Objectively Analyzing the Adobe Creative Cloud: Should You Want It?

Objectively Analyzing the Adobe Creative Cloud: Should You Want It?

When Adobe launched the Creative Cloud more than a year ago, it was not met with much fanfare from actual users of the software. Those around me heard about it, shrugged and moved on. I’m pretty sure many of us didn’t really fully understand what it exactly was. Fast-forward to today, and Creative Cloud has turned into something that is obviously Adobe's future, begging the question, "Is it good for Adobe, good for consumers or both?"

The idea of what the Creative Cloud is doing isn’t new, rather it’s a concept that the Apple App Store proved years ago: it is ok, nay, better to have access to something immediately with no need for a physical copy of anything. It’s instant access to what you want right away, and in a society that seems to respond only to instant gratification, it’s hungrily accepted.

Like I said, when Creative Cloud launched it slipped under the radar for most, and it was easy for us to let that happen because the method with which we were used to ingesting Adobe software was still the norm: giant packs of DVDs. And man, those discs are expensive. Like I recently brought up regarding a story in Australia, the Creative Suite on disc is cost prohibitive for nearly every normal person. It’s really, really hard to justify that kind of cost when the temptation to steal the software is fed by the ease of thieving. I’m pretty sure that this is a monkey on the back of Adobe that they have been trying to shake since they started as a company. How much money do you think Adobe has lost over the years to theft? It has to be millions. Hundreds of millions. It’s also probably why the software is so expensive, as the skills of the people it takes to build the software are expensive and they still need to be a profitable company. These things were working both for and against Adobe. On one hand, they had the best software that everyone wanted, creating a huge demand for their product. On the other hand, an enormous chunk of that demanding audience simply acquired that software without paying because it was easy. It’s a tough place to be.

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So Adobe fought back with the Creative Cloud, and it’s pretty obvious that eventually Adobe plans to phase out the discs entirely. Updates come more quickly to the Creative Cloud, and the support for Creative Cloud members far surpasses that received by standard disc users. The way the business is leaning just oozes desire to move entirely into a cloud. You may not be a fan of it, but you can’t blame Adobe because it makes business sense for them to do this. And you know what? So far it’s better for me as a consumer.

Right now if I wanted to buy the Creative Suite Standard, it would cost me about $1130 for just Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. If I wanted to spring for the Design and Web suite, that comes in at an even steeper cost: $1,500 (and this is Amazon pricing- it's even more from Adobe.com). So for an investment of $2200, I get Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Speedgrade, Acrobat and Audition. That is in the United States, where the pricing is most competitive. You try and do the math anywhere else, and you’ll likely find that the expense is nearly insurmountable for any single user.

But Creative Cloud has changed all that. Now you can get every program Adobe makes for $50 a month. That’s $600 a year. To get that same deal in disc form is $2200. That is nearly four years of Creative Cloud for the same price as a one time disc purchase. What happens to the disc version when a new version is released? Nothing. It stays static. What happens to the Creative Cloud when a new version is released? It is instantly updated to that new version. No extra cost, quick download, instant gratification. Instantly you’re working with the most up to date software and it didn’t cost you a cent. Don’t want to upgrade right away? You don’t have to. You can keep chugging along with your older versions if you like. Upgrading to the newest software via disc currently costs $375 if you prove you have purchased from Adobe in the past.

Bear in mind, you get EVERY app Adobe makes, including Lightroom. There isn't a comprehensive disc package that I could find that really does this same thing. There are programs that you can only get through Creative Cloud, like Muse.

By cutting out the costs of shipping and creating physical copies of software, Adobe had done something that benefits them and us: they have made their software accessible to just about anyone who would need it. Even when I was in high school teaching myself how to use the software, I could afford $50 a month. Now with a steady income, $50 a month is a pittance for the value I get out of it.

If you don't want all of Adobe's apps together, you can get them ala carte for around $20 a month per app, which isn't a bad deal either.

“But Jaron, I don’t want to be connected to the internet all the time!” You don’t have to be. Once you download and register, you can be disconnected from the internet and still use the software. Whenever you are connected, the CC will just verify your account status in the background.

