For years, music fans have been pulling their hair out trying to find a way to consolidate all the stray music files across their computers and devices. As a solution, Amazon offers Cloud Drive, which gives you a way to send all your music files up to Amazon, and either download or stream on your other computers and gadgets.
The service starts with a free 5GB plan, but it can scale up to 20, 50, or up to 1,000GB (1TB), at the cost of $1 per gig, per year. The uploading and downloading tools run on Adobe Air, so they work on both Mac and PC.
Once Amazon's software is installed, it will run a quick scan of your drive, report on how many music files you have available to upload, and show you how much storage is available for you with your current plan.
Once uploaded, you can navigate through your music collection using Amazon's browser-based Cloud Player. Similar to the music locker interfaces we've seen from mSpot and MP3tunes, the Amazon Cloud Player allows you to sort your collection by song, artist, album, or genre, by selecting from the intuitive sorting options in the left column. A list of uploaded playlists is also displayed below the main sorting options. We were happy to see that the Amazon uploader tool was able to digest our iTunes playlists, including Smart Playlists and Genius Playlists.
Here we see what an album looks like in Amazon Cloud Player. We like the inclusion of cover art (even from albums we didn't buy through Amazon). In this view tracks can be rearranged, deleted, downloaded, or added to playlists.
It's also worth mentioning that any songs you purchase from Amazon's MP3 store will be automatically backed up to your account. Amazon is effectively guaranteeing a backup of your MP3 purchases at no cost, which is a big incentive for users to go with Amazon over Apple.
One way to pull music back down to your computer from the cloud is to set it up automatically under the Cloud Player's settings menu. Here you'll find a checkbox that will direct the MP3 Downloader tool to automatically download any new music in your Cloud Drive to your computer. The setting is computer specific, so it's possible to set things so that only your home computer will download new Cloud Drive music, leaving your work computer uncluttered. It's a useful feature, and we're glad to see that Amazon included it.
Whether you're downloading tracks manually or automatically, you'll need to use Amazon's MP3 Downloader tool. Chances are you already have it, since this is the tool Amazon uses to carry out downloads from its MP3 store.
Aside from Amazon's handy, cross-platform uploader and downloader utilities, and its browser-based tools for viewing, downloading, and streaming your stuff, Amazon is also throwing in a Cloud Player feature within its Amazon MP3 app for Android.
The Cloud Drive is more than just music, though. You can upload photos, documents, and videos, as well. Sites like Flickr or Google shouldn't be too worried, though. You're really just getting a generic file tree of your stuff using Cloud Drive. Still, if you have a handful of precious files you want to back up along with your music, it's nice to have the option.