Zukmo Is Your Cloud-Based Filing System

Sometimes browsing the Web feels a little like a game of “catch and release.” You happen upon interesting content, you consume it, and then you release it back into the wild. Invariably, at some point in the future, you may find yourself vaguely remembering having seen something once that might pertain to something you need to know right now, but you can’t quite put your finger on it ….

If you aren’t too fond of the circular file-like cycle of information consumption on the Web, then Zukmo might be your new best friend. At it’s heart, its a bookmarking system. But it’s clever-simple interface and deep functionality make it worth a look. The key functions of Zukmo are the ability to store, access, and share content. Content is culled from various sources around the Web to be stored in Zukmo’s one, centralized location. Create your account for free, drag the bookmarklet up into your browser bar, click it when you are on a page you want to keep and you can then retrieve it at your “My Zukmo” page, either via the bookmarklet link or at their website.  A very nice feature is the ability to import bookmarks from your browser and Google and sync with Delicious and other sources so that you can keep everything centralized. A very, very nice feature is the ability to add the bookmarklet to your mobile browser on your iPhone and iPad – where I do most of my reading anyway.

But it isn’t just about your Web bookmarks. You can also bookmark and upload local documents to My Zukmo, which then become part of the search universe within Zukmo. You can pull content from your Twitter stream, from Google Docs, from YouTube and Vimeo and from Slideshare and view them within Zukmo. The search function offers full text and attribute search across all of the stored content and streams and get back highlighted results, like a Google search. You can distribute out of Zukmo to Facebook and Twitter, by email, or all three at the same time.

When you save in Zukmo, the app uses a simplification process to improve readability, showing only the key content, without the usual Web page gobbledy gook. There is also an Easy Reader button on each entry, which essentially shows the substance in a printer-friendly format. Finally, you can use Zukmo as an automatic sharing hub to Facebook and Twitter, and access your content from any device, anywhere. Check out the sample screenshot of your My Zukmo page. Nice and clean:

Zukmo really offers an incredibly amount of storage service for free. Besides considering it for your bookmarking needs, the document add feature brings Zukmo closer to a cloud backup solution for a large segment of your own personal data. Not a bad deal for the price.

Cloud Experience For Online, Real Time Backups

I have had people ask me about the best options for backing up data and media. Invariably, the discussion centers around local storage versus cloud storage and some combination thereof. Studio readers know I am a big fan of cloud storage (particularly if it is free), and that I use DropBox quite a bit to manipulate my content in the cloud. But I don’t really use DropBox for online backup – I tend to use it more as a way station and sharing option when I need to use certain files across devices or work with someone else on something. The free limit is rather small to be used to backup tons of data.

Cloud Experience is a great cloud option for online backup. The service starts at 10gb for free for both consumers and developers, as well as quite reasonably priced for added storage if the 10gb is insufficient. You can sync documents, photos, calendars, contacts – pretty much any data worth saving in multiple locales. You can sync these backups across a plethora of devices, so you need not wring your hands when your trusty smartphone bites the dust or you find yourself remote from your main address book needing to call that contact whose number you haven’t memorized. Files can also be shared with lots of networks, including the social ones.

There is no harm in adding a layer of protection to 10gb of your content when the price is free. Check out Cloud Experience – you may find yourself thanking me.

How's Your Cloud Looking These Days?

If you want to know, check out this visual showing the results of a report compiled by BitNami, Cloud and Zenoss via ReadWriteWeb. All respondents, save 20% polled, have some plans to utilize the cloud in 2011. While this is a pretty sizable number, respondents also seem sort of reluctant to go fully hosted or virtual, with a preference for keeping some measure of hardware control. Linux is the most popular cloud operating system, and a whopping 60% prefer to use open source software whenever possible. Wow. Scalability, savings and easier management are the most cited reasons for “going cloud.” Are you in the cloud or do you plan to do so in the near future? What are your reasons?

Primadesk Offers Another Cloud Management Option

I talked about Joukuu, a local cloud management tool, and how to get a pile of free cloud file storage in a previous post. Another option for the management task is Primadesk. Primadesk is a web-based tool that  operates like a file management system, albeit composed entirely of the contents of various popular cloud file storage sites. In a single window, you can easily drag and drop files between services or from web to desktop and search your entire cloud storage. Access a document by clicking on it, and the appropriate service will open in a new tab, with the document showing. Because it is web-based, it works across platforms and mobile devices. Store all types of files, images, videos and hook up your emails for a single monitoring vantage point. Offers a password manager, with single log-in. And can back up your data to another storage site. There is a Primadesk photo manager app for iPhone, too. Free and beta right now, so why not get in on the action?

