5 things to know about Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Cloud Drive

This week, Amazon announced Cloud Drive, an online (“cloud-based”) file storage and music streaming service for Amazon.com customers. Cloud Drive works in conjunction with the also-new Cloud Player feature, which lets you stream your personal music out of your Cloud Drive to any web browser or Android device (provided you’ve uploaded that music to your Cloud Drive or purchased in through Amazon). The music streaming feature trumps long-anticipated but not-yet-to-be-seen offerings from Apple and Google–but Cloud Drive has plenty of competition, notably from Dropbox, our favorite cloud-based file storage, syncing, and sharing utility. Below are five observations I’ve made so far about Cloud Drive, admittedly looking at it through a Dropbox-colored lens to see how the two might compare.

1. You get lots of space for free

Out of the box, Amazon gives you five gigabytes of personal, cloud-based storage space for free. You can use that space to store documents, videos, photos–whatever you’d like. Of course, Amazon wants you to store your music there. If that music is in MP3 format, you can then stream it to your computer or Android device. To put a little bit of perspective on this, Amazon is giving you the same amount of storage space that the original iPod could hold back in 2001. 1,000 songs. For free.

2. You can catch a break on an additional 15 GB of storage

For the remainder of 2011, if you buy any MP3 album from Amazon, you can upgrade to the 20 GB plan for free (a $20 value). Most MP3 albums run much less than the price of a 20 GB plan, but for the frugal, Amazon is offering several $3.99 albums to help “seed” your music collection. They also provide a collection of $5 albums each month. (For what it’s worth, I just bought a three song EP for 79 cents and my Cloud Drive got the size upgrade–so look around!) Any MP3 you purchase through Amazon will automatically be added to your Cloud Drive and will not count against your storage quota.

3. Upgrades are cheap

Want even more space? Amazon offers up to 1,000 GB (that’s roughly 1 terabyte)–by comparison, Dropbox only offers up to 100 GB at this time. Or you can stick with a 100 GB plan at about half of what Dropbox charges for that amount of space. Click the Buy additional storage button in the interface to learn more about storage tiers and prices.

4. But you don’t get the nice integration with your operating system

There are downsides, though–first and foremost in my mind is the limitation of using only your web browser to access files. Not that it’s really complicated, but it’s not as simple as moving files in and out of folders on your computer. This is where Dropbox really shines against Cloud Drive (and other competitors in this arena).

5. And you can’t share folders with others

Dropbox’s second major selling point over Cloud Drive is its capacity for collaboration. In Dropbox, you can share files with the world via the Public folder, or share folders with other Dropbox users for easy group work. Cloud Drive is intended more for personal use–it’s connected to your personal Amazon account.

This is not to say that Amazon will never offer these features–heck, maybe they’ll just buy Dropbox someday–but if syncing, ease-of-use and collaboration are important features for you, then Cloud Drive might not be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a lot of cloud-based storage space for free (or cheap) then Amazon’s Cloud Drive is worth a look.

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.