In addition to the software, you also get access to 20 GB of cloud storage, accessible through your account with the Creative Cloud. The benefit if using Adobe’s cloud is that it recognizes Adobe software and can give you previews of the documents. It works just like Dropbox, only ten times the size and you can actually see what that PSD or INDD document looks like before downloading and opening it.

I have the Creative Cloud installed on two computers, both Macintosh. But if I had a PC and a Mac, I could still have it installed on both computers with one license. You don’t have to worry about using different operating systems anymore. It all just works.

From now until likely forever, Adobe is prioritizing updates for the Creative Cloud. Last year when Adobe updated Photoshop with a slough of sweet upgrades, CC members got those upgrades immediately. Those with a disc were given a vague timeline of when they could expect that same update. Now this wasn’t done out of spite for disc users, but it was simply a product of prioritization. The two different methods of software delivery use two different sets of code. Adobe prioritized the Creative Cloud over the disc version and wanted to get that out as soon as possible. It just goes to prove Adobe’s desire to make discs obsolete.

So back to the comment about pirating, as you're probably wondering how this prevents pirating. Directly, it doesn't really. But because the pricing is so much less prohibitive, there will be a lot more people willing to give the Creative Cloud a shot than were willing to buy the Creative Suite.

Using the software and interfacing with the Creative Cloud is pretty straightforward. From a usability standpoint, nothing has changed. The software is still as great as ever, it's just available to me no matter where I am. Even if I have installed the software on two computers and I need to put it on another, you can deactivate all current subscriptions on all computers and install on a new one. It's not a permanent solution, but if you're in a bind it's incredibly useful. This is one huge advantage over services like iTunes. If you authorize a computer on iTunes, you can only de-authorize it from that computer. So if you can't remember what computer you authorized, you're kind of screwed. With the Creative Cloud, you can de-authorize all computers from any computer as long as you can log in. This probably isn't a practice Adobe really cares for, but it's a function that I really liked.

One other benefit of the Creative Cloud is access to a massive training library with a huge number of videos. If you're stuck, there is a tutorial here for you.

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What I liked:
Easy of use
Plethora of programs
Cloud Storage
Speed of updates
Price point of service
Massive tutorial library

What could use improvement:
Requiring a year commitment to get the best price

Sure, the idea of paying a monthly fee bothers a lot of people. Hopefully the math I went through above makes this a little easier since stubbornly digging in your feet and opting for the disc version isn’t the most fiscally responsible decision. Maybe you feel like you actually own the software this way, and I understand that. Maybe you don’t trust Adobe for various reasons including the shady, dodgy way that the CEO avoids talking about real issues. I get that too. But despite all the flaws and downsides to using the Creative Cloud, it works. It is truly an excellent product delivery system. Having access to any program in the Adobe library instantly is just a good feeling. There was a time that Lee and Pat needed Premiere right away, as they were traveling and were having issues with their computers. They needed to reinstall Premiere and couldn’t until they found a store that happened to carry the disc. With the Creative Cloud, reinstalling takes a couple minutes. Zero stress. Zero hassle. Could have spent a lot more time editing and a lot less time trying to find a physical copy of the disc. In the end, that's what it's about right? If the software and delivery of that software makes your life easier, it's a good thing right? That's what you should focus on when contemplating the Creative Cloud, because it does make your life easier. I'm comfortable saying that the Creative Cloud is better for Adobe and better for the consumers. It's a great service, and one I'll continue to use.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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I feel like your math is off. Just for clarification according to Adobe's site it costs $20 for a single program per month. Or $50 for everything. In your article you make it sound like you can get Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Speedgrade, Acrobat, and Audition all together as a package for $20 a month. The only way to get all of those programs for $20 is through a current Student & Teacher special promo that ends March 11th.

He clearly states in the article that it's $50 a month for everything.
"There is another upgrade which is $50 a month which give you access to absolutely everything Adobe produces, and the math here is the same"

The Author has updated the $$ info in the article since my comment. It is now correct.

