Amazon Cloud Drive

I’ve been seriously looking in to Cloud Storage lately, mostly due to me wanting to get out of the habit backing up my pictures to a static Disc, which is what I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years now. A static disc is basically a DVD R, and its static because once you burn and finalize it, it’s done, you can’t edit or change it.

But the problem with the disc method, is its very unreliable. In the past week I’ve tried to back up my photos to a disc and went through about 3 blank dvdrs before one successfully burned, finalized, verified, and was readable. The first two discs went through the verification process just fine, but my computer couldn’t read them. Which is a problem I’ve had constantly throughout the past. So, I want to get away from this, it’s just scary to break this habit, and the idea of not having them backed up this way gives me some anxiety, but I can get over it.

I don’t just want a cloud backup, I want a local backup too, but I’ll be doing this on hard disk drives, or SSDs.

I do currently use CrashPlan, which is an automatic backup system, but it only mirrors files you have on your PC, and its not very intuitive to use. I’d prefer to have Storage where I can archive, explore, and deal with just as I could a local computer drive.

I had been using OneDrive, but not seriously. I think i have like 200gb on there for free, 100 of which was from a Bing promotion, which will expire within the next year. Due to the fact that it’ll expire, I never actually considered using that space. I pretty much use Onedrive to auto backup my camera roll from my iPhone, which i think gave me 15-30gb of free storage in itself, and some other minor files that I don’t want to lose such as Photoshop settings.

I have used DropBox and Google Drive in the past for the same exact reasons.

All of these services offer free storage, which isn’t very much, and it can get very expensive if you wish you buy more storage space. OneDrive has the best offer in my opinion, you can get Office 365 Personal for like $60 a year which includes all the office Apps, plus 1TB of OneDrive Space, which sounds nice. But Microsoft recently started screwing over its users. They had originally offered 15gb free storage, and promised to offer unlimited storage for paid subscribers. They recently lowered the free to 5gb, done away with the camera roll free space, and limited paying customers to 1tb. Which is still enough, but it kinda makes Microsoft seem really shady since they lied about the unlimited and screwed all the paying subscribers out of what they promised. I don’t blame Microsoft for not wanting to do the unlimited storage, but they shouldn’t have promised too offer it in the first place.

I really wanted to use DropBox. But it’s so dang expensive. The iOS app is so sexy. Man I want to use it! It’s about $120 a year for 1tb of storage, which is just too much for me right now.

I prefer to stay away from Google. I’ve became so annoyed at having to disable Google Plus accounts that they tricked me into creating in the past few years, that meh. Screw them. But at a close look, it’s still about the same price as DropBox if you want the 1TB of space.

I then started to google at Amazon Cloud Drive. I’ve used them in the past, well not really. Back in 2011 they had a promotion, buy the Lady Gaga Digital Album for like $2, and get 20gb of free storage, which expired within a year, but i wanted to try out their Cloud Player, so I got it, and wasn’t very trilled with it, so I never touched it again. Music Streaming isn’t something I’m really interested in anyways.

In the past year they started two new Cloud Drive services: Unlimited Photos for $12 a year, which gives you unlimited storage for photos, and 5gb of storage for videos, and whatever else. Unlimited Everything for  $59.99 a year, which is really sweet.

They offer a 3 month trial on each plan, so you can test it and see if you like it. I signed up for the unlimited everything. A credit card is needed to set up the trial.

Unlimited Storage is attractive to me because  I don’t have to worry about what I can upload. I don’t want to buy 1tb and then run out and have to buy another 1tb. That would get so expensive on other services such as Google Drive, or Drop Box (drop box doesn’t offer more than 1tb at the moment). Even if it wasn’t unlimited, 1tb isnt bad for $60. Amazon seems trustworthy. They aren’t going anywhere soon, and Cloud Storage is one of their major business, so they know what they’re doing.

If you look online, you’ll find some sketchy posts about Amazon and their Terms of Use and Private Policy, etc. People seem to think highly of themselves, and assume  Amazon really wants to single them out and look at their files. I have a low self esteem, so I don’t think this is an issue, and if Amazon wants to look at my boring files, have fun, ha.

Amazon Cloud Drive Desktop Client
Amazon Cloud Drive Desktop Client

At first, I was severely disappointed with Cloud Drive. Mainly because the Desktop client is so limited. It pretty much is just a window that you drop files into, and they upload to the cloud. You have to use a web browser to sort, view, and organize your files, and attempting to use the desktop client reminds  you of this because every time you click something in it, it opens your internet browser to load the site.

Cancelled Subscription - Active Trial
Cancelled Subscription – Active Trial

I quickly cancelled my subscription. But even if you cancel the subscription, your 3 month trial remains, which is nice because over the following several days I started to mess with it more and more, and found that I really like it.

