April 03, 2013, 11:20 AM — Amazon added a new element to its Cloud Drive service this week that expands it usefulness. The new Cloud Drive Sync app keeps files in sync across different devices and platforms, and pits Amazon Cloud Drive head-to-head against rivals such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple. However, businesses should steer clear of Amazon Cloud Drive.
The Amazon Cloud Drive Sync app is available for Windows or Mac OS X. Similar to other cloud file syncing tools, the app places a folder on your PC. Any files saved to the designated folder are automatically synced to Amazon Cloud Drive, and instantly available from any device that can access Amazon Cloud.
By default, the local Amazon Cloud Drive folder created on a Windows or Mac OS X PC includes sub-folders for Documents, Pictures, and Videos. Amazon doesn't offer a very consistent experience across platforms, though.
The Kindle Fire stores and accesses the data through separate tabs of the mobile OS: Docs, Photos, Videos, and Music. It can get a little confusing because a JPG file stored in the Documents sub-folder on a Windows or Mac OS X PC ends up in Photos on the Kindle Fire, while a video clip stored under Documents will be found in Videos. It makes sense, logically, but may throw people off because the files are not located in the same place from device to device.
On the Web, there is an additional folder called Archived Music. That folder (which also shows up as a folder under Docs on the Kindle Fire), contains the music files from Amazon Cloud Player. However, Amazon Cloud Player is still a separate service, and uploading or playing music should be done through that. You can download music files from this folder, or click on a file to play it in the default music player. However, uploading or syncing music files, playing entire albums, or shuffling playlists should be done through Amazon Cloud Player.
All in all, Amazon Cloud is on a par more or less with other cloud storage and syncing services. With 5GB of free storage for data that can be automatically synced and accessed from a diverse range of platforms and devices, Amazon Cloud users should check out what it has to offer--especially people who use a Kindle Fire, or frequently purchase content from Amazon.
Amazon Cloud Drive is not a business tool, though. As we've seen with Dropbox and other consumer-oriented cloud storage services, users often take matters into their own hands and store data in such cloud services for convenience. However, that data can't be accessed, managed or protected by the business, which could lead to exposing sensitive information.
Box, Dropbox for Teams, Google Drive for Business, and Microsoft SharePoint or SkyDrive Pro are examples of services that provide similar cloud storage, data syncing and file sharing capabilities, while also giving IT the tools necessary to manage access, enforce policies, and protect the data.
Ultimately, the single biggest factor in choosing a cloud storage and file syncing service is which ecosystem you rely on. Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and Apple iCloud all make perfect sense for users invested in the platforms and tools related to those respective ecosystems.
Amazon Cloud is a solid competitor for all of the above, and the no-brainer choice for users of Kindle Fire tablets, or for avid Amazon customers. However, Amazon Cloud Drive is a consumer-centric service that lacks the oversight IT admins need to control and protect business data.
Amazon provides guidance for businesses that wish to block access to Cloud Drive. It recommends that businesses block DNS resolution for zcd-00.s3.amazonaws.com to prevent access to Cloud Drive, and zcd-01.s3.amazonaws.com to block access to Amazon Cloud Player from corporate networks.
You might not want to count on that solution, though. At least check frequently to ensure that it's still working. That solution will only work as long as those specific URLs are required to access Cloud Drive or Cloud Player, and Amazon notes that the specifications are subject to change at any time.