There are plenty of cloud storage options available, and many now offer 5 Gb of free space. Google have just joined the fray with Drive, and we all know about DropBox of course.
You may of heard about Amazon S3, and EC2, but Amazon also offer another cloud storage solution called Amazon Cloud Drive. It is a more user friendly storage cloud and you get a free 5 Gb storage limit, and any music you buy from Amazon MP3 downloads can be stored there too – without affecting your free 5Gb space.
Amazon have now released a desktop app for both Windows and Mac. It tries to offer some integration with the operating system so that it is easy to upload stuff to your Amazon Cloud Drive.
But is Cloud Drive very useful? How does its features compare with DropBox? Lets take a look.
The idea behind Cloud Drive is not quite the same as DropBox. With DropBox the idea is: “a folder everywhere” to store your stuff, while Cloud Drive uses the idea that you access the cloud to get to your stuff, there is no locally stored folder.
You can download a file using the desktop apps (we’ll see those later in this article), or you can do it directly from the web interface.
If you already have an Amazon account (who hasn’t?) starting out is easy. All you need to do is go to the Cloud Drive information page, click the Get Started button, and then sign in with your Amazon credentials. Your cloud drive will be available immediately.
Tha main interface provides the usual folders you might expect:
You can see that all the usual options you might expect are available. You can: upload files, create folders, and delete files. To upload new files, click the large Upload Files button:
I have created a folder called “Testing” and by clicking into that folder, I can be sure that is where my stuff will be uploaded to. You can selected multiple files (not folders though, there is another way to do that) and Cloud Drive will upload each one in turn. Once complete, you will see your files and a confirmation message:
Where do uploads go by default?
Anything uploaded will go the Uploads folder in your Cloud Drive. you can then move them to another folder which we will get to in later in the article.
You can access Cloud Drive from your iPad, and you can view the contents of folders. however, you can’t upload or download files because Flash is needed. Also, there are no mobile apps available to interface with your Cloud Drive.
The desktop apps
Amazon recently released desktop applications to offer some integration with Cloud Drive. The apps are available for Mac and Windows, and can be downloaded from here.
Amazon have chosen to ignore Linux at this point in time, although you could still use the web interface of course.
Once you have installed the desktop app you will have a tray icon (Windows) or a menu bar icon (Mac) for interfacing with Cloud Drive. As I have already said, Cloud Drive does not store things locally, only on the cloud. So there won’t be a Cloud Drive folder like the DropBox one you probably already have.
You can right-click a file or folder and choose “Send to…” The sub menu that pops out will show “Amazon Cloud Drive” as an option.
Click that, and your file/folder will be uploaded. You will also get a system tray notification when the upload has completed successfully. When you download a file from the web interface, it will be stored in your Downloads folder unless you have specified a different one in the options menu.
There are 2 options for uploading files: you can drag the file/folder to the Cloud Drive icon on your menu bar, or you can right-click, click “Services” and then choose “Upload to Cloud Drive”. Depending on the file type you might have the upload option available on your first right-click.
If you have Growl installed you will receive a notification when the upload is complete:
Moving files in your Cloud Drive
Now that you have uploaded some files and/or folders, the next we need to look at is moving stuff around. This has to be done via the web app.
Once logged in, click into your uploads folder, and then use the tick boxes to select files that you want to move. Clicking on the “More Actions” button will provide you with the option to move the files selected:
Clicking the “Move” option will produce a window where you can choose the folder you would like to move the files to:
Clicking the “Move Items” button will then carry out the file move and when complete, close the window. There will be a message in the main window confirming that you have moved the files:
Amazon Cloud Drive is far more basic than DropBox. It is also lacking in features when compared with many other cloud storage services. However, in some ways that is one of its most redeeming features – simplicity. Although the web interface needs to be tablet enabled, it does everything you need it to with minimum fuss.
The 5Gb of space is more generous than the free offering from DropBox, and the cost of further space is vey competitive. Amazon charge $20 per year for 20Gb of space compared with $99 per year for 50Gb of space from DropBox. As an added bonus, Amazon will store all your MP3’s purchased from them for free.
Now that Amazon have provided the desktop integration software it does make Cloud Drive a bit more usable, so if you are looking for a cheap cloud storage solution give Cloud Drive a try.
Andy Hawthorne is from Coventry in the UK. He is a senior PHP developer by day, and a freelance writer by night, although lately that is sometimes the other way around.
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