Rent a virtual a Mac in the Cloud - Review of XCodeClub.com


Do you need to use a Mac computer occasionally but don't want to invest a lot of money to purchase one? Read my review of XCodeClub.com, a cloud based Mac Virtual Machine rental service.

Being an app review blogger, I used to get a lot of requests to review Mac products. However, I personally do not own a Mac computer yet. I have been using my friend's Mac computer for reviewing apps since last few years. Since I didn't want to disturb him often, I used to wait until I have a few products to review so that I could test them all together. Some other times, I used to bring his Mac computer to my office for a few days and then test a bunch of apps and products.

In last few months, the number of review requests for Mac products increased significantly and I thought it would be a good idea to have my own Mac. However, when I looked at the price, I thought it may not give me value for money in the near future since they are pretty expensive compared to Windows computers. I started exploring the options to rent Mac computers from the local shops but ruled out that idea too when I heard about the options to rent a virtual Mac in the cloud.

Rent a Mac virtual machine


I never thought about renting a virtual Mac until a friend suggested the same recently. I was expecting numerous service providers offering the same but I was surprised to learn there are only companies offering the same. At least that is what Google search showed me. A search for "Virtual Mac for rent" showed very few options to rent a virtual Mac. There are lot of companies offering Mac hosting, Mac servers etc but what I really need is a Mac desktop for personal use and a hosting service.

I picked a few providers from the Google search and sent them an inquiry asking for a 3-day trial. The only company responded within a day was XCodeClub. Daniel, the owner of the one-man company asked me to come online for a chat to describe my requirements and explain his service. The chat didn't go more than 2 minutes and he said he will setup the machine and email me the instructions.

He kept his word. In a few minutes, I received an email with the instructions to get started with my 3-day trial of virtual Mac computer.

How it works?


XCodeClub creates a virtual machine on their Mac Mini computers, which you can access using TeamViewer.

Before you can access your virtual Mac, you need to "start" the machine. XCodeClub provides a simple, personal dashboard, which gives a few options like Start, Check Status and Shutdown.

XCodeClub Mac in Cloud rental service

Once your virtual machine is started, you can use TeamViewer to access your remote computer. You need to download and install TeamViewer on your computer, if you don't have it already.

XCodeClub will give you a Partner Id and a password to access the remote machine using TeamViewer. Also, once you are connected to the remote machine, you will need a login and password to login to the Mac computer, which will be provided to you by XCodeClub as part of setting up your virtual machine. Using this account with full admin rights, you can install any programs on the computer as if you are using it as a desktop in front of you. You may install one of other TeamViewer alternatives like LogMeIn, if you choose to do so.

My experience with XCodeClub Virtual Mac


Once I got the Mac machine ready, the first thing I tried was to check the access to internet. I used TestMy.Net to check their internet speed and it showed 24.2 to 40 Mbps download speed and 9.2 Mbps upload speed, which is more than what I expected. It came with 2Gb RAM, 20Gb hard free disk space and a 2-core virtual machine, which is the standard configuration they offer. The virtual machine actually comes with 42Gb, out of which 22Gb is used for the Mac OS itself.

Who can use XCodeClub


A few lines from their official website says it all:

"This offer is for occasional users only. My software doesn't count time, so I trust people will not abuse it. If you have to work for half a day no problem. Use it, enjoy it, shut it down afterwards. Come later. During the day the load is very light anyway. Occasional users, yes, but it doesn't mean don't use at all :-).
So far everybody was using it fairly, some more, some less, and I appreciate that. There is enough capacity
"

Primary audience is iPhone developers who need a Mac to compile their application and publish it to App Store. Many have paid contracts that they earn with and spending a small amount makes it profitable to them. Because they have admin rights, they can install any Software Development Kit (SDK). That makes it so much easier for them, because with other services you can't install easily what you want and you have to wait for "support ticket" to be answered, which can take days.

I used it for occasional product reviews and it worked fine without any issues. If you need a Mac in the cloud for testing some apps or developing applications, XCodeClub virtual Mac in the cloud is an excellent choice.

Advantages of XCodeClub cloud based Mac rental program


Using a virtual Mac in the cloud will save you a lot of money. Typically, companies charge from US$25 to US$75 per month for renting a virtual Mac computer. Some companies do have a limit on the number of hours you can use the virtual Mac. XCodeClub.com gives you unlimited access to your virtual Mac. There are no daily or monthly limits, unless you abuse the service with extremely heavy load to their computer.

Another advantage is, you will get admin access to the computer. There are virtually no limits on how you can use the machine, except that you cannot use peripheral devices or accessories since you are not accessing the machine physically. In my case, I was using it to install few software for the purpose of reviewing them and it worked perfectly well. I can connect to internet, download any app and install them.

The virtual Mac desktop offered by XCodeClub.com is a value for money service. I have nothing particular to complain. Obviously, the general inconvenience of using a virtual computer applies in this case too. For example, if you are using a Windows computer to access the Mac computer, your physical keyboard may not match with the Mac keyboard. You will have to use a soft keyboard on the screen to work with your virtual Mac.

According to their website, this is operated by a single person and he is online most of the time. There are no complex formalities or ticket system to get support. Just ping him through the chat program on his website and he is there to help you. (He claims that most of the other companies are also operated by individuals but they pose to be big companies by showing fancy phone numbers or customer support portals!)

Disadvantages
As I mentioned earlier, my original plan was to purchase a Mac computer for my office. While I save a lot of money by renting a Mac, I am losing the glamour of having a Mac computer on the table. Many people consider only those who use Mac machines are the real geeks and you won't be able to impress those people showing a virtual Mac on your Windows PC!

XCodeClub does not offer any backup for your Mac in the cloud. You are responsible to backup your personal files regularly. So, if their hardware crash in the middle of your work, you probably have to forget your lost files. But most people store their files in DropBox to transfer it easily between their PC and Mac. So Backup is negligible issue, in my opinion.

Another point to note is, since it is operated by an individual and not a big company, he may not be able to serve large scale requirements. You may not use this service to run mission critical services since this service may not be supported by fail-proof network systems and bullet proof security. That's just my honest thought and I never verified whether they actually have a highly secure, scalable data center. The owner himself claims he is running this from his air conditioned home office. So, the only physical security you can expect is, the same level of security someone uses to protect their personal assets in their home.

Overall review of XCodeClub virtual Mac


After using the XCodeClub virtual Mac for a while for occasional app review purpose, I would strongly recommend this service to anyone who have a similar requirement.

Hardware:
According to their website, they use 3 Mac Mini computers to offer this service. Each of them has 16 GB RAM and 2 or 3 Tb hard disks. Fiber optic internet with 10Mbit upload and 50MBit download is used, along with a second backup internet connection. Each virtual machine is configured with 2Gb RAM and 20Gb hard disk space.

Price:
Their monthly subscription charge is US$35. If you just want use it for a month and not interested in subscription, you can get it for US$55. You can save a little bit of money if you pay for 6 months or 1-year.

I have nothing particular to complain and in fact, I am impressed with their informal approach and quick personal support. No hassles of dealing with the support staff of a company. Just talk directly to the owner of the company and he will set it up and get it going for you.

Renting a virtual Mac from XCodeClub turned out to be a better choice for me than bugging my friend to use his personal computer.


Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tripod.com. Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including IndiaStudyChannel.com, Techulator.com, dotnetspider.com and many more.

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