Everyone and their mum seems to be releasing a new cloud based online storage service these days. It started with Amazon and its Cloud Drive service, followed by Google's announcement of Google Music Beta and now Apple with its iCloud service that replaces MobileMe. Choice is good, but it can be very confusing at the same time, let alone time consuming to pick the right service that suits you personally the best.
But fear not, we take a look at all three services, highlight their advantages and disadvantages so that you can make an educated decision after reading the article. Before we start we should probably take a look at cloud storage and syncing in general. The first question that you need to ask yourself is whether you need such a service at all.
Do you need your music in the cloud? You may answer that question with yes if you work on multiple computer systems or use smartphones and other mobile devices. The main advantage of cloud based music services is that you get access to your music on all devices that you can connect to the service. No more copying of songs or playlists, all songs that you have stored online are available on all compatible devices at all time, provided that you have a net connection and a good mobile subscription with enough free bandwidth.
Lets take a look at the services and some of their features:
Apple's new service is tied to its iTunes software as expected. Users can use it to store up to 25,000 songs they have not purchased on iTunes, an unlimited number of songs they purchased on iTunes and an additional 5 Gigabyte of other data.
Users can pay $24.99 annually for iTunes Match which matches any song on iTunes and makes it available in the cloud as well taken directly from the iTunes store.
It appears as if iTunes Match is required to store music not purchased on iTunes in the cloud.
Here’s how it works: iTunes determines which songs in your collection are available in the iTunes Store. Any music with a match is automatically added to your iCloud library for you to listen to anytime, on any device. Since there are more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, most of your music is probably already in iCloud. All you have to upload is what iTunes can’t match. Which is much faster than starting from scratch. And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality.
Apple iCloud requires iTunes to be installed. It is compatible with Apple's mobile device lineup and limits access to ten authorized devices.
The main downside of the service is that it does not support streaming, and that users need to subscribe to iTunes Match if they want to have access to their non-iTunes purchases, like CD rips, on iCloud.
Google Music is in Beta currently. During beta, users can upload a maximum of 20,000 songs to the service. Google has not revealed anything yet about pricing. Music is uploaded with the help of the Music Manager software that is available for PC and Mac (appears to be running with the help of Wine under Linux as well).
The service is currently restricted to the United States. It is also the only service without online store integration. Users need to keep in mind that the service is labeled as beta at this point in time. While that is typical of Google, it means that it is possible that Google will make changes to the final product. The company has already announced that the service will only be free during beta. It is therefor likely that a pricing structure similar to that of Amazon's Cloud Drive is introduced after the beta.
Amazon Cloud Drive
Amazon users get 5 Gigabytes of free space, and an unlimited amount of space for their Amazon mp3 purchases. It is the only service where users can purchase additional storage, at $1 per Gigabyte per year.
Like Google Music, Amazon supports web streaming of music. It is possible to store other media and documents on the cloud drive as well, which is similar to iCloud's offering. Music is uploaded via Amazon's Cloud Player or a compatible web browser.
Every service has its advantages and disadvantages. Apple's iCloud is tied to iTunes, and you need to pay if you want all of your music to be available in the cloud and not only your music purchased on iTunes. Google Music is currently in beta and it is not clear how much it will cost when it comes out. Amazon's Cloud Drive feels like a mix of the two other services. It can be used to store more than just music just like Apple's iCloud offers and supports web streaming like Google Music.
What's your take on the three services and music in the cloud in general?
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