The prices are still incorrect since many people can buy or know someone that might be eligible to buy at an educational discount. Here's a MUST READ article on what is behind the Cloud decision.

<b>VIDEO: Crony Capitalism at Adobe? Obama's goal for Internet control may be behind Adobe's Cloud!</b>


The 50 is only if you agree to a full year a partial year is 80 per month it is a rip off

No, it's April 25th, and the student/teacher offer is still going.

Great article explaining the Creative Cloud. I've been a user since nearly the day it was released and haven't looked back on the old way once. $$ wise it's definitely the best bang for your buck and having access to not only the Master Suite, but the cloud services (i.e. digital publishing suite, type kit, phone gap, business catalyst) puts other tools in your hands that you can't even get with just buying the normal serial numbered versions.

Why would I want EVERY app that Adobe makes? I need exactly Lightroom and 15% of what Photoshop can do... $20-50 a month for that is quite steep.

I still use my LR3 I bought for around $100. I subscribe to the Cloud for PS, $20 a month...very reasonable. If those are the only two programs you need, I recommend just buying LR and subscribing to PS. It makes using PS more budget friendly.

Exactly what I did.  Already owned lightroom.  Now using the cloud, I have a very reasonable subscription to photoshop!  

It's only steep if you come from the high seas of Free. As a long time sailor on those same waters, I knew I could never justify the thousands of dollars for PS or any other Adobe software. (and yes I am talking about piracy)

With the CC thought I am able to access to so much more and all for less than I spend on coffee in a month. It feel really good going legit.

Thanks for posting this. I'm starting to do video and the thought of shelling out hundreds for Premiere wasn't in my budget. I'll have to look into the cloud. 

Currently I own Lightroom (on two computers) and Photoshop (on one) without the need of the rest of the Adobe Suite.  For me the math did not add up because I only use two products from Adobe and nothing else.  Here's a my quick math:
Lightroom upgrade $80 x2(computers) = $160
Photoshop upgrade $200 x 1 = $200
with tax (8%)= $389

Plus, if you did the Creative Cloud Suite, then you are leasing the product over time and you cannot use it for a tax write off (OPEX) versus purchasing the softare and writing it off (CAPEX).

That is far less than the $600 a year for everything that I probably won't use.

much is Adobe paying you for this article?  I find their cloud offerings to be VERY
EXPENSIVE.  And, you know that once they
have enough people brainwashed that the cloud is better than sliced bread, then the
monthly recurring cost start to go up and uP and UP.

If the price per month goes up, my opinion of their service will change dramatically. 

And I didn't get paid anything, and I'm actually kind of poor. 

If we got paid for articles every time people think we are getting paid we would be so rich by now. 

Damn the downsides of being the objective third party!

What do you find about their cloud offerings to be very expensive?  Alternatively, you could outright buy every program that you need.  

The Cloud is a really affordable service. For about $130 a month my three man team is able to have access to everything Adobe makes on 5 computer. That is an amazing deal! Yes it's not free, but we are locked in at those rates for a year. After that time is up we will reevaluate things, but I would be surprised if Adobe jacks the prices way up. 
We will spend less money in two years on software for all of us then we would if we bought one (1) copy outright today.

But think about this: after 1 year, if you stop paying the monthly fee, you will not own ANY of Adobe's products because they are being leased to you and you do not own them. You will either have to continue subscribing or buy the copies for their full price.

The Creative Cloud will be fine if they do not raise their prices. However, if they do, then we will have a problem.

Be prepared to be surprised next year!

Another thing to think about, once Adobe secures the market, it is within their right to gradually increase the subscription price of CC.

 What I dont understand is how everyone can fall for these magazine subscription fees. I can walk to my local newsstand buy a magazine skip getting the next 3 new issues and spend less every year. I dont need every new issue Im fine with the 4 I get now.  /sarcasm

Agreed on the obvious article bias... check out this article...


