This week Amazon announced the launch of a new service called Amazon Cloud Drive. According to the company, the Cloud Drive is “your hard drive in the cloud.” It will allow users to store “music, videos, photos and documents online and access them from anywhere.” Users who are registered with Amazon can get a 5 gigabyte storage plan for free. Paid plans are $1 per gigabyte each year up to 1,000 GBs.

The Wall Street Journal said the launch shows that Amazon is “grabbing the inside track over rivals such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc.” and that “the company is angling to build a comparable beachhead in the battle over consumers.”

Amazon Cloud Drive is already riling up the music and film industries. FoxNews reported that “Music companies and Hollywood studios ripped CEO Jeff Bezos’ plan for Amazon’s cloud-based streaming service. ‘It sounds like legalized murder to me,’ said one senior music veteran, adding that legal action was being considered.”

The industry objections are based on the contention that allowing users to store downloaded music and/or movies in Amazon’s cloud violates licensing arrangements. Amazon’s position, according to the Mail & Guardian, “is that it doesn’t need a license to store music any more than an ordinary consumer needs one to store their own music on a portable hard drive.”

As Amazon and the record labels bicker, users would rather know how Amazon Cloud Drive performs and whether the cost to store their music and movies in the cloud is justifiable.

Jared Newman at PCWorld said, “Storing files to Amazon Cloud Drive is straightforward enough. You click the big yellow upload button, and use your computer’s browser to select files.” However, he advised potential users to “be patient; Amazon estimated a 42-hour upload time for my 16 GB of music.”

Eric Zeman at InformationWeek was a bit more critical. “The file access tool is clunky at best, and very slow to use,” he wrote in a review of the service. Zeman also noted that, “Cloud Drive takes effort and time to set up properly, even if you only want to upload a few dozen tracks.”

CNET, meanwhile, concluded that Amazon Cloud Drive is great for storing digital media — but not much else.

“For music fans, Amazon's Cloud Drive and Cloud Player get an unqualified thumbs-up from us,” wrote senior editor Donald Bell. “The price is right, the interface is simple, and if you're already a fan of Amazon and its MP3 store, then it's a slam dunk. If what you want to do is automatically back up files other than your music collection, there are better products and services for that out there.”

For the public sector, Amazon Cloud Drive may evolve into a new opportunity for storing non-sensitive data. Some government agencies are already using cloud services from Amazon. Last year, for example, Scott County, Minn., moved its disaster recovery services to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud.

Chad Vander Veen  |  Editor, FutureStructure

Chad Vander Veen is the editor of FutureStructure.com