We have written many times about a wondrous new technology called the “Cloud”: a collection of far away servers whose only purpose is to provide remote storage for anything you want. This is a pretty neat idea, as it allows you access all your data via Internet connection. If you ever need storage, but lack the space on a physical device, the “Cloud” is there for you. The same goes for regular backups of important work, although you should always be wary of backing up important personal or private information for security reasons. Be sure to always use a secure connection (like SFTP) or just store your data on secure servers (like the UDrive at UMass).
Just storing data on the cloud is kind of…boring. You can upload and download data to it, but that’s it. Isn’t there anything else to do with it? One of the most recent advances to come from Cloud Computing in the last few years is the use of Hosted Service, where a company provides an application on the cloud through a web browser. These have seen quite a lot of success, and with good reason. One of the most useful applications to emerge on the cloud is Google Play Music, an online music app that allows you to bring your collections where ever you go.
What is Google Play?
Just like any other cloud service, Google Play Music allows users to store data remotely and access it whenever they want, as long as you have a Google Account. However, Google Play Music is only used for music. Music can also be bought, stored, streamed, and downloaded from the Google Play Store, adding to your collection with relative ease. But one of the best parts is that Google Play Music allows you to access whatever you upload and buy like any other media player, all through an internet connection and to any device. This effectively takes all the best parts of media players like iTunes or VLC, like sorting by artist or custom playlists, and allows users to be able to listen to the same libraries on their phone, laptop, or any other device with an Internet connection. Since the changes are instant and online, you will never have to update a library on multiple devices, just one.
There are a bunch of other application, like Amazon’s Web Service and Apple’s iCloud, but they don’t compare well to Google Play Music. Google Play Music is the only one that is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows (including the upload software for all three), accepts a decent amount of file types, allows for 20,000 songs, and has a web player, all at no cost. That’s a lot of features for something that is free!
Features That Put Google Play Music Above the Rest
Since it’s release in 2010, Google Play Music has made some pretty interesting and downright useful features. This makes it an overall pleasant experience for most users, with only a few annoying qualities.
First, you never have to worry about losing a collection of ripped albums, and never have to move music you want to listen to to multiple devices. Google Play Music is available to anything that has an internet connection, so your phone can now access an entire library of songs, without taking up all its space. All users can upload a total of 20,000 songs to their library.
Another neat feature is that you still have the option to “favorite” any track or playlist you want and store it on the device. This makes it easy to still listen to your favorite playlist even if you venture into a dreaded dead zone or lose access to the campus WiFi. The saved music can be removed by just un-selecting the “Keep on Device” option, and keep in mind that storing a lot of music on your device can take a very long time! Music uploaded can also be downloaded to a computer up to two times, so in case you ever do have a catastrophic drive failure, your music is still safe and available on the cloud for your next computer.
All this wouldn’t matter if the application wasn’t easy to use. Luckily, it’s relatively simple. Just like any media player, you can view your entire library by whatever parameters you choose like artist, genre, and album, as well as make drag and drop style playlists from them. You can also make random playlists to discover music that you may skip over everyday. Any playing music is added to a currently playing queue, and the controls and information for it are located at the bottom of the screen. You can then go back to the queue to select another song or add other songs to it from your library. You can also search all the music in your collection almost instantly by the search bar in the app. Easy.
But just like any piece of software, Google Play Music has some areas for improvement. Sometimes the sorting and information feature doesn’t always work well. For the longest time, some of my self uploaded albums had mixed matched album arts, or listed the wrong title for certain songs. Over time, some of these correct themselves, but don’t be surprised if you have to enter in the correct title or artist yourself. There may even be accidental duplicates in your library making your search a little confusing.
Depending on where you get your music from and the format, it might affect the quality or availability on Google Play Music. For example, it works great with .mp3 or .FLAC, but if you ever used Windows Media Player to rip your CDs, you might need to convert. Check out the supported formats before you upload!
Uploading your music to Google Play is pretty simple. To get started, download the uploader, located on the “Listen Now” tab in the upper right hand corner. Once installing the uploader software, you just have to select the files you wish to upload. Multiple files can be selected at once, even if they are in different locations on your hard drive. After that, you just click the “upload” button, and wait!
…and wait. The uploading process may take a long time, especially if you move a lot of music all at once, and if the quality is high. Keep in mind that the uploading can make your Internet lag on your device, since you are moving lots of data at once, but you will be able to listen to your music while it uploads from any device (not just the device where you are uploading from). If this process is done in small chunks or when your computer is not in use, it won’t be an issue. Luckily, you will only have to do this maybe once and then Music Manager will run in the background and upload new music as it finds it. Once it’s done, you can enjoy your collection on multiple devices with ease!