Replacement for iDisk and iWeb Services: Alternative Websites and Cloud Services

What Dr Mitton and many many thousdands of other 
humans saw July 1 in place of their websites hosted 
in mobile me :(

[Published originally on July 14, 2012 and Updated on Sept., 7, 2013].

Are you a former iDisk user, Apple's former version of the "cloud" that provided you with a remote place to store and share all kinds of files? Not only your music, pictures, and movies, but also any file you desired? I used the iDisk since it began in 2000/2001. File sharing, backup of laboratory management files and my websites were all served in that iDisk system. Now, like you, I had to find alternatives when Apple suddenly announced they would replace the iDisk with iCloud. The problem with that was that iCloud does not let you store all of your files (i.e. WORD docs), and it cannot provide web-server functions (serving out your htm/html files to web browsers). Here is my recipe for successful replacements for iCloud's short falls: remote file storage, file sharing and web server.


File sharing and sycnronization:  DropBox!  You can get your own DropBox for ANY platform using this link:  Dropbox Click HERE

Web-server and Domain Managment that works with iWeb program NOW: GoDaddy! I used one of their special offers to start an excellent website hosting service (for KenMitton.com). You can follow this link to get to GoDaddy:  Click HERE.

To understand how these choices worked out for my needs, continue reading.

Apples first "iCloud", before the term became common, was Mac.com and their Homepage service became available, where you could serve HTML files from your iDisk account. Thus, you had a basic website server. Soon the system morphed into Mobile Me, and it gained a website interface and then added functions to integrate  iPhones. By 2010, one could log into Mobile Me and see a collection of screen buttons for your calendars, address book, photo gallery and the iDisk's link gained a new "cloud" image as its icon.

With the arrival of the Lion (OS X 10.7) operating system, Mobile Me was replaced with iCloud. The later was more automated than before. Changing a file on one device, updates it in the "iCloud" and then will propagate, or "push", the change to all of the APPLE devices you have linked to your iCloud account. While Apple also included a change from $99/year for Mobile Me to FREE iCloud, there are several problems with iCloud for anyone who used their iDisk with great freedom:

1) iCloud is only free if you already have Lion as your OS on your computer, because iCould does not function for people like me that just upgraded many of their iMacs and Macbooks to Snow Leopard. Frankly the backwards window scrolling in Lion is flimsy and bouncy and full screen aps are not that exciting to me. So if you use Tiger, Panther, Leopard or Snow Leopard, you are out of luck. I also manage two research laboratories and lots of computers, many attached to instrumentation, using OS-X, Linux, and Windows. The Macs use everything from Tiger to Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion. The majority of our excellent computing resources cannot use Apple's iCloud.

2) iCloud automates file changes between your cloud storage and different devices, but it limits what you can store and sync through the cloud. You are limited to your address book, calendars, pictures, music and files that belong to Apple's software (Pages, Keynote etc.). It does not let you sync and store any kind of file you want. Such as Microsoft Office files (.doc, docx, xls, xlsx etc.) which represent the most important 90% of files in my work as an academic and scientist.

3) iCould no longer provides web server functions. In other words, files cannot be fed to web browsers using http:// protocols. There is no more web-hosting service. While you can store html files on a drive or remote server, this is just file sharing and is not HTML serving. This is a problem if you used the iDisk's web-hosting functionality to run your websites for the last several years. This is done with iWeb, or other programs, and iWeb is great for generating nice looking websites that you can easily update or edit while having a coffee break.

So, I must find alternatives for iDisk that won't make me poor, give me the freedom to share and sync any files I desire, and a new home for my websites. I have found the solutions reviewed below, and will tell you how how to implement them. I spent some months preparing for this, researching options, and I doubt you can find much cheaper solutions than these. If you are really stuck for time, now its past June 30th and you need your iWeb generated webpages working again, here are some life savers:

File storage alternatives. 

