Cloud-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
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
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
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:
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
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
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.