Amazon, Apple, and Google are all launching cloud-based media storage services, and they are all competing to manage your media collection. These services are vastly different, and each one of them has a lot to offer.
The service you choose will depend on the size of your collection, how you want to access your collection, and your budget. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses, so we’re going to compare them to help you choose the right service to manage your media in the cloud.
What Do Each Of These Service Offer
If you only have a few videos and a few hundred mp3s, cloud storage may not be at the top of your list. If you have over 20GB of media, cloud storage can become costly. Even though all of the pricing information for these cloud services has not been published, you need to understand how these three providers think about storage.
iCloud: You can store 25,000 songs, regardless of where they were purchased, but iTunes purchases do not count against your limit. You also get 5 GB of free storage for everything else.
Amazon Cloud Drive: You get 5 GB of storage free, but the paid storage tiers go up to 1000 GB. (For a limited time Amazon is offering unlimited music storage)
Google Music: Right now, Google will allow you to store a maximum of 20,000 songs for free, which could change in the future.
Protecting your digital video and photos is as important as protecting your music collection, but not every service is ready to accommodate other types of media. If you have a lot of digital video purchases and digital photos that you want to protect, consider how each service will manage your collection.
iCloud: You can store photos and video along with your music collection. It is currently unclear how iCloud will handle iTunes video purchases.
Amazon Cloud Drive: Amazon will allow you to store any type of file, but the maximum size for each file is 2 GB, which may make it difficult to store video.
Google Music: You can only store music without DRM at this time, and there is no information about future plans to support other types of files and media.
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless companies are placing caps on how much data their customers can transfer per month. If you have a very large media collection, but have a data cap, you have to consider how long it will take you to upload your files.
Since some of these services synchronize your data among multiple devices, you also need to consider how much bandwidth you will consume during the synchronization process.
iCloud: Songs in your music collection that are available on the iTunes store, regardless of whether or not you purchased them there, will be added to your account automatically. Songs not found on iTunes will be uploaded, and all other data will be uploaded.
Amazon Cloud Drive: You must manually upload all of your files.
Google Music: You must manually upload all of your files.
Synchronization and Streaming
If you have multiple devices you play music from, you have probably tried to synchronize your music collection with all of them. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of work to keep all of those devices in sync. Once you take the leap and put your music in the cloud, streaming your music or synchronizing it to your devices will be much easier.
iCloud: Automatic iCloud synchronization is built into Mac apps, and will keep your Mac, iPhone, and iPad in sync.
Amazon Cloud Drive: The Amazon MP3 for Android App allows you to synchronize your music or stream it to your Android device.
Google Music: The Official Android Player for Google Music allows you to stream music to your device.
Although each of these services provides a free option for at least part of your media collection, most music and digital video collections will exceed the quotas for free storage.
Since these services are so new, and some have not launched, expect the prices to change once there is real competition among them. For now, consider how much it will cost you to house your media collection with each of these providers.
iCloud: $24.99 per year to store up to 25,000 songs, and iTunes purchases do not count against the quota.
Amazon Cloud Drive: Amazon has pricing tiers from $20 per year for 20 GB to $1000 per year for 1000 GB of storage.
Google Music: No pricing has been announced for Google Music.
Side by Side Service Comparison:
|Amazon Cloud Drive|
|25,000 songs and 5 GB of file storage for free|
|5 GB for free, and paid tiers up to 1000 GB|
|Photos, Video, MP3s and AAC files, Application Data, Documents, Files (any kind)||Photos, Video, MP3s and AAC files without DRM, Documents, Files (any kind)||MP3s
|Scan and Match finds music files available in iTunes and automatically adds them to your account |
Still have to upload files that are not matched.
|All files must be uploaded using their software||All files must be uploaded using their software
|Synchronization and Streaming|
|Automatic synchronization between iPhone, iPad, and Macs built directly into applications. Third-party apps for other platforms to come. ||Amazon MP3 for Android featuring Amazon Cloud Player allows you to synchronize your music or stream it to your device.|
|Official Android player for Google Music allows you to stream songs to your device
|$24.99/yr for music storage|
Pricing for data storage beyond 5 GB has not been published
|5 GB = free|
20 GB = $20/yr
50 GB = $50/yr
100 GB = $100/yr
200 GB = $200/yr
500 GB = $500/yr
1000 GB = $1000/yr
|Currently Free of Cost.
Each of these cloud-based services has a personality of its own. They all have strengths and weaknesses, support different platforms and devices, and have vastly different pricing structures. While Google Music is still very bare bones in its beta state, Apple’s yet-to-be-launched iCloud has the largest set of planned features.
While a cheaper service may be more practical, you may need to spend more time, bandwidth, and energy to get files synchronized across all of your devices. Conversely, a more feature rich service may force you to pay for features you do not want or need. The best course of action is to test all of these services once you gain access to them, and see which one best suits your individual needs.