Gladinet is a free Windows software program that lets you mount cloud storage as local folders on your PC while keeping both locations in sync with each other. It provides access to a number of "cloud" storage services which include: Amazon S3, Google Docs, Google, Picasa, ThinkFree, Zoho, Windows Live SkyDrive, and more. The product, which debuted as a tech preview back in the summer of 2008, has finally reached the release candidate milestone, a point at which the software should finally be more stable, more usable, and (hopefully) bug-free.

It's good to see the company progressing towards their goal of merging cloud and local machine, but we have to wonder if this is really a platform of the future or just a transitional piece meant to tide us over until we can really trust the cloud?

The idea behind Gladinet's cloud desktop software is to bridge the various online services we use regularly with the files and data we keep on our PC's hard drive. Given the recent outages of services like Google's Gmail and Google Docs, for example, some pundits questioned whether cloud computing's image would be tarnished. Others took questioning the cloud to a whole new level of paranoia, claiming that trusting the cloud was "worse than stupidity."

For the most part, though, the outrage over the outages and downtimes suffered in cloud computing are overblown. Even when they last for hours, there are few cases where complete data loss has occurred (e.g. Google Docs comes back up, but your data store is wiped clean)...well, unless you count Ma.gnolia.

But Gladinet seems to tap into that primal fear that comes with the loss of control accompanying cloud computing; the fear that your precious data will one day be lost to the ether. O.K. sure, that's not all the software does. It also connects your computers together so you can share files, provides a platform for different cloud services to interact with each other, and provides tools for easily moving your local data to the cloud. Yet, out of all its features, the fact that you can keep PC and cloud in sync - with a local backup for safekeeping - is probably one of the service's biggest selling points.

Is that the future of cloud computing, though? A combined cloud/PC experience? Or will cloud computing eventually make our hard drives, filled with locally stored files, obsolete? With the rise of netbook computing and mobile computing, it seems that the transition has been directly influenced by the number of web/mobile apps that now replace what local software once provided.

So where does that leave a software program like Gladinet? Is it a useful platform for hybrid computing? Or just a transitional piece holding us over until the cloud is all we use?