Many of us have spent countless hours backing up our CD collections to our computers. We think that our collections are safe, but then the hard drive crashes and *poof*--all that music and hard work are gone. Alternatively, what if you wanted an easy way to access all of that music wherever you are without having to haul all of those gigabytes (or in some instances terrabytes) of data around with you. What's the solution?
Google Play Music.
Google Play Music is a free service available to anyone with a Google account. Google Music allows you to upload up to 50,000 of your personal audio files to the cloud for free. Even better yet, you can then access that music from virtually any device, provided you have an Internet connection. You can stream the songs through a web browser on any computer and there are also dedicated Music apps for Android, iOS, Chromecast and a few others. I keep saying 'music', but in reality, you can store audio books too as long as they are in a supported format (MP3, AAC, FLAC, WMA, ALAC, MP4). Additionally, Google Music also offers a streaming service for $9.99 per month. The Google catalog is truly enormous and there have been very few albums that I haven't been able to find. If you subscribe, they will also allow you to download any music found on the service to your mobile devices. The only catch: the music will only play using the Google Music app.
But what if you're like me and live in an area with sketchy cell service or you don't want to waste your data? No problem. Google Music also allows you to download your tunes to your mobile device for playback without using any data.
So you're thinking all of this sounds great. But now what? The easiest way to add your music to Google Music is to download their Music Manager application. This application will run on your Windows or Mac computer and will scan the music folders on your computer for new data. During the installation process, you will specify which folders for Music Manager to monitor. When you add new music, Music Manager automatically uploads the files to your account. If you are an iTunes user and have created playlists, Music Manager will import all of those playlists too, so you won't need to re-create them in Google Music. Audiophiles: please note that all files will be converted to 320kbps MP3 regardless of the file format. Google automatically populates the album art and information on albums that it recognizes, meaning that you don't need to track all that information down on your own.
The other way to upload music is to download Google Play Music for Chrome and upload songs manually through your web browser. This works fine for one or two single albums or songs, but the seamless omnipresence of the Music Manager makes it so much easier to keep your library up-to-date.
Summary: Google Music is a great, free way to transport your music collection into the cloud with the dual benefit of backing up your music collection while giving you access to it from anywhere on a plethora of devices.