Why Amazon Cloud Drive Won’t Replace Dropbox or OneDrive

Posted by Jim Tanous on March 31, 2015

Like many of you, I was excited to hear about the launch of unlimited storage for Amazon Cloud Drive last week. I’ve been a fan of online storage and syncing services for years, starting with Dropbox in 2008 and moving on to accumulate accounts with Google, Microsoft, and Apple. I still primarily use Dropbox for most of my data syncing needs, but it has become relatively overpriced in recent years as competitors have continued to offer more storage for less money. I remain optimistic about Microsoft OneDrive and the virtually unlimited storage included with an Office 365 subscription, but OneDrive syncing still has some serious problems on both Windows and OS X, and uploading files to the service is ridiculously slow.

Other than experimenting with some photos via a Kindle Fire tablet, I had yet to really dive into Amazon Cloud Drive, which has operated since 2011. Upon learning of the “unlimited storage” offer from Amazon for just $60 per year, however, I was hopeful that a good solution had finally arrived. After all, Amazon Web Services powers much of the modern Web, including bandwidth monsters like Netflix, and if any company can ensure adequate bandwidth, it’s Amazon. But I quickly found out, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, that Amazon Cloud Drive is “not the online storage service I’m looking for,” and it’s probably not the one you’re looking for, either.

To me, services like Dropbox offer two important functions: storage and syncing. It’s not enough that my files are stored in the cloud; I also want real-time updates of local copies of those files on all of my devices, ensuring that I have access to the latest Excel spreadsheet or Photoshop image at all times. Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and even Apple’s iCloud Drive all feature local syncing capabilities, allowing me to both store files in the cloud and sync the latest versions of these files to my PC, Mac, smartphone, and tablet. Amazon Cloud Drive, unfortunately, doesn’t offer this capability.

When you first sign up for Amazon Cloud Drive, you’re offered the option to download a desktop application. But instead of providing local syncing capabilities like similar apps provided by other online storage services, you quickly find out that Amazon’s desktop app is just a simple batch uploader, intended to help you get your files into your Amazon Cloud Drive account. Users just drag and drop files and folders onto the Amazon Cloud Drive app, and a shortcut in the app takes you to a Web interface where you can see your files online.

amazon cloud drive app

What this all means is that your files are indeed safe and secure in the cloud on Amazon’s servers, and you can access them manually from any device with a modern Web browser, but you’ll also need to manually grab a file if you want to access it, then manually re-upload it to Amazon Cloud Drive when you’re done making any changes.

amazon cloud drive online files

Compare this relatively laborious process to OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox. With these services, the files you access are stored on your local device, so when you open an Excel spreadsheet, for example, you’re opening the most recent copy of the file on your Mac or PC. When you save this spreadsheet after making changes, one of the aforementioned services detects the change and automatically uploads the new version of the file to the cloud, and then subsequently syncs the changes in the new file to any other synced devices.

how dropbox works

Of course, this type of functionality is always optional, and you can configure any of the popular online storage services to operate like Amazon Cloud Drive, with files stored only in the cloud and no local copies synced, but all that does is make it harder to access your data, and it’s not the kind of configuration that most users would prefer. The data syncing described above is the real magic of these services, and with Amazon you’re forced to manually download files you need, or download the entire contents of your Cloud Drive at once, which will quickly become impractical as users take advantage of their “unlimited” storage.

There is, of course, an upside to Amazon Cloud Drive: backup. At $60 per year for virtually unlimited storage capacity, Amazon Cloud Drive offers an affordable solution for those who would like to secure a copy of their data in the cloud, but also maintain reasonable access to it from just about any device. When you limit the service to this framework, Amazon Cloud Drive is a pretty good deal, and I’ll probably keep my subscription active and use it as an extra online repository for photos, music, and other hard-to-replace digital data. But, as it stands now, Amazon Cloud Drive isn’t the online storage and syncing savior for which I had initially hoped, and it looks like I’ll be sticking with Dropbox and OneDrive for the time being.