I like the cloud, because I didn't have PS before and now I do for $20 a month. A much more reasonable price than shelling out hundreds of dollars for it all at once. Maybe others can afford the high price all at once, but I prefer the monthly payment as it is more friendly to my budget. The other program I use is Lightroom, which is a very affordable program to just buy. I'm still using my LR3 that cost me around $100.

They think that if only cloud will be available there will be no piracy issue any more...
If they had lowered price it would solve the piracy issue. With lower (much lower!) price more people would buy it because they could justify the expense for their hobby.And they could make more money this way. But they don't see how much they could make. They see how much they "loose" by adding up potential clients. Many of those potential clients will never buy the software or CC.
I only hope there will be other company who will start to catch up with Adobe and will offer reasonable price.

I don't see why should I use CC. I get my software online and I keep copy just in case I would need to reinstall with no internet access. I will not need to upgrade from CS6 because I am photographer not a graphic designer and they can't possibly introduce anything else I would need. Even CS4 was more than enough.

not so much a reply to the cloud but a reply to pricing. This is the reason why you should be charging market rates if you are providing photography. even the smallest business has to make more money than it spends. Inflate that number to Adobes many employees and overhead and then show me a business model that would keep them profitable. the internet age has made the world think everything is free. If you notice there are other programs,..apple aperture is one and it is decent, picasa is free, but you get what you pay for.

What I mean is that they will not force people, who can't afford the software, to pay for it. If they will find the way to secure the software, those "potential clients" will move to alternative software. By lowering the price however, they could reach more people who could pay, so they could possibly make more money...
BTW there is no such thing like "market rates" but there always will be a "supply and demand".

50 per month is 600 per year, or 3000 after 5 years,

I made our company switch to the Cloud immediately. It's a way, way better system than buying discs. It just works and the measly amount of dollars is just that. Especially compared to how much money we are making with all those programs. AE, Premiere, PS, Lightroom... Before when we were using discs, we were constantly a couple of versions always behind. And still it cost quite a lot. Now it's just a subscription. Which I can use at home too.

 How many stations has the company? There other system to consider. Virtualization with Citrix allows company to have one powerful server and many cheap stations. XenApp has one application that every user can access. Also you can login to your Virtual workstation from every machine in the company so basically you have your computer with you in every office of your company. I know it only from theory but it is definitely something worth to look into.

The cloud is all about a fixed recurring revenue stream for

Welcome to the darkages of tech. We are now servants to the cloud busting ass to pay Adobe HP apple and uncle sam. What sparked Americas economy from day one is that people got to own land. We are now going from owning our software to owing !

And all the others will join soon... starting with MS.... Apple has been doing it for a while too with some services.
Just make the math
70 Euros for Creative Cloud
20 Euros for the MS office suite
xx Euros for Apple Cloud storage Service
xx Euros for you hosting company
xx Euros for your Anti-Virus service
And so on and so on

The monthly bill is about to get insane for indy film makers and video creators ...
It will create more revenue to the largest companies but will definitely make the smaller companies and one man companies much much poorer...

Nice Adobe sales pitch.  Adobe did this to no ones benefit except Adobe. 

I have used the cloud software and found it slow.  Also, I would never surrender my data to "the cloud" where is it out of my hands and who knows what may happen to it.  I will stick with CD purchases and my RAID as long as I can.

Anyone in biz will recognize that software purchases are a "sunk cost" of doing business and will amortize it on their taxes, so  the out-of-pocket expense is not what is stated in the article.  Further, while I agree it may be nice to have continuous software updates, who exactly needs that?  There is a learning curve for staff at each upgrade and many times camera hardware (changes in output file formats) drives software changes.  My point is who changes cameras that often to continuously need the upgrades?

As for web design software, we do not change it unless there is some significant change or client driven request to use specific software.  Again, the continuous upgrade is a sales pitch not based in reality.

Love it! I would like to see Adobe add is the synchronization of catalog (lightroom) meta data across platforms.  

I'm waiting for this day too. I'm hoping for some more optimization of Lightroom 4 first though. My gosh do I miss the speed of 3.5.

