Hands on: ZumoDrive lets you access your files easily, from anywhere

Store music, image and other files in the cloud, then stream them to your mobile device

If you've got a notebook, a netbook and/or a smartphone, it can be real pain to access your photos, music and other files from all these different systems. One way to take care of this -- short of setting up your own server -- is via Zector's ZumoDrive .

How does it work? Unlike some other online storage services, which work completely through your browser, ZumoDrive has you install a client application onto your Windows, Mac or Linux -based system. On a Windows PC, at least, the client looks like a regular network drive (labeled Z:) with four folders labeled Music, Documents, Pictures and Linked Files; you can rename, delete or add to the folders, as with any hard drive.

You copy or move any files that you want to be able to access from, say, your netbook or smartphone by dragging and dropping the files into the relevant folder. You can also right-click on any folder and click on the Link folder to ZumoDrive menu selection. You are actually uploading those files to a ZumoDrive server, which, according to the company, is hosted by Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) .

Once stored, the files can then be streamed to your various devices, so you can access them without having to use the device's own limited storage space.

What's cool about it? Currently, ZumoDrive supports the iPhone, Android devices and Palm webOS phones. I tried it on my Android-based Motorola Droid, and was quite impressed with how smoothly I was able to play my music files -- I played several different songs in the space of an hour, and there were no pauses of the type I occasionally get with other streaming services. I was also able to access images and documents without any problem.

You do have to allow sufficient time to upload your files initially; if you're uploading several gigabytes of music, it's going to take some time, depending on the speed of your connection. For example, a folder containing 73.4MB of .wma music files took me about 18 minutes to upload.

ZumoDrive also takes into consideration the idea that you might not always be online. When you view the content, the file is cached locally, so that you can access it again without a connection if you need to. At least, you can on most devices; the Android and Palm apps, which came out just recently, only let you cache documents and not music or video files.

ZumoDrive also automatically imports music and playlists managed by iTunes and automatically handles images managed by iPhoto, Picasa and Windows Life Photo gallery as well. If you're an iTunes user, this could be a huge boon, allowing you to access your music from other devices; however, the usefulness of this feature depends on how much storage you have access to.

Currently, you get 1GB of free storage and an additional 1GB if you go through ZumoDrive's online training "Dojo" (which took only around 15 minutes). After that, the amount of storage you get depends on how much you're willing to pay per month: $2.99 for 10GB, $6.99 for 25GB, $9.99 for 50GB and up to a maximum of 500GB for $79.99.

What needs to be fixed? The application still has a few glitches. At one point, for example, I found that I had linked a subfolder within My Documents without actually meaning to. (I still haven't figured out how that happened, since as far as I can tell, I never right-clicked on that folder.) Another folder was missing the right-click menu choice Link folder to ZumoDrive .

While I didn't test the iPhone or webOS apps, I think the Android interface still needs to be refined. For example, the image viewer lets you view only one image at a time; you can't move gracefully from one to the next, but must backtrack to the gallery each time.

And finally, some users may find the monthly prices for the storage space a bit expensive; at the very least, Zector might want to consider offering annual discounted prices as well.

Final verdict: ZumoDrive is still in beta, but it's got a great deal of potential, especially for smartphone users who want access to large music or image collections. It could also become useful for netbook users who need to access documents away from their main computer, and who don't use Web-based services such as Google Docs. How well ZumoDrive can serve this segment remains to be seen.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld . When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes ; you can also follow her on Twitter ( @BarbaraKrasnoff ).

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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