Skydrive, Microsoft’s answer or rather pre-cursor to Google Drive and Dropbox. Like its compatriots, SkyDrive is an online storage service, where you can store your documents, pictures, and a plethora of other file types, but it is also so much more.
Originally released as Windows Live Folders and then expanded to the world as Skydrive (there’s actually a lot more history but I’m parsing somewhat). Microsoft’s online storage is free for everyone with a Hotmail/Live/Outlook account, and comes with a 7GB storage limit to start you off, with the option of paying for additional storage, should you require or want it.
In the UK the storage tiers are as follows…
- 20GB – £20 per year
- 50GB – £16. per year
- 100GB – £32 per year.
Compared to Dropbox’ & Google’s initial free 5GB offering, Skydrive comes out on top. In fact if you want 100GB of online storage, Dropbox will charge you £9.99 per month, Google £4.99 per month. By using Skydrive you save £87.88 or £27.88 respectively per annum.
Assuming you have a Hotmail, Live or Outlook account (both Hotmail and Live have since been merged with Outlook) then you have SkyDrive. This is accessible from your Outlook page when you sign in, or by simply going to SkyDrive.com.
Once logged in, you will encounter Microsoft’s new design style for its online services. Simple, and somewhat elegant. From here you can upload files, create folders and even edit Office documents online, with Microsoft Office Web App’s. Here is an overall run down of what you can do with SkyDrive.
Online Storage – The primary function of SkyDrive, you can upload Documents, Photo’s, Video and even music, all accessible to you via the web from any device.
Desktop App – When logged into SkyDrive, at the bottom of the screen is a link that says ‘Get SkyDrive Applications’. By clicking this you are prompted to download file. Once downloaded double-click to set up and following the onscreen instructions. This creates a folder on your computer where you can put any files, and they will be uploaded to SkyDrive automatically. Within this folder, you can create folders, delete files and folders, and this will automatically sync to your SkyDrive account.
Email integration – Attachment to big for email? Need to send something that’s already in SkyDrive? No problem. Simply click on the ‘insert’ button in Outlook and you will be presented with a drop down to select either ‘files as attachments’ or ‘share from SkyDrive’. This enables you to send from either your computer, or your SkyDrive account. In the event the file from your computer is too big, Outlook will helpfully suggest you send it via Skydrive. The file is uploaded to SkyDrive and then shared to the email recipient. Once sent the file is deleted from your Skydrive account, but is still viewable from your sent box and the recipients inbox.
Office Integration – If you store office docs such as Word, Powerpoint or Excel in SkyDrive you can edit them online using Microsofts Office web browser. These can also be shared and edited with others you have allowed access to. This is available to everyone that has Microsoft Office 2010 and higher. So even if you aren’t a business, you can still make use of Microsoft’s services.
Download as .zip File – You can download an entire folder and its contents from SkyDrive in a single download in a .zip folder. Limited to 4GB or 65’000 files admittedly, but still that’s quite a download. Not the biggest advantage to SkyDrive, but certainly a handy feature.
Mobile Support – Microsoft have really been pushing their ‘mobile cloud’ initiative of late and there are SkyDrive apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Both the iOS and Android app’s are also tablet compatible and enable you to view your files, share them via email links and upload photos from your phone’s camera to SkyDrive. The Windows Phone version has understandably far deeper integration. You can access SkyDrive via Office mobile from the Office app, you can edit documents and save them for later, or email them. You are also able to upload photos and view them in SkyDrive, from the pictures app. It’s a whole new level of integration.
Remote Access – Whilst this isn’t full remote access to the computer itself, you can have remote access to all your files stored in the SkyDrive folder. With the desktop application installed and with your document and photo libraries pointed to the SkyDrive folder rather than the default ones, you can literally change and edit and delete any folders stored there from the SkyDrive web browser, or Mobile app. Not remote access in the traditional sense, but you do at least have remote access to your files.
My Little Experiment
I got thinking, where I have removed the default libraries on my PC for documents & pictures and redirected them to point at the SkyDrive folder, I’m wondering whether or not the same can be done for music. I stored a bunch of albums in SkyDrive and via the SkyDrive app on my Windows Phone was able to play one of the tracks. There is of course no way to set up a playlist or anything to that effect, but it did give me an another idea.
Currently there is no SkyDrive desktop app for Windows RT as there is on a traditional PC,. That should all change come June 26th where Microsoft has stated that the preview of Windows 8.1 for PC and Windows RT will be released for preview. With this in mind, I’ll be able to redirect the folder that my Xbox music app reads its data from, and enable me to have all my music (providing I have adequate SkyDrive storage) with me at all times on my Desktop and Surface RT.
Google recently announced at their I/O conference this kind of integration for Google Music, and its a shame that Microsoft didn’t put in place first what with SkyDrive having been around for a while now. I’m assuming that this is because Microsoft have Xbox Music and that theoretically all your music on your computer is matched via their cloud matching service, which is then made available to you on other Windows 8 devices. Unfortunetly the Xbox Music app for Windows 8 has so far proved to be, frankly an awfully painful mess.
I’ll still need to rely on Zune for my Windows Phone for the time being, but when I update to Windows Phone 8, I’ll see if there is some other workaround. I’d rather not rely on Xbox Music for music syncing, what I have heard and read, it’s not the most pleasant of experiences.