Cloud

10+ reasons to use SkyDrive

Simple to set up and easy to use, SkyDrive offers some convenient features for sharing and accessing files.

 

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Everyone wants to work smarter, and SkyDrive helps users and organizations do so in two ways: file sharing and access. It takes only a few clicks to share and access files using a number of compatible devices and from almost any geographical location.

1: Ease of use

My niche in the support world is finding the easiest and most efficient solutions. For both users and support personnel, SkyDrive fits into that theme nicely. Thanks to SkyDrive's seamless integration with Office (2010, 2013, and 365), sharing files requires only a few clicks. In fact, Office 365 defaults to SkyDrive. Even novice users can share files on SkyDrive with little or no training. Accessing is just as easy -- a few clicks and you're working from home on the proposal you saved to SkyDrive while at work.

2: Few requirements

Besides the obvious PC and mobile devices you use, SkyDrive requires only two things: Internet access and a Microsoft account. The first requirement is almost moot. Thanks to free Wi-Fi, you can connect almost anywhere. The second is easy to acquire; you just sign up. If you don't have an account, Microsoft Office will help you sign up the first time you try to save an Office file to SkyDrive. Just follow the prompts.

3: Quick setup

If you have a Microsoft account, you can sign in to SkyDrive and go right to work. There are no discs to keep up with, no downloads, and no installation process. Just sign in and start working. If you're using Office 2013 or 2010, access to SkyDrive is built into the interface. Just choose SkyDrive when saving and opening documents, as appropriate. Office 2013 will even help you set up your account the first time you try to access SkyDrive. If you're on your own, you don't need any specialized knowledge. If you support users, you won't have to do a thing other than let them know about SkyDrive.

4: SkyDrive Desktop

Windows 8.1 has built-in access to SkyDrive. If you're using an earlier version of Windows, you can download SkyDrive Desktop for quick access from your desktop (Figure A). SkyDrive is now available via Windows Explorer; you don't have to work from inside an Office app.

Figure A

Figure A
 Add SkyDrive to your local system.

5: One-click access

Accessing SkyDrive files is only a click away once you pin the site to your Windows 7 taskbar. With SkyDrive open in your browser, drag the window to the Windows taskbar and drop it. Windows will create a new SkyDrive icon, as shown in Figure B. Click it for immediate access to your SkyDrive files. If you're using IE 9 or later, you can add SkyDrive to the Start menu by choosing Add Site To Start Menu from IE's Tool menu, as shown in Figure C.

Figure B

Figure B
 Add SkyDrive to your taskbar for quick access.

Figure C

Figure C
 Add SkyDrive to the Start menu.

6: Easy file access

By combining Web Office Apps with cloud storage, you can access your files anytime, anywhere using any number of compatible devices. You can use almost any browser or Windows, Mac, and Linux device. So, for instance, you can share appointments and tasks at work and view them later using your Windows or Android phone (or iPhone or iPad). Table A compares supported formats and devices with SkyDrive's competitors.

Table A

Table A

 7: Plenty of room

With your Microsoft account, you get 7 GB of free online storage on SkyDrive. It's yours to use as needed and it's more than adequate for most users. You can share work files with colleagues or make them accessible from other locations. At home, you can store photos, music, and so. Table A lists costs for upgrading storage space, but most users won't need more than the free 7 GB.

8: Lightweight apps

When you share a file on SkyDrive, you and anyone you share it with can view and edit the document using Office Web Apps. These free (but limited) versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint run in a Web browser and default to SkyDrive when saving changes. Even though these apps are limited, their availability adds a lot of flexibility. You can open and edit files anywhere without installing additional software to the device you're using.

9: Simultaneous sharing

Files stored on SkyDrive are accessible by multiple users. Using Office Web Apps, multiple users can even edit the file (with the right permissions) at the same time. Changes are saved immediately.

10: Tight security

Anytime you're working online, security is an issue. Your first layer of security on SkyDrive is its structure. You determine who can see and edit files when you share a document. The good news is that people you share files with don't need an account or a password to see your files -- the link they receive when you invite them contains all the credentials they need.

Keep in mind that you are working in a consumer-grade cloud. By that I mean you shouldn't use SkyDrive to back up mission-critical files. SkyDrive can be part of a good backup and recovery strategy. But it should never be the only strategy. In addition, while security is good, your files are still out there. So use good sense before uploading sensitive and/or critical data. Read the full service agreement before making any serious business decisions integrating SkyDrive.

11: Third-party add-ons

Office Web Apps let you view and edit documents, but you can't work with every file format. For instance, you can store and share a PDF file, but you can't open it using Office Web Apps. Third-party products are available for working with non-Microsoft files in the cloud.

12: Remote access

SkyDrive Desktop adds drag-and-drop ease between your local system and SkyDrive. It gets better though. You can grant other-device access to your local PC. SkyDrive only helps if you remember to upload your files. If you forget, SkyDrive Desktop lets you access your system remotely.

Your take

Are you a SkyDrive fan or would you recommend an alternative? Share your opinions with fellow TechRepublic members.

 

 

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

37 comments
tech_e
tech_e

I've used Skydrive/Onedrive/LiveMesh for years. To answer some questions, it is a synced folder into which files/folders can be placed - like Dropbox. This is different than some programs that allow syncing any folder on the PC. Better than Dropbox and like Google, it has web apps to view the files. Better than Google, it has more storage for less $ and other tie-ins with MS (if you're a MS/Office user). Also, while I like Google products (and yes, there is question about security on MS), I know Google's business is marketing so I feel less secure giving them my data. You can store/sync any files - not just MS files.

