The word is out, individuals and businesses are turning to the cloud for data storage. For many, the primary reason is that the cloud is the easiest, surest way to back up photos, e-mails, documents and especially data. Others choose the cloud because of freed up space - the cloud makes a great storage option if the sheer volume of data on your computer depletes storage capacity.

But for many computer users, there is a fear of the unknown: Are my files really safe in the cloud, or do I need to back up the backup? The debate has gotten more intense as cloud data storage has become widespread - despite some recent well publicized failures.

The world's fifth largest PC vendor, Asustek Computer Inc., is looking to expand into the cloud service space in a big way with its unveiling of the ASUS Cloud Platform, an updated rendition of their WebStorage file hosting service.

ASUS announced on May 27th that their rebranded cloud platform will now cost $22.99 US a year for 100 gigabytes of cloud storage. The 70 percent price drop puts them in a prime competitive position with the biggest cloud service providers in the US, which offer the same storage capacity for $99 (DropBox) and $23.88 (Google). They also have a 500 gigabyte option, available for $99.99 a year.

The new Cloud Platform is designed to attract more individual and enterprise users with its simple interface and useful features, and the PC giant expects 50 million users by the end of the year, a rise of over 60% of its current base.

Despite the already large install base, ASUS stated that only about 0.5 - 1% of their users pay subscription fees, as they offer up to 5 gigabytes of storage for free for individual users. The company plans on raising that percentage to over 1% this year, hoping that the improvements in their service and the much smaller entry fee will persuade customers into paying for extra storage.

With the increased reliability on cloud storage to share files across mobile devices, ASUS sees the online data storage industry as an ever-expanding market and an opportunity to branch into the role of a service provider. The hardware giant is looking to follow in the footsteps of companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to provide cloud services to customers at little or no cost, and entice businesses with large storage options at very affordable price points.

In addition to the enterprise and individual customers, ASUS intends to appeal to app developers by offering plenty of useful tools for software coding across different platforms. The tools are meant to "help developers and businesses manage large amounts of data backed by cloud computing technologies" and come included with the service.

ASUS plans to set up a new data center in Taipei to install more servers for its storage platform. The new center is set to open later this year, joining their six current data centers, with three in Taiwan and one in China, the US, and Luxembourg.