30 thoughts on “Why Amazon Cloud Drive Won’t Replace Dropbox or OneDrive”

Ramjiyahoo says:
How to directly view/edit the excel spreadsheet, word files from amazon cloud? or do we need to download every time the excel spreadhseet file to local computer, edit, then re again upload to amazon cloud
waverunning.geek says:
This article is null and void. Amazon currently offers file sync. Too bad it’s so damn slow.
SDC in Vancouver says:
Dropbox is still a superior product for quick syncs and file versioning. Why is versioning important… even in the simplest sense, if a locally synced file becomes corrupted, you can bet that the copy synced to Amazon is also corrupted. Because Dropbox supports versioning, you have an amazing range of file recovery dates to select from.

Versioning has saved me many times and has made the cost of Dropbox well worth it!

Michael Borton (6thstreetfishe says:
try using google search before you write a article there are at ;east 50 application that will due sync to amazon drive. i personal use goodsync because i can due full sync on some folders or i can just one way sync of others Amazon Drive is only way to go. i use iy store my ripped DVD and stream directly to tv .plus regular file back of all my pc. i have 7 terabytes store there so far.for 59.99 try that with drop box
Fabio Conte says:
How secure are our documents on this cloud ?
Stibbons says:
You all forget that Dropbox runs on AWS. So we you subscribe to Dropbox, you indirectly pay AWS as well. Said otherwise, Amazon has no interest in concurrencing Dropbox on the Sync feature while Dropbox still uses AWS. But for people like me who has a paid account on Dropbox for the magic sync AND on Amazon Cloud for unlimited Backup, they both has their own value.
Roman Gorodeckij says:
Amazon recently introduced syncing finally 🙂 Not sure for all devices, but you can add directory for syncing in amazon drive 🙂 For me it’s a perfect solution, I don’t need syncing, for syncing I’m using dropbox. For storing stuff I’m using amazon drive, because of backups.
Ray Suave says:
I just started trying to use Amazon Cloud so I can utilize my files just like DropBox but it looks like the Amazon Cloud sync folder is automatically placed on the C-Drive and there doesnt seem to be a way to change it to another location such as a USB drive like DropBox. I called Amazon customer service and they told me there currently isnt a way to do this. In my case, I use a 256GB SSD as my C-Drive so this limitation prevents me from taking advantage of the available Amazon Cloud drive space. If anyone has figured out how to change the Amazon Cloud drive sync folder location, please post it.
sshival says:
Does this has Resume functionality? I am also worried abt this limitation of not able to change the sync to portable drive.
Ray Suave says:
Yes, you can pause and resume any uploads via the Amazon Drive’s program system tray icon. I also figured out how to set the sync folder to be located on an external drive, its kinda hacky but it worked.

For Windows users check C:Users{USERNAME}AppDataRoamingAmazon Cloud Driveamzn1.account.{yourid}-settings.json and change the “SyncPath”

I currently have my sync folder located on an 8TB hard drive without any issues.

Dominic G says:
Amazon drive has syncing now! Wohoo celebrate!!!
stevemanser says:
“odrive” is the additional piece of software you are looking for…to do the syncing automatically.
Lex says:
I tried amazon cloud drive for a year. Upload through any means (web, their app, odrive sync) works great. But if you want to download a file that’s over 1GB, you’re out of luck. I reckon you have a 10% chance of getting your file per try and if it fails you have to try again from zero. Both odrive and amazon tech support say there is no resume functionality, it’s all hit and miss. I won’t be paying to have my files locked up in the “cloud”. I’m looking for an alternative… dropbox is good, I’ve tested it out, very reliable, able to resume, but $100 for 1TB is just so much… if only it were unlimited, or 3TB at least.
Zamana says:
Most people are not understanding what Amazon Cloud Drive means…

I have more than 7.5TB (yes, terabytes) of data that I don’t want to be sync anywhere, but only to stay in the cloud so I don’t run the risk to loose them.

So, Amazon Cloud Drive seems perfect to me.

