Cloud storage is the in thing these days, but when it comes to accessing it you’re usually expected to log on through a browser, which can be a real pain, and however hard websites try, they can’t replicate the convenience of the Windows experience.

Thankfully it’s possible to access many cloud storage providers outside of a web browser, and Gladinet Cloud Desktop is the tool for the job. The Starter Edition allows you to mount a variety of online providers – including Amazon S3, Windows Live Skydrive, and Google – as separate folders under a virtual network drive called, unsurprisingly, My Gladinet Cloud Storage.

After installation, the setup wizard takes you through registration and then lets you connect to each of your online accounts: click “Add My Cloud Storage Account” and follow the wizard through to connect to your chosen account(s). Note the final step of the wizard – all about syncing folders with other PCs you own – is a Pro feature only, so untick this unless you plan to upgrade later.

Once done, just keep adding accounts until you’re done, then click Finish, at which point you’ll be taken to the Gladinet Management Console where you can review your settings, add more providers or configure other aspects of the program, although most of these features – such as Backup and Restore, and Cloud Sync Folders – are restricted to Pro users only.

And that’s it: just click Start > Computer and you’ll see your new virtual drive – open this and you’ll see folders representing each cloud-based service, which you can drag to and drop from like any other folder on your PC. Note the Starter Edition will only allow you to transfer up to 1,000 files in any one go, but this should be ample for most people.

The Professional Edition, which costs $40 for home use, or $60 for commercial use, has no restrictions over file transfers, plus offers better performance and enhanced security as well as the additional features already mentioned.

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It’s a simple, fuss-free and remarkably effective way of accessing your cloud-based folders through Windows.