Microsoft got most things right with SkyDrive.
SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud service for storing and sharing personal documents. It sits at the heart of Microsoft’s flagship products: Windows 8 and Microsoft Office. If you use either of these products you’ll have already rubbed up against SkyDrive or you soon will.
Microsoft offered a similar service for years under its online Windows Live brand. For a while the earlier version was known as Mesh. The latest redesign gives it a modern look and integrates the service with Windows and Office.
SkyDrive has good points
It has a simple, clean user interface. As you’d expect Microsoft offers apps for Windows PCs, Windows 8 tablets and Windows phones. You’ll also find apps for Macs, iPads, iPhones and anything Android.
This means just about every device you own can use SkyDrive and you can easily access documents while on the move. I’ve set up my desktop to automatically save all my work Office documents to Microsoft’s cloud so I can get them on my iPad or Android phone while I’m on the move.
Microsoft provides everyone who signs up for the service with a free 7GB of cloud storage – while that’s plenty for work documents, it isn’t enough for audio or video collections. If you need more storage, you’ll have to pay. It isn’t expensive, US$50 will buy 100GB of extra data for a year.
What about DropBox?
Until now DropBox has been the gold standard of personal cloud storage. I’ve used it for the last two years to share and swap files between my Windows desktop, laptop, iPad and Android smartphone.
I also use DropBox to share files with family, friends and colleagues.
Like SkyDrive, DropBox works with just about every device you might own. Dropbox is simple, bordering on idiot proof. And like SkyDrive the basic service is free. Most people get just 2GB of free storage, but there are ways to boost that. My account is 27GB thanks to a promotion with my HTC smartphone – you can also get extra storage for pimping DropBox to your mates.
While IT professionals worry about security, or more accurately; lack of security, DropBox and SkyDrive are perfect for individuals, especially those of us who work from home.
Cloud storage integration and web apps
SkyDrive is close integrated with Windows and Office. There are also Microsoft Web Apps that allow you to edit documents stored in the cloud even when you don’t have the software installed on your device. You can save Word documents directly to SkyDrive and pull them out of the cloud on your smartphone. SkyDrive works particularly well with OneNote.
While savvy users can get the same basic integration from DropBox – it doesn’t come with apps and some assembly is required. Not much mind you, almost anyone reading this should be able to have DropBox working smoothly in minutes.
Speed, cloud storage's soft underbelly
Overall SkyDrive is competitive with DropBox in most departments, if anything the web apps give it an edge for Microsoft devotees. However, there is one huge flaw. I have to thank Craig Harris (@elusivetones) for pointing this out to me.
SkyDrive is far slower than DropBox when it comes to syncing large amounts of data. I saved 6GB to my account on Friday and it still wasn’t all there by the following Tuesday. That’s painfully slow. Once that was completed I sent the same amount to DropBox, it took around eight hours. That’s around ten times as fast.
Once you’ve done you bulk uploading, the difference between SkyDrive and DropBox is minimal.
If you need speed, then you might do best to avoid SkyDrive and stick with DropBox. I plan to use both – SkyDrive for Office docs and DropBox for collaboration and larger files. I’ll be interested to hear your experiences with either service.