Last week Apple made the cloud cool with the launch of iCloud. Apple's iCloud is certainly not the first cloud syncing and storage service, but the Apple stamp of approval moves the concept from cutting edge fringe into the tech mainstream. Cloud storage rivals are ready to take advantage of the spotlight on cloud syncing and storage, and go head to head with iCloud with new offers and services of their own.
The beauty of iCloud is that it seamlessly syncs and backs up data on iOS devices. iCloud makes it easier to keep contacts, calendars, emails, pictures, documents and more in sync between an iPhone, iPad, and Mac or Windows PC. The downside of iCloud is that--aside from the tie-in with Windows PCs--it is Apple-centric.
Apple provides 5GB of iCloud storage for free, and users can get an additional 10GB for $20 a year, 20GB for $40 per year, and 50GB for $100 per year.
I have talked with Box.net co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie about the advent of iCloud. The impact of Apple as a competitor can't be ignored, but Levie was more excited than worried. He was excited because iCloud puts a spotlight on cloud syncing and storage and brings attention to the concept which benefits Box.net in the long run.
To capitalize on the launch of iCloud, Box.net is offering iOS users 50GB of storage free for life--a savings of $100 a year over iCloud. More important for many customers, Box.net is platform agnostic with tools for accessing and syncing data from Android tablets and smartphones, BlackBerry smartphones, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP TouchPad tablets, in addition to iOS, Mac OS X, and Windows.
A newcomer on the cloud scene, CX--actually branded as "C to the X power", offers 10GB of cloud storage and the ability to create unlimited groups to share data for free. I haven't actually used CX yet, but judging from the site it seems to be similar in scope and capabilities to Box.net.
While 10GB is twice the amount of storage offered by competing services, the fees charged by CX for additional storage are higher than some competitors. CX provides 50GB of storage for $10 per month, and 100GB for $20 per month. That is less than the $20 a month Box.net charges for 50GB (when it isn't giving it away for free that is), but SugarSync has a 60GB plan for $10 a month, and a $100GB plan for only $15 per month.
Perhaps the most innovative and exciting news is the unveiling of the new SugarSync for Outlook tool. Have you ever had an email rejected because a file attachment was too large? Or--even worse--been the recipient of an email with a huge file attachment that clogs up your network and drags your email to a halt while you wait (and wait) for it to download? SugarSync for Outlook solves that.
With the SugarSync for Outlook client installed you can attach files to Outlook email messages just as you normally would, but rather than attaching the file itself it will include a link to download the file from SugarSync in the cloud. You can also attach files you have synced with SugarSync that are stored on other computers, and SugarSync lets you see how many times a file link has been clicked, or disable the link if you no longer want others to have access to the file.
As impressive as iCloud is, it is more or less Apple-centric and it is by no means the only game in town. Box.net, CX, SugarSync, and other cloud storage rivals each have their own unique pros and cons and are definitely worth checking out. I use Box.net personally, but I have to admit that the SugarSync for Outlook feature is impressive.