Reaching for the Clouds

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In my article “It’s Getting Cloudy out There” I identified the proliferation of the various cloud based services we are being confronted with. I also identified three major functions of cloud base services beyond of course that which is now standard such as movies on demand, music services, buying online and on this list goes. These all highlight just how much the cloud has permeated our lives but it goes way beyond what I’m going to refer to as the standard functions of the cloud we have come to expect and live with on a daily fashion.

There is still a bit of a wow factor to the above but they are now so commonplace they are taken for granted and some people no longer even think of this as cloud based services. Rather, what I want to address is all the cloud based services that provide us additional functionality that either extends our Macs or integrates them into a larger whole. As such, I identified three major functions that we require to properly enable our use of our computers effectively. However, due to the nature of cloud based services, unfortunately there is no one stop shop. Should you need a mixture of these functions and sub functions you will likely have to have more than one cloud service.

No One Stop Shop

One stop shop

There might be a one stop shop if you need only certain of the three functions I outlined in “It’s Getting Cloudy Out There”. As an example, if you only need file share then SugarSync is probably your best bet. Again, if you only require sync of your computers and say even file backup and share you need look no further than Sugarsync or Cubby.

Of these types of services, I have my favorites. If you‘re looking for great sync of your computers head on over to SugarSync or Cubby. Of these two, my preference is Sugarsync. In fact, I believe SugarSync probably is the best of the sync services for computers. Rather throwing your file into a folder that sync’s you just have the SugarSync application sync the folder in it’s logical place. It works great. Cubby emulates this model but its not quite as slick. However, if you add in file share to this mix I prefer SugarSync‘s over Cubby’s.

If you’re looking for great file share that presents well to the person you’re sharing a file with then SugarSync is the best but only in that it is fully Mac file compatible. Box.net has great file share but it is not full Mac compatible.

Now let’s say though you want great file backup, storage, share, and sync of computers the one stop shop is possible. In this case I would say SugarSync is your best option. Cubby isn’t bad but I don’t like the way they do file share. You’ll find that these services might do these things in different ways. As an example, you might find that a service requires the other person take an account to do file share. Personally, I don’t like this. I don’t mind being any company’s reference if they’re good. I don’t want to be forcing people to use their service. I might not even know this is the case except that I check to see how the other end does what they do.

So before we jump to the killer requirement, in my view, of all requirements, even with what I’ve notated above there is no one stop shop. For sync I like to use SugarSync and I will use SugarSync to share a file. Further I do view them as a file backup and storage system. In reality, for off site backup and file storage of my whole home user folder I use Crashplan probably the best rated service for the Mac.

The pièce de résistance

So, as we’ve seen, even for the what I would call more basic and less esoteric functions when you reach for the clouds it’s not quite so simple which or how many clouds you should touch. I could have gone into elaborate explanation just on sync and why say a Box.net doesn’t cut it for sync and a SugarSync and Cubby do. They all can provide sync of computers but there are striking differences as to the way they do it, how and with what limitations.

Now I’ll throw into the fray what I view as the third major piece of functionality Direct Link; the most esoteric of all functions and yet one of the most useful and to be used functions with time. When we move into the requirement to have a direct link URL to share images, videos etc we now have to turn our attention to the new kids on the block.

The New Kids on the Block

If you need to share an image via Direct Link and there are many forums and social media sites that require this you’ll probably have to go to:

  • Cloudapp
  • Imgur
  • Cloudup (just acquired by WordPress due to their novel and advanced function)
  • droplr
  • Dropbox (old school but doable)
  • Box.net (very nice but you have to pay and not fully Mac file compatible)

This is by no means an all inclusive list of those who provide Direct Link but I suspect its close. Of the above all but the last two I call the new kids on the block. If I talk to any of the new kids on the block they’ll understand everything I’m discussing in this article but prefer to concentrate on one thing extensively to make it the best and that’s direct link.

The Boutique Shopping Experience

I sort of feel like describing shopping for what you’re looking for in this space as the boutique shopping experience. I’ll go to this store for that as they have the best of that. I’m going to go to this store for this as they have, I’m told, the best this. Oh and I’ll go to this store for that as they’re the only ones except for so and so that have that too.

I hope as you’re preparing your list you write your list down. If this is starting to sound like a boutique shopping experience of the most harry kind it is. Not to worry though as I will give you my preferred recommendation for each of the above major functions and I hope the sub functions will fall into one of what you get as you venture out on what should be a delightful shopping excursion.

