Xbox Live adds Cloud Storage in latest dashboard update
This week, Microsoft is releasing it newest system update for the Xbox 360, which is something of an annual event to add new capabilities and such. Over the next several weeks, Xbox consoles will be able to gain access to a broader range of TV services (depending on where you are in the world), tighter integration and manageability with Kinect and Bing, etc.
But my favorite feature, by far, is â€śCloud Storageâ€ť.
Until now, youâ€™ve had local hard drives, sometimes internal memory, proprietary memory cartridges and some USB sticks. The Cloud Storage feature is a 512MB repository per gamer, that is cached locally on the Xbox console hard drive and automatically syncâ€™s with XboxLive in the background.
No More Cartridges or USBs
(slight exaggeration, but still)
My house has more than one Xbox. So, in my family, we each have our own memory stick â€“ some using the proprietary cartridges and others with USB. We have both formats because the older consoles only offered two cartridge slots, and the current OS only supports 2 USB sticks (even with a USB hub). And when we want to play family four-player games, someone inevitably has to copy their profile from one place to another so we can co-exist. Think â€śsneaker-netâ€ť for gamers.
That all goes away, because each player has their own storage, you can each save your game saves and profile in the Cloud. (read on)
No more â€śRecover Profileâ€ť
My nephew, Matthew, is the quintessential gaming teen, having grown up on game consoles and has certainly schooled his Uncle more than once in Halo. I imagine that that over the years, he has often visited buddiesâ€™ houses with either a memory stick in hand or needed to â€śRecover GamerTagâ€ť. The (RG) feature was a way to recreate your gamer profile on a console, when you donâ€™t have it with you. But in the process, it invalidated the old profile. So, if you retrieved it while at your friendâ€™s house, the original at home was no longer valid. So, when you got home, you would have to recover it again, to bring it back where it belonged.
Instead, the â€śRecover Profileâ€ť has been replaced with â€śDownload Profileâ€ť.
The primary difference, other then being light-years faster, is that you can leave your profile on more than one Xbox.
Why this is Cool
For roaming gamers like my nephew, there is the default option to â€śrequire passwordâ€ť, so that the profile isnâ€™t used by anyone other than him.
For families like mine, with more than one console, we can turn off this feature and now happily roam from the family room to a bedroom, as our game choices vary.
In my day job, I am a backup/disaster-recovery guy (my other blog is http://CentralizedBackup.com). So, every few months, I would browse my Xbox360 USB memory stick and selectively copy my most recent game saves to a separate memory stick. Why? Because I didnâ€™t want to lose 100â€™s of hours of game progress to a faulty bit on a flash-drive. But now, I donâ€™t have to because the cloud-storage is stored locally on the console and then automatically synchronizes with the XboxLive cloud service, and then to any other console, when I log on.
Once, my wife swore off gaming for about six months, because the game save that she had worked on became corrupt. Every time she thought about playing, she got so angry thinking of the lost time, that she just avoided it for a while.
To turn it on, go to System Properties > Storage > Cloud Storage. Click the radio-button to â€śEnable Cloud Storageâ€ť and you are good to go.
When you first log-in with an Xbox Live Gold Subscribing ID, Xbox Live will check which console you most recently logged in from. If it was from another console, it will notify you as a security precaution, which also lets your new console know that it needs to sync your cloud-based data down to this console. Okay, now it has a local copy, which in technology terms, we call the cache. The cache enables games to play with the local copy of the data, instead of waiting on the slightly slower XboxLive copy. It also ensures that if your Xbox Live Internet connection were to break, you still have your game saves to play from locally. Note, you may need to temporarily copy them from the local Cloud cache to the hard drive or USB stick for offline play.
Other Stuff to Note
With only 512MB (the size of the larger proprietary Xbox memory cartridges), you wonâ€™t be able to keep all of your downloadable content in the cloud. Instead, for add-on packs and multimedia, you will need to manually download those items to each console. You could admittedly keep them on a USB stick too, since they wonâ€™t change near as often. To re-download them, simply use your dashboard and go to Settings > Account > Download History and re-download the items to second console.
It is also important to note that this is a feature for Xbox Live Gold Subscribers only. While there will likely be some Silver (free) members who complain, this is just one more way that Microsoft is creating value for those that pay for their gaming service. Hey, how else do you pay for all of that extra storage and bandwidth that is about to be consumed in the Xbox datacenter? It wont be from the minor margins made off each console sold.
So, there you have it. Backups, Share-ability, and its too easy not to do. There are other cool things in the dashboard update, but hopefully, now you are as excited about Cloud Storage as I am.
As always, thanks for reading.