Monday, April 4, 2011

Your music in the clouds

Have you heard about the Amazon Cloud Drive?

This is a new service provided by Amazon that they hope will make them some extra income, as well as spur additional sales in their MP3 Download Store.

Why do you want one? The main reason might be that no one buys physical CDs anymore. I mean, do you? Well, if you are anything like me, you have a few devices and computers that you play your digital music on. Maybe you only have one place where your music library is, and it's probably safe at home. Except it's not safe. It might even be little anxious thoughts that nag you about the fact that you aren't backing up all this precious music. All the CDs you ripped to MP3, all the albums you have bought on iTunes; they are all at risk. Not to mention all your photos and documents...did you just have a full on panic attack?

Amazon Cloud Drive starts off as free, but will be limited with only 5GB of space. This might be adequate for some, but if you are even here reading this, it might be likely you are a music fan and probably have a library bigger than 5GB. Plus, you might want to move all those bazillion megapixel images you have taking up space on your drive to the Amazon Cloud, which means you will need more space. The pricing plans go all the way up to a terabyte of space (1TB) and all the many sizes in between, but the price doesn't go down the bigger you go. It's a dollar a GB. 1TB is $1000 a year. That's a hefty price for most of us. I'm a music nerd, and my music library is over 180GB. so I would probably be looking to spend $200 a year to cover my entire library. I'd have to leave any other files types (photos/movies/documents) on my machine, or come up with $500 for the next plan up (500GB).

I am pretty committed to Dropbox. I've paid for the 50gig upgrade ($100), and have convinced many friends and peers to at least sign up for a free 2GB account. I suggest you sign up as well. Dropbox is the same idea as this Amazon Cloud Drive, with a few exceptions. Dropbox stores your files on their server, but also has a client that will keep folders on any of your computers in sync. Move a file into your dropbox at home and it will be synced and ready to use when you get to work. You can get to your files with any browser if you find yourself on a machine that isn't yours. There are also apps for Android and iPhones that will allow you access to your files on the go. But trying to keep an iTunes library synced this way is problematic because of the machine specfic XML files that iTunes uses to read your library contents. What this really means is that you can only have iTunes open on one computer at a time. There are ways around this, but I find it's not worth the work. I use dropbox to move albums and documents back and forth between computers and to share with friends. Also, it's important to mention that when you refer your friends to Dropbox, you get an additional 250MB per referral added to your account for free. I've earned an extra 5GB this way!

I use Audiogalaxy to have access to my library from anywhere, and that's free. But unless you have a backup plan on that library, all those files are at risk, since you are never really uploading anything to Audiogalaxy. It's just allowing you to stream music from your machine at home, for example, to your PC at work or even to your smart phone. It's a great service, especially for the price, but I've been feeling like updates for new features and bug fixes are slow to come.

Should you get an Amazon Cloud Drive? I'd sign up for the free account. 5GB of cloud storage is tough to beat, and I'm sure you will use it. Paying for it will entail checking the size of what you want to securely store in the cloud and then deciding if the price is something that matches your budget and needs.

There are some other perks though that might sway you. For example, if you purchase your digital music from Amazon, you can store those files to your cloud, and it won't count against your total. That means that you are only paying for the storage of music that you haven't purchased from Amazon. If you continued buying music from Amazon you could grow your library without having to come out of pocket for more space. They are also running a promo right now that will give you a free upgrade to the 20GB account if you buy one full album from Amazon. This freebie is only good for a year, and is only available to US customers.

There are some risks and downside with Amazon Cloud Drive. For one, it's still unsure how the music labels will react to this. Amazon doesn't have agreements with any labels as of now, because it believes there's no reason to — since the Cloud Drive is just holding onto what's already yours. The labels might not see it the same way. MP3tunes ran into this problem and is facing a pending lawsuit from from labels and publishers under the umbrella of the major label EMI. Also the Amazon Cloud Drive has an android app, it doesn't have one for the iPhone. An iPhone may happen, but Apple has many reasons to not allow this into the app store. Plus, it's very likely that Apple will be releasing a service like this in the near future, and you may not want to upload all your music to Amazon just to have to reupload it to Apple's service.

If you are still liking Amazon Cloud Drive I suggest you pick up the new Mountain Goats album All Eternals Deck. It's only $5 and will get you that free 20GB upgrade, which is a killer deal, all things considered.

Click to play The Mountain Goats - Beautiful Gas Mask

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