Online storage has become a rapidly growing solution over the years. Every major IT player offers some form of storage on the cloud. Even Microsoft, a company that does not have many successful web-based services, has taken the leap with its own SkyDrive service. Microsoft launched the beta version of SkyDrive in the year 2007, which did not fare very well.
Jump to the present day, however, and you can see that there are up to 100 million users worldwide that use SkyDrive. This review of the new and improved Microsoft SkyDrive will gauge whether the software giant has made any significant changes to this cloud storage application, or whether SkyDrive is just another failed service by Microsoft.
The basic criteria that determines the potential functionality of a cloud storage service is of course none other than its baseline storage capacity. The higher the capacity that they can offer at a reasonable price, the better the service is perceived to be.
Sadly however, in practical terms, storage capacity isn’t the only criterion that drives the quality of a cloud storage service. With our basic review of Microsoft Skydrive, we’ll show you why adding integration could pump the cloud storage service’s functionality meter even further.
Hues of whites and blues complement the background of the Skydrive application. As with many other cloud based storage systems, the entire layout of the application is designed to look as if it was a local drive in your own machine. While there aren’t any strikingly good points in terms of appearance, we could give a few bonus points for its functional simplicity.
File Browsing and Accessibility
To use Skydrive, you first need to have a Windows Live account. From your account you can access it by selecting the option from a drop down menu. As a standard cloud storage service, browsing through the files is just as intuitive as always. However there are times when Skydrive seems to lead you away from itself, as if you are no longer using the service and just browsing a typical email account (such as when you open a file that is deep within an array of multi-nested folders).
Nevertheless the action of browsing itself is as intuitive as always. The files are neatly arranged in a traditional “detail” type of view, and the options at the right side of the application allow you to have different organizing options for your files.
When accessing a file, the application would either automatically download the file, or if the file is compatible with Office Web Apps, it could simply open it there for instant editing.
Services and Features
Needless to say, most of the services and features of the Skydrive are designed to make the most out of all the other software services Microsoft has. For example, newer versions of Microsoft Office can be integrated in the Skydrive to provide simultaneous, live and active editing of the files in your cloud storage account using a desktop application. Then there is the obligatory integration of the application to Hotmail, where you could directly upload documents and photos on your Hotmail account to be directly accessed on your Skydrive storage space.
There are also a couple of other simple but equally convenient features that add to the functionality and efficiency of the Skydrive. The photo slideshow function for example, provides you a convenient and intuitive way to view your photos and image files. The folder to .zip download function allows the user to download an entire folder in the Skydrive to their local machine in .zip format. There are also various social networking options that you can use if you need to use the files in your Skydrive for distributed content.
Security-wise, it is important to note that while Skydrive uses SSL encoding when transferring data from one point to another, the files themselves are not encrypted at all. This might require tightening your password protection for your account, or limiting the use of your files to only a few of Microsoft’s “safer” online features. Unfortunately though, security in terms of technical protection would prove to be a bit lacking. Microsoft seems to conclude that data retention is unnecessary for their cloud storage service. The Skydrive does not have any sort of data retention system, and all files that are deleted from the cloud drive are permanently gone and would be completely inaccessible to the user.
With a generous starting storage space of 7GB, you are almost guaranteed that most of your documents and photos can be stored freely within your cloud storage space. Of course, if you feel that you need to use their virtual drive more often, there is always the option to upgrade your data storage plans for a set payment fee. Add 20GB to your storage, and you get to pay for the service for $10 a year. Additional 50GB and 100GB would also cost you $25 and $50 a year respectively.
It might be also helpful to let you know that Skydrive has its own versions on the iOS and Windows Phone operating systems. This can be really helpful if you need to quickly edit permission options, or to upload and download simple files without having to reach out for your computer.
Conclusion and General Assessment
Microsoft Skydrive seems to be designed for maximum ease-of-use and efficiency, and we’d have to agree with this one. If you can deal with the absence of a data retention system, not only can you access your files and subfolders in many different convenient ways within its cloud drive system, but you can also easily manipulate data elements as if it was on your local machine. You can use the application as if you are just accessing, editing and opening regular files on your operating system’s file explorer.
In addition, there is a potential to double the functionality of your Skydrive cloud storage based on the amount of Microsoft-based services and software that you plan to use with it.