HomePipe Hooks You Up, Sans Cloud Storage

Still not sure about moving all your key documents to the cloud, but still needing to be able to access them from anywhere? Want to collaborate but need to maintain a decent security level?

Enter HomePipe. This very cool, free-for-entry-level application allows instant remote access and file sharing from your main storage computer via any Web browser and pretty much any mobile device. Looking much like a cross between Pogoplug (but no hardware) and Dropbox (but no online storage requirement), HomePipe allows secure access between your Mac, Windows or Linux desktop and your iOS-powered, Android-powered or Windows Phone 7-powered device (apparently a Blackberry app is coming). It feels like Dropbox from the end-user perspective, but it is anything but. The files are still stored on your home or company computer and you can access and share from any other computer or mobile device. The resulting connection acts much like a Virtual Private Network, with the ability to cross firewalls. You can edit documents in-app, but be careful – there are no automatic backups or version control. Audio streaming is also supported, in the event you use HomePipe to make your audio video library available on the go.

Why HomePipe? There are no file size restrictions and you can purchase unlimited connections. Keep your data in-house while you access and share documents, presentations, photos and media. No need to spend money on storage or spend multiple hours uploading, organizing or syncing in the cloud.

HomePipe is free with a 10 use per month limit.  The next tier costs $23 per year with unlimited remote uses and no advertising. The mobile applications are all free. HomePipe is looking to woo enterprise users, with new added security features – you can specify access to shared files, require that users access via secure login and enjoy authenticated and encrypted content access via TLS/SSL.

Nice to see intermediate sharing options for the cloud-phobic.

Mimedia With 7GB of Free Cloud Backup/Storage

As we look ever skyward, instead of downward at our desktops, for apps and storage, newcomers will have to offer more to compete for attention. Enter Mimedia: an online storage site that offers 7GB free storage (or $9.99 per mo / $99 per year for 250GB or more) within a more interactive environment than the average online storage site. In addition to the usual, secure online storage locker, you can get instant, on demand access to your files from anywhere. This becomes extra useful when you are storing music or video, but still works nicely with files and photo galleries. To avoid the upload hassles, you can use Mimedia’s physical “shuttle drive” – they will send you the drive, you load the media as encrypted files and send it back, and they will upload it for you. New files and changes are backed up automatically in real-time.  Once in the cloud, you can access the information from anywhere with an internet connection. There is a local Mimedia application that is required for interacting with your acccount. The interface on the Web has more visual appeal than some, ahem, more well-known competitors.

All in all, Mimedia offers an affordable package with enough bells and whistles to make you want to take a second look. And, if free is what you are after, 7GB is a whole lot more than 2GB, last time I consulted my math skills.

More Free On-Line Space – Amazon Cloud Drive

Further to last week’s cloud management and storage post, I just happened on this deal this morning. You can 5GB of cloud storage for free from none other than Amazon via their brand new Cloud Drive. While it appears intended for use with Amazon’s music downloads (and uploads), it appears able to store all sorts of media. Purchases of MP-3’s from Amazon’s store are stored for free and don’t count against your 5GB space. You can buy additional space for reasonable change – essentially $1 per GB per year. Get your tunes in the cloud for free and a little extra storage space to boot. Beating Apple and Google to the cloud music-punch, with a freebie on the side. Nicely done, Amazon.

Manage Your Cloud From One Spot + Free Storage Options

I have a collection of free cloud storage accounts and, while not impossible, it is slightly challenging to organize and manage all of them. I stumbled on a local option for handling some of those cloud accounts – Joukuu. Joukuu, which means “cloud” in Japanese,  is a free, Windows-only (Mac version promised soon) download that helps you interact with three of the most popular services: Dropbox; Box.net; and Google Docs. You can pretty much manage your entire process with this app – access your files, sync and open with local applications.

Edit files, and create and sync on the desktop without having to log-in the cloud or open separate windows.

How about one-click backup? Just right click on your selected files, and choose the account, the files will backup to your online accounts automatically.

Move files between accounts in your Joukuu with simple drag and drop.

Joukuu does not copy any files to its own servers, so you need only worry about your own desktop and the various cloud providers it links to as far as security goes.

So, this whole Joukuu got me to thinking – just how much cloud storage can you pull down for free? While I can say for certain this isn’t an exhaustive list, you might be surprised at just how much you can expand your storage space for no cash. Dropbox starts you off with 2GB for free, but you can earn 3GB to 10.25 GB if you get people to sign up via referral from you. Box.net gives you 5GB for free with a personal account. Google Docs gives you 1GB for free. Each provider offers different limits on file sizes and access – definitely check them out. But, right out off the bat, Joukuu can help you manage between 8GB and over 13GB of storage without any investment.

