It seems that the iPad has taken the world by storm since its launch in 2010 and surely there are no signs of it slowing anytime soon. The integration with online services like DropBox allows virtually endless possibilities for sharing files and folders across all your devices, but the cost of that storage seems a bit steep to me.
I have a free DropBox account with 2GB of storage and it has served me well, but because I also have a Windows Live account, the Sky Drive service brings 25GB of storage space...for free. This post began some time ago as a quest to find a way to get access to Sky Drive on the iPad to allow me to save a little money and not upgrade DropBox.
I stumbled across a service called SMEStorage, which provides access to multiple cloud storage accounts through one interface. When you add your existing cloud provider accounts to SMEStorage, you can see them all when you log in to the service.
The best part — it allows two cloud providers to be added to free accounts, which took care of DropBox and SkyDrive. Once I registered and added those accounts, I looked in their applications area to see if they might have clients to help manage these providers.
The iOS client was a $4.99 download from the App Store for the iPad. And once logged in, the accounts I added online appeared in the app as folders.
Who should consider SMEStorage for iPad?
This is good for any iPad users wanting to avoid the fees charged by services like DropBox for additional storage. Another rather interesting feature is that multiple accounts on the same service are allowed, so integrating two SkyDrive accounts simply requires signing up for multiple accounts with the cloud provider.
It's free, but what's the catch?
There isn't really a catch; the free service allows two cloud storage accounts from the list of providers. If you need to aggregate more storage accounts, SME has paid plans for that. These plans allow up to 10 cloud storage accounts each. Considering the cost of the personal lifetime option with business access at SME ($59.99 once forever) the cost of aggregating existing accounts where there is free storage (or paid if you've already taken the plunge) is about the same as one of the paid accounts at some online providers — not too bad.
Which cloud vendors does SMEStorage work with?
The following cloud providers work with SMEStorage:
- Amazon S3
- Google Docs
- Rackspace Cloud Files
- Windows Live SkyDrive & Live Mesh 2011
- Apple MobileMe
- Amazon Cloud Drive
- Google Sites
In addition, you may be able to integrate your company's storage as well depending on where it lives and if there is access to it from the Internet.
Can I access my account on my computers too?Sure. If you pay for an account, the client applications that fit with your plan are included. There is a client for most other mobile devices (available from their respective app stores, and coming soon to Windows Phone 7), as well as Windows ($29.99), Mac ($29.99), and Linux (Free). Aside from an integrated client for your computers, there is the web interface, shown in Figure A, which really works very well for uploading and accessing files.
SMEStorage web uploader (click on thumbnail to enlarge)The iPad application looks a bit like the web app, but with more iOS flavor. Figure B shows the iOS app for SMEStorage.
SMEStorage on the iPad (click to enlarge)
Overall, I think this service is great given the number of storage options it brings to the iPad. Since many of these providers allow free accounts, there can be some significant cost savings here. Another thing to note is that you can change out cloud providers at any time. If I were to decide not to use DropBox any longer, I could remove it in favor of another provider and apps looking at the SMEStorage account would recognize this change. Since the free accounts support two cloud providers, it might be worth a look to see if the service works for you and then decide if the iPad app is the way to go. I am certainly glad I went that way.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.