The file storage and sharing marketplace is a landscape heavily populated with services. There’s good reason for this: a lot of people need to move a lot of files about, a lot of the time. Little wonder, then, that Dropbox is valued at over $4bn, and Box has managed to raise, over several rounds of funding, a total of $309m. These heavyweights provide large amounts of storage and access to files via nearly any internet-connected device.
In recent times, though, a slightly different, nimbler, quicker kind of platform has become popular. The first of this type – and, perhaps, the genre-defining player in this field – was Droplr. Since its launch in 2009, it has provided a remarkably simple and fast method of getting files online and shared. A younger competitor, CloudApp, has also entered mainstream use, and clearly there are plenty more startups which feel that this is still a lucrative file-storage niche.
One such service is Cloudup. The unique selling point of this cloud platform is its delivery of uploaded files, of nearly any type, in streams, which act as multimedia playlists. But is this focus on the recipient really the new, killer feature in the crowded file-sharing arena?
From your first entrance to the site, Cloudup very much feels like a modern, fresh platform. Its looks, though simple, are flat, minimal and classy, highlighting your media beautifully. In action, it is an equally stripped-back affair too; once you’re logged in, you’ll find only two compartments on your personal dashboard.
The first provides a view of all of your items (individual files) and streams (dynamic collections of files). Previews of both are spread out across the page, each with its name and privacy status underneath. Cloudup’s strong visual bias is very evident here, as nearly every commonly used file type — including RAW images, various office documents and code files — is previewed beautifully.
The second compartment provides easy access to streams that other users have shared with you.
Spreading the Love
Simplicity and good design are both themes that recur when you come to upload to Cloudup. As is the norm nowadays, web-based drag-and-drop uploading is on offer, but Cloudup does also provide Mac, Windows, and mobile apps.
Both individual items and streams can be given titles, and they can be password protected, which, when added to Cloudup’s full SSL encryption, will appeal to the security conscious.
It’s worth noting, at this point, that Cloudup does have a restriction on storage. Rather than being based on file size, it is based purely on the number of items you upload, with the free account limit being one thousand. In the current invite beta stage, there is no way of upgrading this capacity, although the ability to do so will arrive, for a fee, as development continues.
When you upload multiple files at one time, Cloudup will automatically create a stream — the service’s signature move. The whole idea of a stream is to display related files, such as those to be used in a project, on one page which has a unique, shareable URL. One of the clever parts about this is the update-able nature of streams.
The uploading of new files to a stream is very similar to the placing of files in a Dropbox folder, except that for those to whom you’ve distributed the link, the newly shared media is instantly visible. No, you read that correctly — stream viewers can actually watch the files uploading.
Just as important as the process of storage is the quality of the presentation, and Cloudup is at its best in this area.
Share a stream with friends or followers, and they’ll be presented with a black lightbox of its contents. Files can be scrolled through with either the mouse or the arrow keys, or you can view all of the files in a gallery-style arrangement.
Visitors to your files are also provided with both download and direct URL links. In most situations this is fine, but it would be nice to have the option of turning it off.
In the thorough testing of Cloudup, I tried out numerous file types, and most displayed in the way you might expect. There were, however, a few notable exceptions. RTF documents, inconsistent beasts at the best of times, were sometimes rendered in a weird, bold-ish, oversized font. On a more positive note, Markdown documents are presented beautifully, as are links. In the gallery view, they are previewed with their page title and a featured image, and when viewed in the lightbox, they are presented in Readability style. Designers will also be pleased to note Cloudup’s PSD compatibility.
It should be clear from this review that Cloudup is a very nicely made file sharing platform, but equally, it provides evolution, rather than revolution, on the utilitarian Dropbox-like norm in this field. It’s also clear that Cloudup isn’t designed purely to be a storage system; the focus throughout every part of the site is on sharing in the speediest, prettiest manner possible.
So how does it compare with its direct competitors, such as Droplr and CloudApp? In terms of single files, Cloudup is on a par, although, admittedly, the storage it offers is a touch less generous. If you have more than one file to share, however, Cloudup’s streams are magnificent.
The best way to sum up is to quote the company’s blog; the aim in building the platform was to “make sharing images, links, videos, code, documents, and anything else dead simple and beautiful for both the sharer and the viewer” and to “make consumption truly universal,” regardless of the device being used. In spite of its invite beta stage of development, I’d have to say that Cloudup is already meeting those benchmarks, and it’s only likely to get better.
Cloudup is still private beta, but we have a special signup link for our AppStorm readers so you can get access to it today. Just go to https://cloudup.com/s/appstorm13 and you’ll get to signup for a full account and take it for a spin today. Let us know how you find it for your needs once you start using it!