Doug Liser says:
I wonder how many of these 3rd party apps use proprietary formats for the data so you can’t get the files back directly from Amazon. That’s a non-starter for me because I’m not going to be held hostage to the whim of one of these companies to decide on what terms I’m going to see my data.
Driver ed failed Melbourne says:
Its up to you to work how you want to use your data.
Than find the provider that fits the requirement .
Amazon great for large file . i mount my Drive do a VPS and run plex on it . for my use only when I travel .
Huib Van Wees says:
Totally agree with this article…
I start using it for my backup of my Synology NAS.
The hyperbackup solution on my Synology NAS supports Amazon Drive as a backup destination (currently as beta), but it seems to work fine so far…
ksmyers says:
I’ve been testing this with my Synology and currently have about 5 TBs uploaded to Amazon Drive. Seems to be the best way, if you own a Synology.

Tip – you can also make a shared drive on the Synology that syncs to Amazon drive. This allows users to access that share locally or remotely and its automatically backed up to Amazon. Very cool stuff. Not to mention, no licensing fees.

Driver ed failed Melbourne says:
Synology has a 10GB file limit on sync.
run rclone at command line, lot better .
It can do encryption,
and more
Madmax889 says:
Just found this article. Why isnt there something easy to be able to sync files from one cloud drive to another? everything i have found is not simple or costs just as much or more as the storage itself.
hugemon says:
You can sync Amazon Cloud Drive using a program called Goodsync.
(Yeah you’d have to buy some licenses but it’s a onetime cost.)
Joshua Glowzinski says:
I am brining my Mac to an Apple Store Wednesday. I am having a problem with iTunes crashing every single time I go to use it. I always back my stuff up on blu-ray. But, I have like 500 gigs of stuff to back up and no time to order the 50 gig blu ray packs I get. So I looked. I am using Amazon now, because I get 3 months free. I like it. Everything has it’s own folder. Easy to get to and find. I will keep the service. The thing is, It seems as if the drive program, deletes itself, every time I turn my Mac off and back on. It takes a while to download. I can not figure out, why it will not stay on here. Oh well. It’s all good.
Jesse_Bruce_Pinkman says:
One of the best syncing drives I have ever used is iDrive, although it is a little bit more industrious than what I have hoped for. Imagine it syncing everything in your drive even if you don’t want it to sync anything. And It has also managed to bypass glasswire, which had I paid to do some firewalling work and monitor my network. Then when the free tier has had its fill, it will ask you to upgrade to 10TB of storage for 75% off.

But the 10 TB 75% off is still like $130.

So I disagree with this article. Of course, nothing beats google drive, onedrive, dropbox, box, idrive, etc when syncing job is paramount. Which is precisely the reason why they are supposed to be the services you should be seeking out if you are working on files that are regularly updated or modified. Who works and makes changes to a file that has a size of 2 GB anyway? If you are just using word, excel, etc, then the 5 GB of storage offered by any of the above is already an overkill for this purpose alone.

Amazon cloud is for backing up files, like bluray movies, 196/24 audio files, etc. In other words, files that are so big that you would not have the resources to modify them on a regular basis. Imagine backing up your large files via Amazon glacier or Google nearline. They cost around $0.01 per GB but they are so stubbornly slow and you need some advanced level programming background in order to fully utilize their potentials.

This article boldly states that amazon drive won’t replace onedrive or dropbox. But what I say is the opposite: none of the cloud providers in this world can replace amazon cloud drive. None.

And by the way, google drive easily beats onedrive or dropbox at 15 GB free with unlimited sharing.

Is Amazon cloud the only cloud provider in this god-forsaken world? I don’t think so. Amazon has already seen the capabilities of the myriad of syncing drives out there and it has seen that they are doing a great job. Besides, it is already an overcrowded market that is quickly running out of one very important thing: storage capacity.

What amazon wants to do now is to offer something none of these providers can give even in the near future: gigantic storage. And besides, it would be more of a downside if the cloud regularly backs up your files. One single tiny change in the filename will cause the file to be uploaded again. So what if that file were 36 GB? Then you would lose substantial speed and bandwidth utilization during the re-backup process, just like what happened to me when idrive synced my entire C drive without my knowledge.

