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Adobe offers a variety of subscription levels for Creative Cloud. The 30-day free trial provides 2GB of storage, but allows for only limited access to the array of applications. Its standard $49.99 US/month “Complete Individual” subscription provides full versions of Adobe® Photoshop®, Illustrator®, Acrobat®, and more, along with full access to services to help subscribers create mobile-ready content and apps; 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration.

It does, however, require an annual commitment that is billed monthly. The company also offers pricing levels for students and teachers, single application only, team pricing and discounts for users of CS 3 or later.

So, what are the benefits to this head in the cloud quandary?

For Adobe, this certainly works well. Subscriptions are a much more predictable source of recurring revenue.

For users, it’s handy. You can access your files across a myriad of devices from your desktop system to your laptop, tablet or your phone. Collaboration and sharing seem pretty straight-forward and easy, even if your clients don’t have Creative Cloud or know what the heck it is. Updates are built-in, if you choose to update. Creative Cloud has Behance integration and a subscription comes with the pro features of Behance, including ProSite — a fully customizable professional portfolio with your own unique URL. Adobe also offers product support and a library of video tutorials. Creative Cloud for teams also includes another level of support. Each member of a team gets two one-on-one sessions with an Adobe product expert per year.

Still, there are many concerns for a lot of people. Probably the biggest concerns are needing to be connected to the Web to use the software and working on your files in a browser. Adobe says those are common misunderstandings. The applications live on your hard drive, not in the cloud. They are installed just like any other application. And, although you do need to connect once per month to verify your subscription, being connected isn’t required to use an application. Being connected most likely isn’t an issue for many graphic designers, anyway. If you’re at all like me, and I suspect you are, you pretty much live on the ‘Net’.

Nonetheless, there will probably come a time, usually the worst time possible, when your connection goes down for this reason or that. It’s part of Murphy’s Law and akin to your hard drive spinning its last right at deadline time.

Another concern is not owning a real physical disk(s). Having something to hold in your hand or spill coffee on is reassuring. But, when it comes to Adobe products, or most software for that matter, you never really owned them. You simply licensed the right to use it on your system.

What about deciding to jump ship after working with Creative Cloud? What happens to your files and all your hard work? It’s still yours and you can open them with a previous version. The caveat is remembering to save the file down to a compatible version. As you likely know, Adobe isn’t really big on backward compatibility, but it can be done.

Then, there’re are always instability issues and bugs to deal with, such as Adobe needing to take down it’s sync feature a few days ago. The company provides system status updates where users can check on how healthy Creative Cloud is at any time.

Many new graphic designers, as well as some veterans and, of course, students aren’t known for being on the affluent list. For freelancers and others, adding yet another item to the monthly budget isn’t all that appealing. That was pretty apparent in a CNET and Jefferies & Co. survey from last year. The companies conducted a follow-up survey which showed users are getting a bit more used to the idea of digging into their pockets on a monthly basis.

For the cash-strapped and rebels out there, there are other options. Gimp, for example, is an open source (read: free) Photoshop clone of sorts. Inkscape is a lot like Illustrator and Scribus is similar to InDesign. Odds are, these aren’t perfect solutions and there are some compatibility issues. Scribus can’t open InDesign files natively, but you can save an InDesign file as postscript to get it into Scribus.

At the end of the day, it’s every Abode Creative Suite user to decide whether or not to jump onto the cloud. It’s the way things are going and it’s not likely to change. The world around us is moving and changing at break neck speed. Do your homework, learn as much as you can and make an informed decision for your particular needs and situation.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
~ George Bernard Shaw