Is There a Good Reason To Use Microsoft SkyDrive In Addition To Dropbox & Google Drive?

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microsoft skydriveCloud-based file storage has become, for the lack of a better word, boring. Dropbox used to be the only serious game in town, with SugarSync and friends trying to compete but not really succeeding. And then Google Drive came along with Google’s immense resources and technical know-how, and not to be outdone, Microsoft quickly upgraded its existing SkyDrive service.

To make sense of this wealth of services, we’ve published a Cloud Storage Showdown quickly comparing them all so you could try to pick the best one. But today I’m not here to convince you to pick the “best one”, even if there is such a thing. Rather, I’ve decided to take a closer look specifically at the newly upgraded Microsoft SkyDrive and attempt to answer the question – if you already have Dropbox or Google Drive, should you even bother with SkyDrive at all?

25GB For Existing Users, 7GB For Everyone Else

microsoft skydrive

Let me start off with SkyDrive’s most compelling feature, at least for me. While new users start off with a generous 7GB (compared to Google Drive’s 5GB), existing users can/could get 25GB for free. I say “can/could” because Microsoft was a big vague about this promotion. When I logged into SkyDrive a few weeks ago, it simply let me upgrade my existing account to 25GB. It is, however, unclear whether or not this promotion is still running. Microsoft’s official post says you have a “limited amount of time” to make the upgrade, and has not been updated since it was posted.

Nevertheless, if you are fortunate enough to be eligible for this upgrade, it makes using Microsoft SkyDrive a no-brainer. Not as an exclusive cloud storage solution (for reasons I’ll get into later), but definitely as a quick way to transfer large files to friends and family. The per-file upload limit is 2GB (if you upload it using the SkyDrive windows app), which should be enough for just about anything save for Blu-ray rips and the like (things you shouldn’t be sharing anyway, right?).

Highly Competitive Storage Rates

windows skydrive

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Let’s do a little comparison shopping here. I’ll convert the rates to monthly across all three services (SkyDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox):

20GB: SkyDrive $0.83/month, Google Drive $2.49/month, Dropbox N/A (no such plan)
50GB: SkyDrive $2.08/month, Google Drive N/A (no such plan), Dropbox $9.99/month
100GB: SkyDrive $4.16/month, Google Drive $10/month, Dropbox $20/month.

As you can see, Microsoft is seriously undercutting the market here, and is significantly cheaper than Google Drive, not to mention Dropbox. In fact, Dropbox is almost five times as expensive as SkyDrive – a crazy price gap for a service that’s virtually identical, at least when used on Windows.

Access Any File On Your Computer Remotely

windows skydrive

This is an interesting feature that could also be a major security hole if your password isn’t so secure. SkyDrive lets you access any file on your machine remotely. That’s right – not just files stored in the SkyDrive folder, but virtually any other file, as long as the machine is on, connected to the Internet, and is running the SkyDrive client.

To its credit, Microsoft makes this feature very clear during setup, and you can easily choose whether or not to enable it:

windows skydrive

I personally use CrashPlan, which is pretty much the best cloud backup service out there, and it lets me get to my files from anywhere even if my computer is off (because the entire computer is stored on the cloud). But CrashPlan costs money; if your computer is connected to the Internet and on all of the time (like many people’s home computers), SkyDrive’s “fetch files” feature can be a great way to get at your files from anywhere you have Web access.

Share Any Folder With Anyone, And They Can Easily Download It

what is skydrive

Sharing any folder with anyone isn’t news, right? After all, you can easily do this from Dropbox. But there’s one huge difference: Microsoft decided to include an easy “Download folder” link for every folder you share, even if the person viewing it isn’t logged on, or doesn’t have SkyDrive. This is huge, because it means I can share my photos with anyone and they can download an entire day’s worth of images with a single click, without having to install anything.

Dropbox doesn’t let you do this. You can view the folder without being logged on, but there’s just no way to download it. As for Picasa Web Albums, Google’s popular way of sharing photos, you can somehow download the folder, but it’s definitely not as simple as this, and was daunting enough to confuse my non-techie relatives.

So, Microsoft gets points for this feature, and combined with the generous storage on SkyDrive, this will be one of its primary uses for me.

The Bad: No Official Android App

microsoft skydrive

That cheerful-looking droid is representing Browser for SkyDrive, Microsoft’s recommendation for an Android client for SkyDrive. That’s right, given Windows Phone 7’s “phenomenal” success, I guess Microsoft feels Android is no big deal, and they can just ignore the world’s most popular smartphone OS. So, no official SkyDrive app for Microsoft – a puzzling move, to be honest. As long as you don’t really need SkyDrive on your Android device, though, you should be fine.

Not An Overall Solution, But Has Its Uses

Bottom line – SkyDrive is not a Dropbox killer, and not a Google Drive killer, at least for most people. But:

  • If you are an existing user and can snag 25GB for free, it’s a fantastic deal.
  • If you often need to let people download folders, it’s an excellent tool.
  • If you’re looking to buy a paid storage upgrade, it will give you the most bang for your buck, by far.

Are you using SkyDrive? Will you be using it for some things, now that I’ve given you ideas? And did you manage to get that 25GB upgrade? Let me know below.