Is it so hard to drag and drop files to a drive that will save your local drives some precious real estate? Is it so hard to drag and drop your precious files like dragging and dropping them from drive C to drive D? Are we too lazy to let someone else do the transferring of our own files without us knowing which ones have been transferred, when and where?

Are we so obnoxious to trifle on services without realizing their real benefits? Have we lost our sense of what is truly important and easily dismiss things just because they are not tailored to our shallow and ephemeral needs?

TekRevue says:

Are we so obnoxious to trifle on services without realizing their real benefits? Have we lost our sense of what is truly important and easily dismiss things just because they are not tailored to our shallow and ephemeral needs?


More seriously, while I appreciate your comments and agree with your thoughts on the benefits of Amazon Cloud Drive, this article’s intent when it was written in March 2015 was to clearly distinguish Amazon Cloud Drive from Dropbox and other similar services. When Amazon upgraded Cloud Drive to “unlimited” storage, there was a flood of articles at other sites proclaiming it to now be the ultimate “Dropbox killer.” I, myself, was also misled by these early reports and the point of this article was not to say that Amazon Cloud Drive has no value, or is “worse” than Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc., but to accurately convey to those who are unfamiliar with the service that it likely won’t be a replacement for these more familiar online storage and syncing services.

Amazon cloud is for backing up files, like bluray movies, 196/24 audio files, etc.

Your point regarding backing up large files is well taken, and while I don’t know how strictly Amazon enforces this, but their terms of service clearly state that users are not allowed to store copyrighted content on Amazon Cloud Drive without authorization from the copyright holder. This means that backing up your purchased digital music files from iTunes, for example, would be OK because the user is licensed to hold that music in its digital form, but ripping and backing up a Blu-ray would not be OK, because users aren’t legally authorized (in the United States, at least) to break DRM and copy the movie from the disc to a digital file. I’m not making any moral arguments here (I personally think that there is no moral issue with backing up your own purchased content in another format), but just don’t be surprised if Amazon suspends your account for uploading Blu-ray rips and MP3 downloads.

Alex R. says:

And besides, it would be more of a downside if the cloud regularly backs up your files. One single tiny change in the filename will cause the file to be uploaded again. What if that file were 36 GB? Then you would lose substantial speed and bandwidth utilization during the re-backup process, just like what happened to me when idrive synced my entire C drive without my knowledge.

Dunno about others but Dropbox syncs incrementally only the byte that has been changed. So in your case, only few bytes would be synced, eliminating the problem you have described. Tho unfortunately not all cloud services do that.

Rub-a-Dubs-Dubs! says:
I’m using this other product called “odrive” to sync to my Amazon Cloud Drive unlimited storage account. So far my experience has been pretty good. It’s free. Found it on some discussion forums while looking for a solution to this same problem. They seem to have some useful premium features, too (e.g. encryption and this thing called “unsync” which allows you to turn a sync’ed file into a placeholder file locally on my laptop)… I think paying for their premium may be worth it later on for this unsync thing since once I finish dumping everything into Amazon, I want to free up my hard drive space on my computer. Upgrading odrive will set you back $99/year so I’m holding off a little bit longer until I find that I truly need it. They have a pretty good / usable free version. Works with all my other cloud storage so it’s been nice not having to keep all those other sync clients installed… only need one. =)

Anyway, put these two products together and it’s not a bad package for unlimited storage with sync.

Craig Penrose says:
I am also using odrive and it is working perfectly. 1.7TB loaded to Amazon Drive and counting.
Pete Coventry says:
I’ve uploaded over 1TB using the browser- so your program is nothing special.
peanutcrunch says:
Yes it is special because it SYNCS.
Preston says:
lol what a troll
Lex says:
You’ve loaded it up, but can you download reliably? Try to download some files, the bigger the better (a few GB). My experience is that you can’t, or there’s a very small chance of success. The speed is slow and there’s no resume in case of an issue (which seems to be frequent).
Astro says:
I agree with the article. I use amazon drive and I’m just amazed it does not come with a real time sync engine. In fact worse — they expect you to shell out another $9 a month on the odrive product to perform this function for you. Seriously? What a rip.
jakeViz says:
Net drive will do it too…but it cost $49 and it runs pretty slow.
BenTek says:
I use WebDrive and it works really nicely. Plus, it’s only $39. Never had any issues with speed or performance.
max kane says:
I think odrive is free… well, there are some premium features you can upgrade to, but I think the main desktop sync experience like dropbox or google drive is still free.
Dean Davis says:
I’d like to humbly disagree. Dropbox is nothing compared to what Amazon Cloud Drive is doing. I hope Amazon Cloud Drive gets what it deserves, which is a complete takeover of the cloud drive market. Whatever features Dropbox offers can be implemented. The hardest thing is providing unlimited space for a reasonable price. Dropbox should be afraid because I would NEVER NEVER NEVER pay their price and Amazon is a godsend on this one.
jakeViz says:
They will NOT do it with this setup.

