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3/30/2011
10:32 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Amazon's Cloud Drive: First Impressions

We take Amazon's new Cloud Drive music-streaming service for desktop browsers and Android handsets out for a spin.

Cloud Drive, which Amazon announced Tuesday, lets users access up to 20 GB of their own music from any desktop browser or Android smartphone. Cloud Drive provides 5 GB of storage for free, but will upgrade that to 20 GB with the purchase of any album from its MP3 download store. How well does it work and is it worth the time it takes to set up?

Using my desktop computer, I navigated to Amazon.com. On the Amazon home page, it had a splashy announcement about the new service, with links that lead directly to it. There are several components needed to set up Cloud Drive.

First, you have to have an Amazon.com account. If you don't already, you'll need to set one up before proceeding. Once you agree to the terms of service, Amazon prompts users to download a new version of the Amazon MP3 Downloader software.

Because the service launched on a Tuesday (the day on which new releases become available), I purchased a new album for which I'd been waiting so Amazon would upgrade my storage from 5 GB to 20 GB. Before allowing me to download my newly purchased music, Amazon asked if I wanted to store it in Cloud Drive instead. I declined and used the Downloader to retrieve my purchase. What's odd is that there's no option to add the music to Cloud Drive and download it, too.

In order to play music in the browser, Amazon has created the Cloud Player. The Cloud Player is a simple (and not very attractive) piece of browser software that lets you access and play your tunes. Too bad there's nothing stored in there yet.

To transfer music from your hard drive to Cloud Drive, Amazon requires another download -- the Adobe AIR-based Amazon MP3 Uploader. Thankfully, neither the Amazon MP3 Downloader nor Uploader software required a restart (at least on my Mac). The Uploader software is not very good. When opened, it automatically starts to scan the local hard drive for music files. Since I have about 120 GB of music on my computer, I forced it to stop and chose to manually search for files instead.

The file access tool is clunky at best, and very slow to use. I chose to upload full albums (as opposed to individual files) to make the process a little bit less annoying. I chose about 20 albums (approximately 2 GB worth) and hit the upload button. It took about 35 minutes to transfer the 2 GB worth of music from my hard drive to Cloud Drive. (I have Verizon's FiOS service at my house with 35 Mbps down / 35 Mbps up.) I repeated this process all day until I had about 1,600 tracks (approximately 17 GB worth) uploaded.

From start to finish, setting up the service and uploading 1,600 songs took about eight hours. That kinda sucks. So, why bother?

My main travel machine is now a MacBook Air. It has only 128 GB of local storage available and I want to keep as much of that storage free as possible for work-related purposes. I haven't put any of my media (music, movies, etc.) on this machine. Using Cloud Drive, however, I can listen to a selection of my music anywhere I have an Internet connection. Thankfully, it works as advertised by Amazon.

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