5 Things To Consider About Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon recently announced that you can have unlimited cloud storage for any types of files for $59.99 a year using their Amazon Cloud Drive service. Below is a list of questions I had and answers I've discovered as I've tried out the service.

1 - How is it different than Dropbox/Google Drive etc?

Besides the comparatively cheaper price, with the Amazon's service, instead of syncing the files that exist on your computer to the cloud you use your browser (for files up to 2gigs) or the Amazon Cloud Drive App downloaded to your computer (all files) to upload the files to the Amazon service. In the past there was actually an Amazon app for your computer that let you sync files, and if you already have it installed you can still use it, but currently the new app available to people like me who just signed up after the unlimited storage does not have sync features, it's just for uploading files or downloading your entire archive.

2 - Can I get the files on my phone?

You can see all pictures and video from the cloud and you can automatically back up your mobile device's pictures and video, but at this point, the mobile apps are not like similar cloud storage services where you can see and work with all file types.

3 - Why are these old pictures showing up on my phone as if they're from this year?

In the mobile Amazon cloud apps, images that don't have a "date taken" in their meta data (aka the EXIF found in JPEGS) will show up in the photo stream for the date the image was uploaded to the Amazon service. However, if you visit the Web app there's a category not (yet?) on the mobile app for "No date" to keep such files separate from properly dated ones your photo stream.

4 - What's the "Best Way" to use the service?

I view Amazon Cloud Drive as an archive. Also, I'm a project oriented person. So, it's a great fit for my project archive needs. The way I decided organize what I upload to Amazon is in zipped archives, each with the name of the project they contain and all the required project assets. If more than one project needs the same asset I duplicate the asset to have a copy in each project folder that requires it. I have all types of projects: video, print design, old web sites, in one "Projects" folder. I start the name of the zip file for each project with a four digit year to make it easy to sort by name to get a rough timeline when viewing the Cloud drive.

Example of my folder structure:

_Projects/2013_Some Video Project.zip
_Projects/2014_Some Website Project.zip

I found it's a good idea to zip the projects because otherwise you lose the "created" and "modified" time/date info on the files, it will be replaced with the date the file was uploaded to Amazon for sorting purposes. Of course I found zipping is a great choice after I uploaded 50 or so projects without zipping. Oh well, at least I figured out most of the years they were in and named the folders accordingly.

Another benefit to zipping is that the photos and videos from that client I had in 2007 won't show up with the personal snapshots of that interesting bug I saw in the park that same year when viewing the cloud drive as "Photos & Videos". Also if you have animation sequence as part of a project, it can be annoying to see a thousand images take up major screen real estate as your scrolling through old memories. Personal experience talking here.

5 - Does it work as advertised?

I have a lot of different kinds of projects, so the features advertised by the cloud drive are perfect for me. I've been waiting for something like this for a while and am excited it's finally offered. However, so far, the actual experience of using the features has been less than perfect. Even though it's unlimited, it seems that there's currently a bug with the Amazon service so files over a certain size (seems to be somewhere around 10 - 15 gigs) will give a "network error" at the end of the upload. I'm uncertain if they actually got up to the cloud undamaged so until I can confirm that they did I'm not removing them from my local machine. Also, apparently, you can't selectively download files over a certain size.* If you try to do so in Safari you'll get a little text file with what I assume is meant to be an error thrown to the website. It's a bit of JSON that reads "file size not supported." A quick browse of various forums indicates that you can still retrieve such files if you choose to "download all files" from the app instead of try to download them individually from the Web, but until I can confirm it, I am going to hold on to any files that have indicated a network error on upload.

Conclusion

I'm quite happy with what's offered by the service, and the direction it's going, but until the bugs with larger files get worked out I won't be able to remove some such files from my local storage, which defeats the purpose of using it as an archive to free up space locally.

*Update July 22, 2015: You can now download files over 10GB without error. Today I successfully downloaded and unzipped a previously uploaded 16GB zip file that had indicated "network error" at the time of upload.

Update August 18, 2015: Uploading very large files still seems to be an issue, here's a screencast of what I see when uploading a >70GB file. Visit the video on YouTube for timecode references.

Update January 28, 2016: I've found odrive to be a great compliment to Amazon Cloud drive it allows you to preserve your file modified dates and has a desktop sync client. I'm really happy to be able to sync to Amazon Cloud drive with my desktop computer. Keep in mind it's a third party service, it's not created by Amazon, so you'll need to decide if you trust them or not before you use them.