Want more? Check out Windows SkyDrive which offers a whopping 25GB for free (50MB file upload size max). Zumo Drive gives you up to 2GB for free. Or Memopal which gives you 3GB for free. iDrive offers a consumer friendly 2GB free. ADrive offers 50GB of free online backup – wow! 2GB uploads, and ad-supported. With a little finagling you can lay claim to around 90GB of free, on-line storage. Several of these offer mobile apps for file storage on the go, particularly helpful with my iDevices. Not bad, not bad at all.

When Your Front-end Cloud Needs Back Up

One of the most frequently-spouted objections to playing with your data in the cloud is the fear that all that data, once flying around in the ether and out of your control, might be lost forever on the wings of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The big news over the past week about Google’s loss of Gmail data for a number of accouts (link here) painfully reinforces the point.

But common sense should prevail in the cloud, as it does on the ground. If you don’t back up your data, be it residing on your hard drive or elsewhere, you are standing squarely in harm’s way.

So, given the situation, what can the average person do to ensure that their important information does not get lost in a software update, computer glitch, or malicious viral wave?

You can set up an auto-forward within Gmail, using POP configuration, to send mail to your chosen client – simply click on your account settings and the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab to enable POP. This will load all your Gmail into your client email program, creating a copy on the web and a local copy.  

For what it is worth, you can add multiple internet email services to your local Outlook client (not just Gmail), and archive locally from there.

You also can backup your Gmail, Twitter, Facebook (profile and pages), Google Calendar, Contacts, Docs and Sites, Blogger, LinkedIn, Picasa, Zoho, and Flickr accounts with an online service called Backupify. The free version gives you 2GB of storage, or you can purchase 100GB of storage for $4.99 per month – pretty darn cheap. The site offers automatic archiving and search of backups with extreme simplicity – there really is no downside to signing up for a free account and setting up your various data feeds to be sent automatically to Backupify, even as a redundant + redundant system.

For Gmail only, you also can use the Gmail Backup Tool. Download the app, set up your account and your backups will be automatically generated and stored locally, with an auto-restore option for your online Gmail account.

While Gmail is in the limelight right now, it never hurts to put methods in place to save your treasured data. For eample, I have enabled my Twitter RSS feed to flow into my Google Reader account, providing me with a means of storing my tweets and searching the entire history of my existence on Twitter. I have enabled a plug-in on my WordPress blog to facilitate easy backup prior to upgrading to new versions of WordPress, which seem to come out almost every other month.

For every reason, there is a method. Find one that works and get going!

iCloud is Your Cloud

You can go sort of cloud by using cool tools like Dropbox and Gmail. Or you can REALLY go cloud and move your entire desktop up there. If that concept intrigues you, check out iCloud – a virtual computer on the Web. It’s not an operating system per se, but sure looks and acts like one, albeit one that works in the cloud, from any computer with internet access. Accessing your online computer is as easy as navigating to icloud.com in your web browser. When you do, log in, and your  own desktop emerges, giving you access to your most frequently used files and applications. Application gadgets, such as clock, calendar, weather, can be stored in the sidebar to the right. And, like your regular local desktop, your start menu resides to the lower left.

iCloud offers and impressive list of applications, including tools for mail, instant messaging, photo organization, file exploring, music and video playing, writing, calendaring, contacting and gaming.

iCloud utilizes the same general functions for file storing, backing up and managing as local systems, making it comfortably familiar to use. The extra cool feature is automatic syncing via it’s “Easy Upload” system, which keeps your virtual files synced with your local files similar to Dropbox.

Because it is cloud-based, sharing becomes much simpler – you are not limited to email or messaging to deliver your content:

And here is the kicker – because it is Web-based, iCloud can leverage technologies that make managing your virtual “desktop” from your mobile device possible. The mobile app allows you to access your iCloud files, view documents, and upload photos directly from your mobile camera. With the iPhone version, you can directly share any file from the phone, and email the file with a link using the iPhone’s built-in email.

iCloud is actively seeking developers to create applications that can leverage iCloud’s tools and services, much like Dropbox’s app “store.” Check out some of the apps that are already in cahoots with iCloud here.

For free, you get 3gb of storage space. A 100 gb superdrive is available for $39.95 per year – not too shabby for cloud space plus virtual desktop and integrated apps.

Intrigued? I know I am. Offering a free version gives you and I the opportunity to check out iCloud with little commitment. If it is impressive as it sounds, the paid version is not a lot to shell out for a lot of functionality and virtual, cloud space. Thanks, iCloud!