There is no way.

What good is the cloud if it doesn’t sync?

I prefer Amazon in this case too, however, the way to access files here is completely 100% off base.

They offered unlimited storage and handicapped the ability to utilize it.

Until that changes (read I’m not paying $50 more for Netdrive) Dropbox still owns the game.

Space means nothing if it takes me 10x longer to utilize it efficiently.

Philip Wallage says:
Hi Dean, I used to be a huge fan of Amazon Drive, even left Dropbox for it. But now that they’re canceling the unlimited storage (and I found how horrible their Sync App is), I’m switching back to Dropbox. It had potential, but didn’t live up to it.
Dean Davis says:
You’re absolutely right, it was good while it lasted. Sadly the pricing is still better than the others by just enough to make few like myself maybe stay for a bit. I am approaching 1 TB, in which case I will soon be paying double for 2TB. My pricing would still be half of that of Google Drive, and Dropbox leaves me with no other option than their business class which requires a minimum of 3 licenses and would cost 5 times more.

At this point I’ve lost faith in Amazon Cloud Drive, and feel if they’re capable of this level of deception, they may just scrap they whole project and commit their available space and attention to a new opportunity that may arise. Very sad about this, and a bit shaken that I ever trusted them. I apologize to anyone I directed and will never suggest a single soul trust Amazon in the future. All should now heed any dependence on this company.

Kyle Piira says:
Well Amazon Cloud Drive is not competing with Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. Its a cloud back up service for storing back ups of your computers data. If you need syncing use a file syncing app, not a file back up solution. Like wise it would be a very poor idea to use Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive as a back up solution as first its against most of these companies terms of use along with storage being incredibly expensive since they expect you to constantly be accessing your data. Amazon is cheap because its designed for long term storage.
Craig says:
I agree that Amazon Cloud Drive is not a syncing service. But, sadly, it’s not a useful backup service either. I was offered a year of free Amazon Cloud Drive recently and decided to try it out. Heck! I might save $100/year in online storage costs.

First problem with Amazon Cloud Drive: the web interface only allows single file uploads at a time: a folder of 10,000 images would take YEARS to upload. So, the only way to realistically use Amazon Cloud Drive is via the desktop App. After re-learning rsync for B2 I was excited to have an App. Until I started using it.

The desktop App (for OS/X at least) limits uploads to 4 files at a time or you can limit it to a certain bandwidth. This worked fine for folders of RAW image files at 12-18MB each. But a folder of <100kb files kept my 1GB upload pipe tied up all night and only about half the files uploaded. There seems to be a LOT of processing overhead associated with uploading files.

And apparently the desktop App does not retain the list of files and folders in your Amazon Cloud Drive account. I don't want it to keep the files, but a *list* of the files and folders would be nice.

So every time I start the desktop App it downloads an arbitrary quantity of information (often 20-30MB) each time at ~24kb/sec before the folder list will display. This 5-20 minute delay prevents getting on with my workday: which costs me money.

Another issue: while it appears to be a single App, the upload and download windows don't seem to communicate with one another. Even after uploading a file, I tried to download a file as a test and had to wait for the App to *AGAIN* refresh the list of files and folders before I could navigate the file list. And each folder I opened caused the spinning-wheel-of-death to appear for minutes on end.

Based on the time I would spend uploading files to Amazon Cloud Drive I'm better off continuing to pay a couple hundred dollars a year in storage costs to B2.

