Are you in “The Cloud”?

For quite some time, I’ve been an advocate of storing files in “The Cloud,” which is another way of saying “storing files on the Internet on a server.”  Usually, cloud servers are redundant, so the risk of losing those files, or those files being corrupt, is limited.  Another aspect of “The Cloud” is that storage accounts are individualized, needing a password and sometimes proprietary software.  This would differ greatly from online file hosting services that make files accessible to other people (and search engines).

Apple is completing a large server building in North Carolina at the price tag of one billion dollars.  The general hope is that Apple will, for free or a relatively low cost, open those servers to iTunes cloud storage, expanding its current MobileMe service so that everything in your iTunes folder would be stored in the cloud and streamed over the web.  Some hope that future iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches would have little or no on-device storage.  Even the newest MacBook Airs have relatively small SSD hard drives.  Truthfully, nobody knows what Apple is going to do with the server farm, so we’re all waiting to see what happens.

The future may have been cleared up this year when Amazon announced that it was offering 5GB of free storage to anyone with an Amazon account.  If you buy just one album, regardless of cost (even a $0.69 album), you get 20GB of storage for the year.  If you buy music (from this point on) from Amazon, it will be stored without penalty to your storage limit (5GB remains 5GB regardless of how much music you buy from Amazon from this point forward).  And if you need more memory, you can get up to 1TB for $1000 a year.  You can store any type of file on Amazon’s cloud servers.

The service isn’t as integrated as DropBox, which acts as a folder on your computer.  Amazon’s service isn’t as nice to use on iOS nor as integrated as DropBox, either.  You can download Amazon’s software, or just access files through a web browser.  The pricing is impossible to beat–nobody offers 5GB for free, and no one offers 20GB a year for $14.99 or less.  There are back-up services such as Mozy and Dolly Drive that offer back-ups of larger sizes, but again, 20GB for such a low cost is a price that is nearly impossible to overlook.  There’s no guarantee that the second year won’t cost more than the first year–but we’ll have to see where the market goes.

In summary, it will be interesting to watch Apple in the next months to see if it offers a similar service for iTunes.  It will be interesting to watch if other cloud storage solutions such as DropBox and SugarSync raise their quotas on their free accounts.  But in any case, I’d encourage every reader to activate a DropBox account (free–referrals are fantastic, as they give the referrer a 250MB bonus up to 8GB…please e-mail me if you would like a referral code) AND an Amazon account.

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