Why do I call this a boutique shopping experience. First, let’s look at a definition of the term from Wikipededia:

A boutique is a small shopping outlet, especially one that specializes in elite and fashionable items such as clothing and jewelry. The word is French for “shop”, via Latin from Greek ἀποθήκη (apothēkē), “storehouse”.[1][2]

The term entered into everyday English use in the late 1960s when, for a brief period, London was the centre of the fashion trade. Carnaby Street and the Kings Road were the focus of much media attention as home to the most fashionable boutiques of the era.

Reference this page from [Wikipedia].

This is a very adroit description of your reaching for the clouds or in other words going on your shopping excursion for fashionable items. The rest of the definition applies here and there. Are we surprised. No! Can it be managed. Most definitely.

When you go shopping at the new kids of the block let’s call this shopping at a small outlet that provides elite and fashionable items. This most assuredly does not apply to the SugarSync‘s of the world however I wish it did. Could we say when you go shopping at the new kids on the block you’ll be shopping in that like *Carnaby Street and Kings Road* area. I think so. However, again only as this applies to the new kids on the block.

What to Do

As I wrap this up I’m going to try to make your shopping experience a little more manageable although I might not have achieved the goal of making it totally understandable but I’m doing my best without writing a book on the subject. I’m going to assume for arguments sake and to keep this as simple as possible that you will want all three of the primary functions wherein I’m sure the sub functions will likely get covered off. Yet there is of course a proviso here. Your requirements will always dictate what it is you need. Thus, if you don’t need all three functions I will make a final suggestion for the one stop shop but your shop might be different from mine.

For Pure Backup and Storage

I want to start with one of the most critical components that everyone of our shops will provide but in my view one service provides that the best for us Mac users and that’s Crashplan. This service is reasonable and will allow for unlimited backup and incremental versions of your software changes over time. It’s an incredible backup service that everyone should have regardless. You’ll know your data is safe the clouds. Once you set it up, it will just run transparently in background. Do have a good capacity internet connection though as just in my case, I backed up my whole user or home folder to Crashplan. Although it took a bit of time (hours to a little over a day) I have the fastest upload capability currently available at 10 megabits per second. Trust that the slower your connection, the longer for this first run backup. From thereon in backups will just occur transparently in background and should not be that large in size except unless of course you run Windows 8 on a virtual machine as I do. You’ll want to exclude that from your backup.

So there we have it for backup. There are numerous other services but none as good for the Mac as Crashplan.

File Share and Storage

All the services, including the new kids on the block, do file share and storage. However, we want the best not just what happens to be available because we chose x,y or z company. In my view, SugarSync is the best option for file share and storage. It’s fast and presents the user with a nice mechanism for download. Additionally, SugarSync is, from my determination, 100% Mac file system compatible and can easily sync up a folder with what is referred to as a package file. Be very careful in your choice of service as some services are capable but slow when it comes to this kind of file if not completely incompatible as is Skydrive. Whatever you choose needs to be 100% Mac file system compatible.

Although I’ve chosen SugarSync, Cubby is also very good at folder and file storage. I’m just not quite as keen on the way they do file share. However, they function in a similar way to SugarSync for file sync which is my preferred method.

Sync of Computers

To sync say your iMac with your MacBook Air you’ll need a service that provides excellent sync. Again, a lot of services will provide sync. Avoid the ones that are of the box type. So here again my favourite is SugarSync followed closely by Cubby. In fact, this is really almost a tie in my books for sync. You might get a better price and more storage space with Cubby so this is really a your preference choice here based on need.

Direct Link

This is the catcher. For direct link go to the new kids on the block. In this case, I would choose either Cloudapp or iMgur. My preference is probably iMgur for this but this is merely a preference thing.

Cloudup is very good but currently it’s only by invitation. It has just been bought by WordPress so it’s worth keeping an eye on this one due to some of the novel technology they use. Personally, though for my needs iMgur, Cloudapp, droplr and Cloudup are all perfectly fine.

Now it’s Time to Grab a Cloud or Two or…..

Images

Well there you have it. A lot of cloud services all with different capabilities strengths and definitive weaknesses. To try to keep this simple and assuming you require all three of the above primary capabilities I would go with SugarSync for your storage, file share and sync needs and any of the new kids on the block for your Direct Link requirements.

Independent of the above and just to add one more little cloud into our mix I would wholeheartedly advise you to get an off site backup service and I feel the best one for the Mac is Crashplan. With SugarSync, iMgur say and Crashplan on board you’ll have a fair bit of storage without having paid much. However, just to add a little bit to your stormy day, if you have an iPhone, iPad or more than one Mac or any combination of the above, you will in all likelihood be using iCloud and Dropbox plus maybe even…. Well I won’t say anymore at this time other than to assure you that once having gotten through the storm, though challenging, that blue sky awaits and you will find yourself powerfully enabled.

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