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Over the last few weeks I've been using Zumodrive, another cloud storage offering. This week Zumodrive released their iPhone client, which enables storage to be synchronised to an iPhone or iPod Touch device.

Cloud Storage: Review – Zumodrive

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zumo0Over the last few weeks I’ve been using Zumodrive, another cloud storage offering.  This week Zumodrive released their iPhone client, which enables storage to be synchronised to an iPhone or iPod Touch device.

 

Background

Zumodrive is a cloud storage service.  Data is stored on Amazon S3 and offers all the standard AES encryption for stored data and SSL transfer between the client and Zumodrive’s servers.  Client support covers both Mac and PC and now iPhone and you can access your data from multiple platforms at the same time.  Encryption is important; firstly you don’t want anyone snooping on your file transfers and secondly, your data is being added to a public, shared cloud storage service, so you want to ensure it isn’t accidentally or maliciously accessed by anyone.

Secret Sauce

zumo1What claims to make Zumodrive different is that only a portion of files are stored locally on the target devices, while the majority of data is kept in the cloud.  The Zumodrive software “intelligently” caches files, attempting to ensure files are available when needed.    I can’t see how this could be more complicated than a simple Least Recently Used (LRU) algorithm, but I wait to be corrected.  On each of your local devices you can specify the location and size of the cache; for PC and Mac clients, I can see no real benefit caching only a portion of data locally and keeping the rest in the cloud.  Local hard drives are cheap; I’ve found so far that the best way to use similar cloud services is to store the most frequently used data in the cloud and keep the infrequently used data on a PC drive, moving data into the cloud service as it becomes part of my “working set”.  However, portable devices form the exception to this rule and I was really excited when I saw the availability of the iPhone client as this is the kind of device where having access to all your files and caching a subset could be good.

Unfortunately, so far, I’ve been disappointed.  Here’s why.

Out of Touch

I don’t have an iPhone, so my testing so far has been on my iPod Touch.  Synchronisation works well; I’ve dumped a number of podcasts onto my Z: drive and they appear on my iPod file list, so no problem there.  The issues come trying to access the files.

  • Firstly, I can’t see all of my downloaded podcasts in the “Music” section and I can’t play music files from the “Files” section, so in one view I can see the files exist, but can’t play them there, in the other I can play them but can’t see them all.  Also, the “Music” section doesn’t make it clear whether it lists only locally cached files or not.  
  • Second, music files seem to play in a separate Zumodrive music player, not in the standard music player in the Touch.  The Zumo version doesn’t let me pause tracks and restart them where I left off.  More annoyingly, if another application starts while I’m listening to a track, then I lose my position.  This is totally impractical when listening to podcasts.  Also, as I use a Bluetooth dongle which integrates with the standard music player, I have to fiddle with pretending to play a standard music track in order to get this device to work.
  • Third, the iPod/iPhone version appears to be read-only.  I can’t delete files from my iPod Touch, which is really annoying.  This feature might be deliberate, but I’d like the option to override this and delete content from any of my devices; as I’ve listened to a podcast, I typically delete it.  I don’t want them hanging around.

Summary

Zumodrive and content caching has a great future and its the visualisation of something I was hoping we’d have maybe 7 or 8 years ago.  As the iPhone client is a first release, I hope they quickly review feedback and fix issues like those I’ve raised.  When they do, Zumodrive will be  a “must-have” application.

I’m starting to keep track of cloud services I review.  You can find a summary spreadsheet of features here.  Let me know if there’s any service you’d like to see compared or features added to the list.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • Sam

    Chris: I was excited to see a real storage expert review Zumo. I have been a user for a few weeks and I have become a huge fan.

    I am no storage expert but I think the integration of local storage with the cloud is a breakthrough from the usability perspective. Now all of a sudden my itunes on my netbook (with an 16GB SSD drive) is able to play my entire music library.

    I wish they would do something so I could virtualize any folder in place as opposed to copying it to Zdrive that would make me purrrr.

    Check out the Zumo blog, they make some good points about their architectural choices. Would love to hear your perspective.

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  • http://www.zumodrive.com David Zhao

    Hi Chris,

    David from ZumoDrive here. Thanks for the review and feedback! The first issue you’ve encountered is due to a small glitch, rendering some songs not playable. We hear you regarding deletion, and have added it to feature requests. Feel free to shoot me an email with any future feedback. We are listening :)

  • Chris Evans

    Sam,

    I’m finding the online services like Dropbox and Zumodrive more useful. Unfortunately my tolerance level is pretty low and poor quality services get dropped off my radar very quickly. Both of the above are good quality; just need the iPhone client improvements from Zumo and I’ll be happy!

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