I had some other file syncing and sharing services for some time, but did not have to rely on them too much while iDisk was available. One was DropBox. DropBox has always been great for sharing files and folders with someone quickly (much faster than using iDisk or iCloud). Other services that are similar are: GoogleDrive, SugarSync and UbuntuOne. I have all of them and they all make a folder in your home directory after you download their software for your system. Put a file into the special magic folder and voila' it updates in the "cloud" and will then sync and update on your other devices, with the same software that you attach to the same account. 

I have replaced my iDisk with both DropBox and GoogleDrive at this time. Sugar Sync is a bit different in that it lets you more easily turn folders and files all over your drive into sync'd files, but it also provides a magic folder. If I had to choose just one. I would go with DropBox, because it currently supports the most operating systems. Google Drive's dedicated application, for example, will not work in OS-X Tiger (10.4), cutting you off from the odd Tiger you may have in your home or work zoo. Fortunately, DropBox maintains support for Tiger as well, so you can keep using the old Tiger based laptops you may have around, or for students doing basic email or spreadsheet calculations in the lab. 

Dropbox will currently give you 2 Gigabytes of free storage capacity and you have to jump to 50 Gigs for $99/year. There is nothing in between 2 and 50 Gbytes. $99 was the cost of the old iDisk, but for $99 I also had a webserver!  Dropbox is also nice because they have dedicated software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Android, iPad and Blackberry. 

Web Server alternative that supports iWeb-made websites: DoDaddy!

I went with GoDaddy, because of several reasons. 1) It has been around many years, and has many many happy customers. 2) They are very flexible. You can just buy and manage your domain names with them, or you can also rent server space for your websites. You can also get email included for essentially nothing extra in cost. 3) They have a great web interface for managing your website. If you use their templates or WordPress support, you do not even need to have an HTML or website editing program. 4) Using FTP settings, you can have your current iWeb generated websites simply published to your GoDaddy server. Actually, my websites now update about twice as fast as they did with iDisk. There may be some gadget option in your pages that may or may not work (unique to iWeb), but I never used any of those anyway. If you want a google navigator, you can easily get and past code from google services into your iWeb pages and get them that way. The special add-ons provided in the iWeb program were never really that slick and just copies of things already available in other ways. 

This blog you are reading now, started of using the blog options in iWeb, but I long ago moved it here to blogger, because blogger is just more efficient, up to date and powerful.  My current personal web page is http://KenMitton.com , and I find it loads much faster than when I hosted it in iWeb/iDisk. Yes it is now serving from GoDaddy I chose a Linux based server option. While I may stop using iWeb as my page authoring program one day, for now the move was easy and frankly .. it works!! I have used this to make my websites for over a year now.

GoDaddy lets you choose to have your webserver in their Linux or Windows server option ( I used Linux). The basic hosting is plenty of space for me right now, and if I ever run out of space or suddenly had killer traffic, it is easy to upgrade space and bandwidth. Oh yes...

Cost is nice at GoDaddy. Their specials change from time to time, but you can usually find options such as $4.75 to $5.04 per month for an excellent web server with 10GB space, unlimited bandwidth, 100 email accounts and 10 MySQL databases (if you need them). You can find less per month, but not much less and not as reliable as GoDaddy. If you have a domain name already, you will have to update your name servers where you manage your domain name, and it may take several hours for their system to automatically point to your GoDaddy hosted server. They have good instructions and 24/7 call support if you get lost. I actually experienced a GoDaddy technical support person phoning ME, just to check that my migration to my new GoDaddy website was working ok and that I had figured out how to do this! How many internet companies do followup calls on your purchases without you calling them first!?  That convinced me I chose the best place for KenMitton.com for a while. Since then I have also placed my Andromiton.com website on that server. Andromiton is my developer name in the Google Play and Amazon Kindle stores where I have placed some FREE Apps for Android phones, tabs, and Kindle Fires. (Molecular Vision - the Journal, Info Navigator for Sochi 2014). 

If you have any questions based on this posting, or have other suggestions for readers, do post them below as comments. If you had an iWeb site you can have it again in a few hours. Keep sharing and syncing those files.

Ken Mitton



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