The official desktop client is crappy, but you can get third party sync clients that work very well. I discovered Expandrive, and I have paid for the life time update license. It basically lets you mount Cloud Drive, or any other Cloud service, or even FTP account as a hard drive on your computer. I’m not 100% sure how it works. I think it caches a place holder locally, and downloads the file when you go to open it. I hope it doesn’t keep a full sized copy of the file locally. This could be something some want, but many of the files I’m uploading are for archival reasons, and are already backed up, so i don’t need another copy of a copy on my machine.

Amazon Cloud Front Page
Amazon Cloud Front Page

Amazon Cloud Drive was built so far with photos and video in mind, which comes very clear and obvious once you start using it. They display all your photos in videos in a nice view, and also let you create special albums, which I haven’t really messed with yet.

The web browser version isn’t that bad. It sorts your videos, photos, and other files into their nice little sections. The thing that I really like about the service is it lets you view almost any photo or video type directly from the browser, and iOS client. I read that the video playback is limited to 20 minutes, but I haven’t ran into this.

Amazon video Player playing old video.
Amazon video Player playing old video.
Amazon Cloud Drive iOS App is nice, and easy to use.
Amazon Cloud Drive iOS App is nice, and easy to use.

I think the service creates a view able/watchable copy that you can view from any device. For example, It’ll create a JPG of a PSD or CRC raw file. I’m not sure how it handles videos. It plays nearly every video format I’ve uploaded, but I haven’t tested this intensely. Amazon uses a custom cloud player for videos, and it seems to be HTML5 or some other technology. It’s not flash. There is no right click menu.

This day - all the memories.
This day – all the memories.

Amazon Cloud Drive also has a “This Day” feature, which goes back through all the years of photos and videos you uploaded, and displays ones that happened on the current day in the previous years and displays them. I wish the Picasa program for windows had this feature. I’ll be uploading all my photos to Cloud Drive, so this will be good enough for now.

It also creates a readable PDF copy of any office document such as Docx files. It doesn’t seem to load any of the special fonts you may have used in the document, but its readable and the formatting still seems to be there.

Even though it creates a copy that you can view at any time, it leaves the original file unaltered. I would assume this extra copy doesn’t count against your file space, which isn’t even a problem if you’re on the unlimited plan.

The only real disappointment I’ve had is you can upload audio and store it, but you can’t play it via the browser. I assumed the music and other audio  would auto load in the cloud player and allow you to stream and listen to it, much like the video and pictures, NOPE. They want you to pay for a separate music subscription for that. So it’ll play/display almost any file type you throw at it, but not music. You can upload 250 songs to Amazon Music for free, which will display in your cloud, but that’s it, and you have to do that via the Amazon Music client.

This is a disappointment especially if you have alot of old voice recordings, sound clips, and such.

Sharing – I really love this sharing feature. If you’re going through you’re library of 10 year old videos and photos and want to share, EASY! just click the share button, it’ll create a link and you can send that link to anyone. They won’t be able to see anything else in your cloud storage but the file you shared, and you can turn off the sharing of that file at any time. You can also share directly to facebook which is nice. The iOS app lets you send the photos and videos to people via messenger as well. It doesn’t create a link, it actually sends the photo as if you were doing it from your computer or camera roll.

I’m really enjoying the service. Once you get passed the disappointment with the official desktop client, and start using third party clients, the service really opens up, and becomes easy to use, and very reliable. The official mobile apps are perfect.

Expandrive on windows 10 showing my amazon Cloud storage.
Expandrive on windows 10 showing my amazon Cloud storage.

For a third party client, I suggest Expandrive, which isn’t free, but has a week long trial. I used the coupon “5EDUCATIONL” which gave me 20% off, so the lifetime upgrade licenses was only $54, well worth it. odrive is a nice free client, which I loved, but it seems to be buggy with some Windows 10 installations, including mine, which will constantly crash explorer, which is too bad because its a nice app. The devs can’t seem to figure out why this is happening only on some installations, but they have mentioned they are rewriting the program from scratch.

Amazon Cloud Drive Apps
Amazon Cloud Drive Apps

Amazon actually has a page dedicated to list the popular third party apps that are compatible with its service.

My Amazon Cloud Drive Usage
My Amazon Cloud Drive Usage

I haven’t had any real issues yet, and I have uploaded nearly 80gb of data, mostly documents, videos, and pictures. The speed seems to be only limited by my ISP, so no downtime, slowness, or any such matters.

At this point, I recommend Amazon’s Cloud Drive to anyone looking for online storage, and the ability to watch their videos, or view photos from the web. As a matter of fact, they way it converts each picture or video format into a streamable format is worth the price alone if you plan on sharing alot of such content because it does it VERY well, and requires little effort on the users part.