Uploading your music, videos, photos, and at least some important documents to storage online “in the cloud” offers certain advantages. The data is backed up offsite and won't be lost if your hard drive crashes. With Amazon's announcement of its Cloud Drive service, cloud storage is more available and affordable than ever.
Those who sign up for Amazon's Cloud Drive service can store 5 GB of data free of charge. Amazon notes that users can store 1,000 songs, 2,000 photos, or 20 minutes of HD video in that space. If users need to store more items, Amazon offers several plans that charge a dollar a gigabyte per year, all the way up to 1000 GB, or 1 TB of storage. With that plan, users pay $1,000 a year to store up to 200,000 songs, 400,000 photos, or 70 hours of HD video (or presumably any combination that adds up to a terabyte).
With 1 TB external hard drives available through Amazon for less than $200, what is the advantage of storing the data in the cloud? Aside from never having to worry about your own hardware crashing, you can access your data from just about anywhere. Amazon's Cloud Player, the software that lets users play content from the cloud service, is web-based, and compatible with Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and IE. Even Android users can play their content from the cloud on a mobile Android device.
The service is not perfect, however. The Cloud Player is not compatible with BlackBerry or WP7, however. It also does not work with iOS – not even with Safari browsers on iOS. Keep that in mind if you're considering this service.
To sweeten the service, Amazon notes that users can save songs or albums purchased from the Amazon MP3 Store to their Cloud Drive, and “they don't take up any of your storage space and are always stored for free.” If that's not quite enough free storage for you, Amazon is currently holding a promotion that gives purchasers of albums from the Amazon MP3 Store 20 GB of storage free for a year from the date of purchase. That particular promotion will end on December 31, 2011, and is only available to US residents with a US billing address.
You may have heard that Google has been testing a similar cloud service internally, but the recording industry has voiced objections. Amazon got around this issue, in a manner of speaking, by not bothering to ask the industry for permission. Sony, among others, is not happy about this. “We hope that they'll reach a new license deal,” notes Sony spokeswoman Liz Young, “but we're keeping all of our legal options open.”
Amazon announced that they're trying to negotiate for licenses, but did not mention that until after they unveiled their Cloud Drive service. It's arguable that they don't need to negotiate for licenses because their service is not breaking the law. In fact, Amazon told All Things Digital that “We do not need a license to store music in Cloud Drive. The functionality of saving MP3s to Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes.”
None of the music labels have actually gone so far as to threaten a lawsuit. Google and Apple will likely watch the recording industry's reaction very closely, as rumors say they will release their own cloud storage services in May and June, respectively.
For more on this, visit http://macapper.com/2011/03/30/amazon-launches-cloud-drivewwdc-sold-out-in-10-hours/ and http://mediamemo.allthingsd.com/20110329/amazons-cloud-service-is-a-legal-b-illegal-c-probably-here-to-stay/.
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