Oct 19, 2007

[Web] The Quest for Online Music Storage

Flickr: jeffreywithtwof's - wired and well connected
Photo from jeffreywithtwof's' photostream.

I do not own a portable music player. Heck, not even my cell phone can efficiently store and play music files. I'm just not one of those people I guess. However I do like having access to my files and my songs wherever I am, provided I'm parked. Case in point - maintaining access to my music at work. I've looked for various alternatives for addressing this little conundrum of mine. In the past I started by enjoying what used to be called LAUNCHcast but is now just Yahoo! Music in terms of the primary site. Eventually that got blocked along with all streaming media ports that rely on external applications like Windows Media Player or RealPlayer.

Then I moved over to MediaMax, which was initially known as Streamload when I signed up. It seemed to show potential since it was a great way for me to upload music from home then download it at work. But of course eventually those download ports got blocked and it's always tricky to figure out where to save files anymore.

So ultimately, the solution that I needed had to be an online one and preferably something that would play the music via Javascript or perhaps Flash. So far, I'm testing out two sites that do just that.

MP3tunesMP3tunes is an interesting service option. They generally promise unlimited storage for free, although when you sign up they indicate that only a certain number of unlimited accounts are activated daily. In the meantime, they give you 1Gb while you wait in queue for the next unlimited account. It seems a method more geared towards keeping people on the site longer as they hope for an online account.

The best thing about the site is the LockerSync application, which gives you an easy way to set specific folders for regular syncing between your computer and the online locker. You can schedule upload times, which files to start with, etc., which is all really cool if you had more than 1Gb of storage right away. However the LockerSync application is the only way you can upload music to the site, which is a bit of a pain. There is no way to upload files direct from a browser. Still, the LockerSync applications makes it devilishly easy to upload files and keep your online and offline libraries synchronized.

The site is more about securing your files online than sharing, which appeals to me. I have no plans of setting up my own online radio station nor do I see myself sharing my files excessively. So thus far, MP3tunes shows potential. The jury is out for now until (1) I test if the files I uploaded can be played from work and (2) how long before they give me more storage for free, hehe. I don't plan on paying for it just yet.

EDIT: I spoke too soon. Shortly after completing this entry and less than 3 hours since I signed up for an account, I received confirmation that my account now has unlimited storage. Hmmm...

MediaMasterMediaMaster is the other option I'm considering, which has even attracted the attention of CNET's WebWare blog. They provide unlimited storage for now although the possibility of capping that limit to 4Gb in the future has been indicated.

MediaMaster is practically 100% online, which of course triggers the need for a lot of Javascript for the site to work. It has now downloadable application and instead you manage all online / offline content interactions from the site. The uploader usually starts up in a new window and takes some time to initialize given it's Javascript-dictated nature. Still, it's fairly easy to use and it even gives you the option to control how much bandwidth will be alloted for uploading. Still, it requires manual intervention before you can upload files and there is no automatic way to upload files in the future - user intervention will always be needed. Surprisingly enough, it seems to work faster than the LockerSync application I mentioned earlier given I'm running the two side-by-side as I write this entry.

The site is a way for you to play and share your music anywhere however it stops there. This is not a storage solution but more of a way to get your music out there. In order to address potential copyright concerns, you can only share your music as a stream, normally dictated by a custom-made playlist of your own choosing. Also, you cannot download files that you upload - you can only delete music you no longer wish to keep. And interesting approach to rights-management.

The site's main claim to fame is how convinient it makes music sharing, giving users to create their own "radio station" with a unique URL so you can share music with friends. Also, the site already has a custom application to integrate with your Facebook page. I don't have an account myself, but I imagine how useful this can be for all you social networkers out there.

So that's how it stands for now - I'd love to hear your ideas and comments about these services, if you've used them or perhaps you have your own solutions you'd like to suggest. Expect individual reviews of these two sites in the future!

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