I see one area main area where the straight forward math provided fails. You're directly comparing owning the software with leasing the software. In my mind, this is not apples to apples. Not everyone upgrades every time a new version is released. In fact, most of the people I know do not. So that cost of ownership (ownership, not leasership...sure, that's a word...just go with it) is often spread over much longer than a single year. At that point the cost benefit starts tilting towards non-cloud. Not to mention, while the budgeted monthly amount may be relatively low, say I lose my job tomorrow. If I saved my pennies and bought the software outright, I still have software to use. If I lease it, odds are good my software just went buh-bye with all my non-essential budgetary items having to get cut. I'm not ok with Adobe going to a lease-only system, which is what you seem to be embracing/applauding in this article. There should ALWAYS be an ownership option.

As an aside, you also seem to be equating non-cloud with disc. All the purchase I've made from Adobe are downloaded media that I back up to something in case I ever need to reinstall. Non-cloud is not synonymous with requiring of manufactured discs...

If your are a student you can grab Creative Cloud with all the programs for 19.99 a month right now! I upgraded my single PS subscription to the whole cloud and am very happy with all my new tools :) 

If you are a student you can grab the Masters Collection for 799 and after four years upgrade to full future version for 599... and stick with it forever.

The CC is the best thing that has happened to small creative teams in years. I run a small web, graphic design, and photography company and the ability to run the latest and greatest software has been life changing. No more messing around with version differences, just seamless collaboration across the country. It's a great service and has allowed us to go legit, have access to powerful tools, be more efficient, and not break the bank. 

As a start up with not a lot of money this was a life saver.Also, for all the former or soon to be former college students with access to their .edu emails it a great way to get your career off the ground without spending thousands of dollars.

I won a year's subscription to CC (which my wife stole) and I must admit, there is no doubt we'll be subscribing when the freebee runs out. We currently own PS5 and LR3 on disc and there's no way we'll upgrade just 2 products for £250 when we can access the lot for less than £50 a month.

I use the Cloud and think it's a great deal! I got the student discount because my husband worked at a college so I get every program for $19.99/month. I use PS, LR, Illustrator, and After Effects daily and this is a much more affordable way for me to use these programs and always have them up to date!

I wish that they could somehow sell software based on the amount of people using it rather than the number of computers. I personally own 3 computers and I paid full retail for the creative suite and I'm not even allowed to put it on all of my own machines. Maybe managing that is impossible though. 

Honestly, I know it's technically illegal to use it on more than one machine, but if I had 3 machines (and only one of me), installing it on all 3 machines would be morally acceptable IMO. So long as I never run them at the same time. But agreed. it would be nicer if they set it up that way :)

You can install on two, that is in the license terms

With CC you can install it on two machines at any given time. You can use PS on one machine and iD on the other if you wanted to, but not PS on both. It's not perfect, but it is step in the right direction. It works well for my desktop and laptop setup. 

I thought you can install their software on two machines (home + desktop), but you can't run it at the same time on both.

The math is flawed here.

Let me state that this makes much more sense if you use a lot of Adobe apps. Our marketing dept does at my full time job and we made the purchase. But if you just need Photoshop and lightroom, your math doesn't really pan out for a few reasons.

First, most of us have already purchased either Lightroom or Photoshop (most likely both). Right there, we have already made an investment. Adobe is not going to refund us for our purchases if we sign up for CC.
Second, and more importantly, you are only basing this on a year. I was using CS4 up until last year (2008 to 2012). So I got 3-4 years out of that software before I decided to pay the $200 to upgrade to CS6.

So lets say Adobe had CC in 2008$40/month for both LR and PS per year = $480 x 3 years = $1400.I paid $300 for CS4 (upgrade from PS Elements from a Wacom tablet purchase)I paid (I think) $250 total for Lightroom 3 &amp; 4 (full purchase and upgrade)

My cost for 3 years = $550
Adobe CC for 3 years = $1400 

Even if I paid full price for Photoshop ($600), I still come out way on top! After a few more years, I may even have enough for a plane trip to Australia :)

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