Despite advances in fiber optics and compression technology, physically transporting huge amounts of data can still prove faster than using the Internet.

With this in mind, cloud companies have turned to renting out boxes of storage equipment to shift company’s data to their platforms - now it’s Microsoft’s turn, with the appropriately named Azure Data Box.

Microsoft Azure Data Box
– Microsoft

Shift it

Amazon kicked off the modern Sneakernet trend with its 50TB Snowball device (later updated as the Snowball Edge to have 100TB and some processing capabilities), and its massive 100 petabyte 18-wheeler semi-trailer truck Snowmobile. Next came Google, with a 480TB Google Transfer Appliance (GTA), and IBM with a 120TB wheeled suitcase.

Like those from AWS and IBM, Microsoft’s Azure Data Box is ruggedized (Google opted for racks that can slide into your data center), and supports 256-bit AES encryption.

The box stores approximately 100TB, uses NAS protocols (SMB/CIFS), and - like the Snowball - has an e-paper display that functions as the shipping label.

The Data Box is yet to officially launch, however, with Microsoft announcing the preview program for the 45 pound transfer device. The program is currently only available in the US, but other markets are expected to follow in the ‘coming months.’

Microsoft said: “We expect appliance supplies will be limited due to the already high demand, but we’re continually expanding and adding more systems to the fleet.”