We tend to think of Google Apps as the go-to source for freebie cloud computing services, but the truth is, Google isn't the only, or even the best, cloud service. I've found two sites offering Cloud Computing for the average user for free. They call it a computer in a browser or a WebOS. They are not suitable for replacing your enterprise desktops but they are great for moving files from your home computer to your work computer or for students to have their school and personal files with them no matter where they go. The sites are called iCloud and G.ho.st and they offer online storage and applications that run in a proprietary operating system. It feels almost like remote desktop. You can personalize your desktop by changing your wallpaper and if you use the browser you can bookmark sites and do most anything real browsers have to offer.
The file storage is the best part. iCloud offers 3GB of file storage while G.ho.st offers 15GB. G.ho.st also offers an extra 5GB of storage for each person you refer (remember, you were referred by email@example.com). The storage is supposed to be safe. iCloud boasts daily backups while G.ho.st uses Amazon's file servers for storage, which is most likely why they offer more disk space. G.ho.st also has some added features because of Amazon's file storage including WebDAV which allows you to access your files using Windows Explorer. There is also an application that you can install on Windows and Macs to automatically synchronize files on your desktop with G.ho.st.
Both also provide an open office suite for creating and editing Microsoft Office compatible files. It appears that iCloud does not have a spread sheet editor but G.ho.st does. The G.ho.st version of Excel is Zoho Sheets which does not recognize Excel 2007 files or files that are password protected. They both allow editing of Word and Power Point files however.
Other applications allow more than just office files editing. You have Instant Messengers, Widgets, an Internet Browser, Photo Editing and more. There is also a development kit to create your own. You can access your personal email account from their Email app and you get a free g.ho.st email address as well with 10GB of storage. Since the service has allowed me to stop emailing myself files back and forth from work, it may not be as helpful to me.
Both are pushing the Social aspect as well. You can have "Buddies" to IM and share files with. You can IM using any of the popular IM services also. I created two accounts and shared some photos. You can create slide shows and do some basic photo editing from the G.ho.st WebOS.
I found iCloud to be a bit too limiting for my taste. Not enough storage and the only browser it has been fully tested for is Internet Explorer. It does work in Firefox but it is still in the Alpha phase. I was able to make the Firefox version crash pretty easily. G.ho.st works on all browsers I have tested so far. There is even a mobile version you can access from phones. I found it more useful to upload photos taken from my phone to G.ho.st than emailing them to myself. The greatest feature I have found so far is that although the proxy servers at work will not allow me access to my Twitter or Gmail, they did allow me to access G.ho.st.
This story, "Startups iCloud and Ghost Do Google One Better" was originally published by Network World.