, is available for streaming or download while on the go via Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS device. (Android and Linux versions are said to be coming soon.) The company accomplishes this by utilizing each device in a user’s arsenal as its own personal cloud server. In other words, it creates the equivalent of a VPN (virtual private network) between a user’s home and office desktop PCs, laptop PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

“We think the concept of individual ‘devices’ is irrelevant,” says Entangled Media CEO Erik Caso. “We hope to eliminate the concept entirely and make it as if all your devices are a single device.”

The caveat to this strategy, however, is that for a file to be available, the device where it’s located must be turned on and connected to the internet. For many users who rarely if ever turn off their devices, this will be no issue. For others, it’s likely to be a major turn off. Also, because content must be streamed or downloaded before accessing, the speed of the service will be dependent on the quality of the connection on both ends of the transmission.

These are likely to be acceptable compromises for a solution that doesn’t tell users to choose their favorite 5,000 songs, or photos to take with them while on the go, but instead says “Don’t worry, they’ll all be there at the tip of your finger.”

Entangled Media has raised a Seed round of undisclosed size from Oakview Group, Gramercy Fund, Toys ‘R Us New Ventures, Brian Lee, Kamran Pourzanjani, Greg Arrese, Brad Jones, Mark Kolokotrones, and Tom Turney. The company is a current member of the Fall 2012 class of Santa Monica accelerator Mucker Lab.

Right now, younity is entirely free, making it enormously attractive compared to Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, and iCloud which cost roughtly $0.50 to $2 per gigabyte per year at the upper limits of their storage capacities – which range between 50 to 500 gigabytes. In other words, anyone planning to store the entirety of their digital life online better be prepared to shell out for the privilege. In the future, younity may introduce a premium product, but according to Caso, it will be priced based on the number of devices accessing the system, rather than the quantity of files being shared.

Younity doesn’t solve all of the issues associated with having multiple devices and leading an increasingly digital life. Users would still be well advised to backup their data, including preferably in at least two different physical locations. That said, for those users who simply want unlimited access to each of their tens of thousands of files spread across a vast hardware landscape younity solves a real problem. Whether it can turn that into a sustainable business is the next magic trick I’ll be waiting to see.