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Comments (54)
  • Gordon Clark

    Hi Erez,

    I have a simple issue with SkyDrive, similar to DropBox and Google Drive which make SugarSync a no-brainer for me: it’s that these guys all require you to put your files in their folder, which is then sync-ed to the web. My files- like a lot of folks I’m sure – are not in any My Documents folder, I have a distinct directory tree of folders on my hard drive, within the C:\ drive. I deliberately do not want a “my documents” type of approach. Therefore, in one fell swoop, SugarSync beats them all hands-down as you can sync any folders on your computer. I’ve upped my storage quite a bit by referring friends and I can now do all my daily backups there except my music, way too big a folder. Sugarsync also performs great for sharing everything and multi-PC collaboration on doc’s etc as well as backups. they just intro’d a new look and PC client which is pretty cool, as far as I can tell their performance is fine these days.

    However what I wanted to ask you is a simple question re SkyDrive, which I do like quite a lot. I have 25GB’s as I was an early user of Windows Live – I also have a few other Hotmail/Outlook accounts with 7GB’s each.
    – Quite simply, when I sync from the “SkyDrive” folder on my C drive, all files & folders in there get sync-ed to SkyDrive online. Great. But if I un-sync a folder, or delete it from my PC, from my reading on, those files get deleted online too. However what I would like to do on SkyDrive is to “dump” some large old folders which I don’t need daily, if ever, where I can retrieve them when and if I need them. Again, from my reading, if you upload from the SkyDrive website – not using the Windows SkyDrive client – then any files and folders you upload this way will be backed up and stay in SkyDrive online. Can you confirm if this is indeed your understanding, and if this is a safe way to consider these files as “backed up”?

    I use DropBox and Google Drive, and I’ve tried out many other cloud storage services. I mainly use SugarSync to backup my PC and share with friends, and Dropbox with friends who aren’t on SugarSync yet. I don’t have a use for Google Drive or Amazon, and I think I have enough storage for now, except I need a reasonable alternative to park and backup my 350GB’s of music files . . . .

    I wonder how many other users want a pure “backup” approach like this and how many really need a “sync” approach? To me these are two different things. It seems that SkyDrive does offer these two approaches but I can’t see that it’s clearly spelled out anywhere either.

    Thanks in advance, I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Erez Zukerman

      Hey Gordon,

      I do understand what you’re saying. A few thoughts:

      1) The feature you’re looking for is called “selective sync,” and it’s something Dropbox has, but Skydrive doesn’t (I think). I’m not totally sure Skydrive doesn’t have it, actually… but I think it doesn’t.

      2) I don’t have my stuff in the My Documents folder either, just like you. When stepping through the installers for SkyDrive, Dropbox, and GDrive, I found out each of these actually lets you pick the local path for the folder you want. So, I put them into a “Cloud storage” subfolder of my docs folder. Nice and easy. :)

      3) I definitely agree that there’s a difference between cloud sync and cloud backup. For backup, I warmly recommend CrashPlan. I’ve been using them for over a year now, and they’re just fantastic.

  • saif hindawy

    hmmmm but i already have 45 gb on my dropbox, all obtained by free methods ! so should i or shouldnt i switch? also i like the dropbox addons or apps or what ever you call them, automatically having my email attachments sent to dropbox and automatically converting epubs to pdfs so that i can print the has already become a part of my life, so is there really that much difference ??

    • Erez Zukerman

      Woah, 45GB for free is impressive! I didn’t even know you can get so high. In that case, I really wouldn’t switch.

  • Maxi3w

    Great article, Thanks. I have a question…Can Sky Drive be used/accessed/downloaded etc…if you are using Ubuntuu, or even a mac?? Or are we restricted to Microsoft Windows??

    • Erez Zukerman

      I’m afraid the official client is Windows only at this point, at least as far as I know.

  • Rahul

    I agree there is no official android app for skydrive, but there is one app in android which has multifunctionality, though its a file manager for android, it has lots of features

    ES File Explorer for Android is a free, featured all-in-one file manager & application manager & task killer & cloud storage (dropbox, google drive, skydrive …) client & ftp client which explores your phone and your computer.

    I have used many skydrive apps in android market and none of them works as needed, sometimes, login issues, more time to cache files, sync failures, but with ES explorer it was fantastic,
    basically its also a file explorer for cloud storage (dropbox, google drive, box, skydrive).
    I tried this feature by logging in from application, and wow, no login issues, perfectly synced,
    files properly cached. The only issue is if folder is too big, then it takes time to open (in my
    experience it was 300 MB). Give a try, i am sure you will love it

    PS – I am not promoting this app. I love its features.

    • Erez Zukerman

      I do agree — ES is an excellent file manager, really. Before I bought Root Explorer, I used it quite a bit. I must admit I didn’t know about its cloud sync abilities — thanks for telling me about those!

  • Edgar Meixueiro

    Skydrive is good in my opinion, and it gives 25GB to existing users.
    What I really like about Skydrive is that you can edit Microsoft Office files directily online or collaborate with other people on the same document without having to download. Much like Google does with its Google Docs. I mean Google Docs is great but there still exists some dependency on Microsoft Office.
    You cannot do that with the other options.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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