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Monday, May 12, 2008

Why buy .Mac these days?

I’ve been a user of .Mac for several years now. I originally was onboard because Apple gives it to it’s employees free. Now that I’m no longer employed by Apple I need to justify spending $99/year or $0.27/day on this service. Surely there must be something this product has to offer that I can’t get elsewhere for less money. I mean $0.27 a day isn’t all that much.

.Mac gives you an email account ending in @mac.com. There is a web portal for viewing your email on the road, and native integration with Leopard Mail app. That search giant google gives you web access to email and now offers IMAP and step by step instructions to integrate it with the Mail app or Thunderbird if you’re a Mozilla fan. Gmail is FREE.

iWeb easily allows you to create basic web sites that look great. Upload your photos easily to share with others, or start a basic blog if you have something to talk about. You can even now use your own custom domain name with this service (modification to your CNAME entries necessary).

As far as web hosting is concerned, $99/year isn’t a great deal. Godaddy hosting is anywhere from $4-$12 a month or $48-$144 a year. Now, the simple WISIWIG (what you see is what you get) editor that godaddy offers isn’t as fancy, but it does do the trick for a simple page.

If you don’t care about a custom domain name you can get a free website with google pages. This is a WISIWIG platform and it hosts your page for free. Picasa or Flicker will allow you to share your photos and this is also free. Blogger is free (also a google property) for your blogging needs.

Online Storage:
Ah iDisk, this must be the saving grace of the .Mac service. With 10GB of shared storage across all of your apps (mail, iweb, and iDisk) you can sure store a good amount of stuff, plus you can access it from anywhere . . . cool. If you do the math this is $9.90 per gig of storage!!! YIKES!!

How does that match up in the industry? Not well as it turns out. There are many offerings out there with a range of storage capacity as well as features (sharing, Web 2.0, etc.) and pricing. If we’re completely interested in pricing then I suggest Xdrive by AOL. I think this is the first time I’ve ever endorsed an AOL product, but with only a screen name you can have 5GB of online storage for free. That’s a pretty generous amount of storage and it costs nothing. Xdrive is a web based application so you can access your files anywhere you have internet access AND you have the ability to share files on your Xdrvie with others that you grant permission to. Xdrive has a desktop, running on the Adobe Air platform, that you can install making transferring files as easy as drag and drop. Did I mention this is FREE as well.

Back to my Mac (remote desktop):
This might be a difficult one to recreate with a budget of $99 /year. WRONG! Completely free solution called LogMeIn. Works great. Only the machine you want to take control of needs the software installed. Taking control of the machine remotely is done through your favorite web browser. This service is Mac and PC compatible so you can take control of your Mac from a PC or the other way around. The service was a bit choppy over cable broadband, but it’s FREE and it works.

Sync & Backup:
These two features almost don’t deserve any attention. Backup has been replaced by Time Machine or just an external HD. Sync is not worth any part of the $99 price tag and thus deserves none of our attention or yours.

There you have it. You can replicate .Mac for FREE. I see no compelling reason to shell out $99 a year for this service.

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