In its first decade, Amazon grew from a Seattle-based startup in Jeff Bezos' garage to become the international benchmark of e-commerce success. In that time, Amazon devoted entire divisions of its growing company to developing the computing infrastructure behind the website, including massive storage services. In 2006, Amazon turned that company asset into a new revenue source by launching Amazon Web Services [source: Amazon].
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers businesses an alternative to investing thousands of dollars in computer hardware and staff to run it. With AWS, those businesses can store data and launch server computers in a cloud computing environment, and only pay for what they use. Our article "How Cloud Computing Works" explains that a cloud is a network of computer resources available to perform tasks both large and small.
While AWS has many services that are useful to the business world, those services may not be very useful to the average Amazon user. Using the power of those same cloud resources, though, Amazon has developed new products you can use for both play and work. The Amazon Cloud Drive is the storage service behind those products. With the Cloud Drive, you can upload files to the cloud and organize them via a user-friendly interface. In addition, you can download those files again anywhere you're able to log in to Amazon.com. It's like having a USB flash drive that's accessible from anywhere on the Internet.
Amazon Cloud Drive is available to any Amazon.com user with a valid billing address. The only software you'll need to use your Cloud Drive is a Web browser running the popular, free Adobe Flash software. Then, while you're signed in at Amazon.com, the "Your Digital Items" menu in the upper right of the Amazon page structure gives you access the Cloud Drive and related services. The first 5 GB of storage is free, and there are tiers of annual fees to upgrade your storage ranging from $20 per year for 20 GB (about $1.70 per month) to $1,000 per year for 1000 GB (about $83.50 per month) [source: Amazon].
Amazon Cloud Drive isn't without its competition, as you'll see later in this article. For now, though, let's look at the application Amazon has developed to deliver music from the Cloud Drive to your ears: the Amazon Cloud Player.