Keeping Your Head in the Cloud

Clouds

I love the idea of cloud computing. Not having to constantly say, “Oh shoot! That’s on the other computer!” is worth every minute of finding the right cloud service.

But which is the right cloud service? There are a ton of them out there:

5. Amazon Cloud Drive

I cannot figure out what Amazon is hoping to accomplish with their cloud service. I really cannot. It seems almost like they just tagged it on because everyone else was doing it. While Amazon Cloud Player is a great service that allows you to stream or download digital copies of almost any song you have purchased on Amazon (and I have bought a lot of CD’s on Amazon over the years), the Cloud Drive is just plain vanilla. Upload times are awful, there are no mobile apps, and there are no real advantages to it.

4. Microsoft SkyDrive

So much potential, Microsoft; and that just leads to so much disappointment. In theory, SkyDrive should be fully integrated into Microsoft Office. It isn’t. On my Macs, I have to run an older version of Office (2011), and saving to SkyDrive is not just cumbersome – it is also unreliable. The interface is terrible. The process is confusing. It is a major frustration. Even using the downloadable client does not ensure success because there is no way to ensure it is syncing with the Cloud.

3. iCloud

I get called an Apple fanboy all the time, but a lot of Apple products don’t impress me. Take iCloud for example (or actually because I am writing about Cloud services). The concept is great. It is supposed to be fully integrated into the Apple productivity suite iWorks. The problem is that it isn’t. You can only use the integration if you are running Mountain Lion (OS 10.8). Still running Lion, like I am on my knockaround Macbook? Sorry, you have to use an incredibly cumbersome web interface and then upload your documents EVERY TIME you save them.

2. Google Drive

I love Google Drive, in principle. What kills Google Drive is not the convenience of the service but the mediocrity of the apps it uses. I would love to replace my current document editors with Google Drive’s integrated apps, but they lack some very crucial tools. The biggest oversight is the inability to zoom. That’s right. You cannot zoom in a Google Drive document. If you use standard browser zoom, then your toolbar zooms as well and your cursor goes off like a sailor on shore leave. The mobile apps are mediocrity personified. If Google fixes this, they will rule mobile document creation.

Where Google Drive shines is in sharing your files. Drive allows all kinds of file and folder specific sharing settings, and that means you can share a document publicly without worrying about someone using the link to see your personal information on the Drive.

1. Dropbox

The old reliable is just that – reliable. Dropbox was the first name in Cloud storage, and they just keep things working. You edit a document in any program, and you save it to the Dropbox folder on your computer. You can right click items on your computer to share them through links to the Cloud, although you have to go to the browser to get the links.

Dropbox has a business model focused on keeping things as effortless as possible. Everything is integrated into your local device (whether PC or mobile). The integration on iOS has continually been improved and if Apple ever opens the sharing API to developers, Dropbox will be the first to get it right.

Dropbox’s only limitation is the size of the drive you get. I was an early adopter, so I have a 9GB Dropbox drive,  and it is free to me. Most users will get stuck with 2GB unless they pay.

Services I haven’t tried.

I hear good things about Box.net and Barracuda’s newest entry into the fray, Copy. I haven’t used these services yet, so I can’t speak about them with any knowledge. I just downloaded Copy, so I will be playing with it for a couple of weeks; and I will update you when I have a better opinion.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping Your Head in the Cloud

  1. I’ve been using Drive for a long time. Since the change from Docs to Drive, the increased functionality has kept me from being too interested in the other options. I’ve fiddled with Dropbox a bit, but it hasn’t stuck for me.

    One of my pet peeves for a long time was that I couldn’t just attach a Docs file to an email from the gmail web interface. Now I have the option of providing a link to the document without jumping through any hoops. If the document has been private up to that point, gmail will remind me that the folks I’m emailing won’t be able to see it and then will give me the option to make it public to anyone with the link. They can also download the document or just access it, as they choose.

    I’m sure you’ve used those features yourself. But the integration with my email is a highlight for me.

    • I agree that this is a great feature in Google Drive. I use gmail for my messaging, so it is quite useful. Google’s sharing is much more efficient than the other cloud services.

      I just wish the mobile apps were more useful and that the in-browser word processor allowed zooming.

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