To compare: B2's Backblaze takes advantage of my full bandwidth with no limit on the number of simultaneous file uploads. And it allows you to sync so only NEW files are processed and uploaded/downloaded. A much better way to keep my longterm storage updated.

Just Wendy says:
Mee too! I absolutely hate that the only option with the desktop app is to download my ENTIRE DRIVE!. You would thing a giant like Amazon would have done it more like drop box. I don’t want my whole load of files! I just want pics, or docs or to go through my downloads.. and the online area where you get them and download them? Ugh painfully slow, I bought AZ cloud for a $5 trial and will not be renewing. I don’t like the $10/mo for Dropbox but drop box is like part of my computer.. over there on the left like everything else where I can pull what I want and drop what I want with almost no effort. Darn shame too. I liked the price for AZ cloud. 🙁
Andrey Novikov says:
It’s UNLIMITED storage. I do not want all my terabytes of data to be synced nor with my mobiles nor with my desktops.
Bill D'Innocenzo says:
Agree, agree, agree. The free unlimited photos with Prime is great, the unlimited everything for $60 a year is great. The user interface and overall usability of the service, how can I put this nicely…SUCKS!

The only PC based app available allows for bulk uploads and download…of only the entire contents! The web based interface does not work. I’ve tried it with Chrome, Firefox, IE 11 and the newer Edge browsers. All with the same results. When you try to view all files it is hit or miss (mostly miss) if it will actually display he contents of a given folder.

Add everything you read above and the fact that the tools provided are at best a failed HS experiment, I don’t care if they give away the service for free…it’s simply not worth it!

I send a detailed list of concerns to Amazon support a week ago. I have yet to even receive a reply stating they received my input let alone a reply as to what they may or may not be doing to address my issues. I love Amazon for all they do with on-line shopping, Kindle, Fire TV, etc. This is FAILED attempt to provide a world-class service on par with everything else they do is very disconcerting.

Come on Amazon, act like the world-class leader you are in Web Services!

jp says:
could see it being useful for streaming video using plex or with arq as a backup location. but yeah the service seems quite cumbersome without 3rd party applications
Kimi Chiu says:
But now there is a third party application called “odrive”. With odrive, you could integrate all your subscribed cloud services into one.
So the synchronizing problem of Amazon was totally solved. It works like a charm.
Johnnytucats says:
I got the Black Friday $5 deal for ACD (1 year). I’m still trying to figure out how useful and/or dangerous it is. I’m on a Mac and there are definitely file types that ACD completely screws up and makes unusable (such as disk images) so one has to be very careful about relying on ACD as a backup solution.

As for a decent conduit, I’ve tried ExpanDrive (not free and which mounts various cloud storage services as disks on your Mac) and “odrive” (has a free version).

“odrive” syncs ACD in a Dropbox/Google Drive sort of way. It has an additional feature of “unsyncing’ files/folders once they’re uploaded…removes the file/folder data from your computer to free up space. I’m not sure it works that well.

jellybelly says:
What are your views on ExpanDrive?
Johnnytucats says:
I think it actually works but man that ACD service can really screw up certain kinds of files. Also, there’s an approximate 2GB limit on individual file size at ACD.
mystik1 says:
There is great software now available that offers syncing. IMO, Amazon Cloud is the best option available, for my massive file size backup needs anyway.
David Kaseeta says:
Article out of date. There are a number of third party sync apps out there. I use odrive, which I consider to be the best out there.


Billy says:
Just use ODrive (www.odrive.com) client to sync your computer with amazon cloud (and any other cloud service you use) and you’re set. It’s working well for me. It’s hard to beat unlimited cloud storage for $60/yr!
Peter Chang says:
Have you checked out the Amazon App Gallery? You can get desktop sync for Amazon from odrive. odrive is a featured app in the Amazon App gallery. It also features placeholder files so you can actually sync unlimited storage to your very limited hard drive.
Ab Irato says:
Goodsync works with all storage sites. It’s a fantastic piece of software that is updated all the time with top notch support. Works for all platforms.

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