I wonder how long the rampant marketing hype over cloud-related stuff will last? Now, let's be clear, that's not to say I don't think there's validity in the concept of cloud services; not at all ... it's just that many vendors choose to conflate whatever they're selling with the word "cloud" just because it's the "meme du jour," which does nothing but make the term "cloud" less useful.
A good example of this wanton adoption of "cloudiness" is in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market. The history of the term "software as a service" goes back to a 2001 article titled "Strategic Backgrounder: Software as a Service" by the Software & Information Industry's (SIIA) eBusiness Division. The phrase was used to describe hosted application services and, unfortunately, it and its ugly acronym were swiftly adopted and become part of IT "industry speak."
But as usual in the IT industry, the dark forces of marketing intervened and over the last few months many SaaS vendors now proclaim themselves to be "cloudy" despite the fact that their products and services are still essentially the same as they were before "cloudiness" got everyone excited.
Now it's true that some SaaS vendors have moved elements of their infrastructure over to be driven on the back end by true cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, but I'm not convinced that just because a vendor uses a cloud service as part of their offering they too become a cloud service (i.e. cloudiness is not a transitive property).
But some vendors do deliver on their cloud promise. For example, I just got my hands on Gladinet Cloud Desktop 3, a product I wrote about just under a year ago and I'm really impressed with what the company has achieved with this release.
To save you the trouble of reading my previous review, GCD is a Windows utility that maps a drive to a virtual subdirectory under which various cloud services can be configured to appear as subdirectories. Those cloud services include Amazon S3, Synaptic Storage as a Service, EMC Atmos Online, any FTP server, CIFS shares, Google Docs, Mezeo, Rackspace CloudFiles, Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Azure and WebDav. These cloud services can all be treated like any other Windows accessible storage subsystem, making it very simple to update remote storage resources.
The biggest changes to Gladinet Cloud Desktop are in performance (which appears noticeably faster), the management console (which has been simplified and is somewhat easier to use though it is not as aesthetically "polished" as I have hoped), and the Cloud Sync Folder (which will not only sync a folder between PCs but also supports versioning).
I must also note that Gladinet's marketing people have done one of the things that really annoys me online: They didn't proofread their Web site. Blog postings such as "This ease the need for users that need to both have Cloud Desktop's functionality and also Cloud Backup's snapshot backup functionality for folders and files, SQL Server and etc." make it sound like the text has been badly translated. Given that the company is based in Florida, this mangled English is rather odd.
A problem I observed with the previous version -- that "if you try to open a document that is on a drive mapped to a cloud services in Word or Excel, all you'll get is an empty document" -- appears to have been fixed and I've opened both Word and Excel documents completely painlessly.
There is a perpetually free starter edition available from Gladinet (though they do make it rather hard to find it), while the professional version is available at the very reasonable price of $59.99.
Gladinet Cloud Desktop is a great product. It provides performance that is as good as the services it accesses, it is simple to configure and manage, it is amazingly useful, it is stable and it is excellent value for money. And, rather refreshingly, it really is a "cloud" product. Gladinet Cloud Desktop 3 gets a rating of 4.5 out of 5.
Gibbs watches for clouds in Ventura, Calif. Your observations to email@example.com.
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