My year-old laptop includes an old-school hard drive, but I’m not sure why. I keep nearly all my important files at several cloud storage services: Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, or Google Drive. But there’s one major problem: finding the stuff. When hunting up an important document or a favorite music recording, it’s easy to forget where it’s stored.
Clearly, lots of people have this problem, because I’ve found a bunch of online services that help manage your other online services. These services —
Using several cloud services for your vital files gives you an extra margin of safety in case one goes down or gets hacked. Besides, you can pick up a lot of free online storage that way. Dropbox gives you 2 free gigabytes, Google Drive offers 5, and SkyDrive provides 7.
And you can instantly purchase additional space. In the same way, most of these multicloud management programs can be used at no charge, though their paid versions are much more capable.
These programs work not only with file-dump services such as Dropbox, but also with many kinds of cloud services. They’ll access e-mail services like Gmail and Outlook.com, for instance. Or you can do bulk photo uploads to Facebook, bypassing that site’s clumsy upload process. In addition, some of them are cloud storage services in their own right, providing you with still more online storage.
Sadly, two of the most popular cloud services don’t work with these programs: Apple’s iCloud and Amazon.com Cloud Drive, each with five gigs of free storage. iCloud is the most popular cloud storage service in the United States, largely because so many customers of Apple’s iTunes Store put their music and movie purchases there. Amazon Cloud Drive is also a popular music stash. I’ve got a couple hundred songs there. But neither iCloud nor Cloud Drive will work with these cloud managers.
Each cloud manager works on the same principle. First you create an account, then you’re shown a list of compatible cloud services. Click, say, Google Drive, and you’re asked to enter the username and password you use for that service. It’s now added to your list of available clouds, accessible through any Internet-connected browser.
These programs generate an index of all the files in your clouds. Can’t remember whether you put that Excel spreadsheet in your Dropbox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive? Just type in a keyword or two, and you search all of them at once. When the file appears on screen, click it, and it instantly launches the correct cloud service and opens the file.
The four services I tested varied considerably in quality. ZeroPC seemed like a good bargain; the free version includes a gigabyte of online storage. But it suffers from a clumsy user interface, and worse yet, an unreliable index system. Its all-important file-searching feature didn’t work at all until I phoned tech support and complained.
I had much better success with CloudMagic. It has a clean, efficient user interface that makes it easy to track stuff down. Searching for notes about a person I interviewed some years ago, CloudMagic found every mention of the man in my Dropbox, my Google Drive, and even old Gmail messages. The free version, alas, lets you look at only 50 of your documents each month. Unlimited access costs $4.99 a month. Neither version includes any free storage.
Primadesk wasn’t quite as elegant as CloudMagic, but it was just as effective. Its free version includes one gigabyte of storage and the right to connect to 10 cloud services — enough even for me.
My favorite of the lot, Otixo, costs $4.99 per month. There’s no free version and no additional online storage. But Otixo was the snappiest and smoothest performer of the bunch. In addition, it works with a free program called NetDrive that treats your cloud services as if they were hard drives inside your personal computer.
NetDrive adds an Otixo folder to your computer’s directory. Inside are folders for all your cloud services. If you want to add files to Google Drive or move new photos to Facebook, don’t open the browser. Just drag and drop.
I’m sure my next laptop will have cloud management software and a good Internet connection. But it may not need a hard drive.
Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.