For the user with issues working with WIn8.1 on a domain, I'm in a similar configuration, but have no problems. We login to our domain as usual with local accounts. Windows requests logging into a MS account which we do separate of the network logins. In addition, I have a personal Skydrive account along with Office 365 Business. In that case, I install the desktop app separately. Win8.1 Onedrive built-in syncs with the Onedrive Business account, the desktop app logs into my personal account, and both show up in my folders list. The domain access works fine and I can copy/paste/save/move, etc. between folders between the network, office, and personal skydrives. In addition, we can sync the SharePoint folders and they show up as folders as well. It's very simple and convenient.

I have had the problem that another reader posted - where there have been sync problems. I've found no logic to it. I generally save a file here or there with no problems. In the event I copied a large set of folders/files for an installer to use on new PC's that are not on our network, only a few files synced. I receive sync errors and am prompted to sign in on each file, but it does not resolve the problem. This could be related to my multiple accounts mentioned above.

There is one thing to be aware of if you use it like we do. For legitimate security reasons (as well as, I'm sure, financial benefits to MS), it is almost impossible to SYNC between business and personal accounts. For example, if you often work with someone with a personal Skydrive/Onedrive account and you have Office 365 for Business, you can share files, but you can't set up a shared/synced folder. The personal user must login to the website to view shared folders/files. The reverse is the same, the personal user shares a file, but you can only view it logging in with your personal skydrive. It forces users to have/remember multiple user ID's with different login websites - and removes the option to sync automatically. Again, this makes sense to protect business documents, but it's a major limitation for convenience if your files aren't that sensitive.

For the price - especially if you use MS Office products, I think it's the best option. That could change if they don't work out the bugs, but that may be specific to my setup. For a simple, free setup, you should give it a shot.

glnz
glnz

Ms. Harkins - How does Skydrive compare to SugarSync or Cubby?  Can one designate certain normal folders always to back-up and sync to SkyDrive, and across more than one device?  Or does it work only for folders and files in a SkyDrive master folder?

Does it sync local files on various PCs?

Does it work for all kinds of files, or only MS-related files?

At best, in a few months, my home will be on Win 7 (now on XP).  One of the commentators here said SkyDrive is hard to use on 7 - any detail?

Thanks again.

ssharkins
ssharkins

On January 27, 2014, Microsoft announced that Windows SkyDrive will be known in the future as OneDrive. This move avoids further litigation with British Sky Broadcasting over the use of the term “Sky.” Current users should see no interruption to their service.

Someone warn Montana. :(

james
james

I have been using Skydrive for a few weeks now after trying to use Dropbox and Google Drive.  I was interested in getting better portability of documents when I went out to visit clients.  I finally found a Ipad App that works real well after much trial and error (Office2 HD) with different apps.  It lets me open files in Skydrive, Dropbox and or Google Drive.   I am not a Business 365 user and this combination as been the easiest and most economical alternative so far.

Gisabun
Gisabun

I would like to use SkyDrive to backup/sync with MyDocs on my main computer. The problem is that the current desktop app for Windows doesn't allow me to do so easily. The only option I have seen is to place My Docs inside the local SkyDrive folder but an issue if [for example] I don't want certain folders excluded [because of space in the account or doesn't need to backup].

dhamilt01
dhamilt01

Skydrive is OK but ... why does it take several minutes just to save an Excel file and sometimes open it using Windows 8.1 on a Z87-PRO with SSD's on the fastest internet connection available? And don't get me started on trying to keep a Windows 7 system synced to Skydrive. Will this mess get better now that Steve is going?

BuckyKat
BuckyKat

Skydrive was great until Microsoft mandated you have to be logged into a Win 8.1 machine with your Microsoft account. I work in a domain environment and all the computers have to be logged in with domain credentials thus making Skydrive desktop unavailable for everyone that uses Win 8.1. Because we can't have Skydrive via desktop anymore we've had to switch everyone over to Dropbox.

danbromberg
danbromberg

Can I use Skydrive so that it only syncs if I have new files in my Desktop Skydrive folder? i.e., sometimes I want to manually add files to "Skydrive in the cloud" but do NOT want those files to be downloaded to my desktop. So is a "one-way" sync (desktop-to-cloud but not cloud-to-desktop) possible?

TheSysEng
TheSysEng

All this cloud stuff is going to come back and bite us in the butt.

TheSysEng
TheSysEng

Sky Drives???  Do you like the NSA collecting email and phone conversations? Well then, lets just put all our data out there for them to get too.

ginmemphis
ginmemphis

I like SkyDrive -- much, much better than Google Drive! Having familiar Office toolbars and features makes life much easier. One thing to remember: If a Word document is password-protected you cannot open it on the Web. (I'm sure that goes for other Office files.)

WinHaven
WinHaven

Thanks Susan. Good article. Things change and an article can't always keep up with those changes but for the most part, spot on. SkyDrive is part of the new MS paradigm shift of being useful to all platforms. They may not be there yet but they a further than most. iCloud, Google Drvie and Dropbox have been replaced.

tkainz
tkainz

Skydrive sounds like a good tool and in theory, it is.  But when I started using Skydrive in Windows 8 and shortly thereafter in Windows 8.1 I ran into a lot of issues with documents not syncing and the syncing process getting stalled for hours or even days at a time.  Research into what the issues might have been revealed that I was far from being the only one and it seems in the various blogs I looked at - some of them Microsoft related, Microsoft was far from being attentive and helpful.  It took me hours of research and hours of trial and error with various fixes before I found one that finally worked and my files started syncing again.  I was "hoping" that this would be a good tool to keep my documents synced across two desktop PC's and a laptop but at this point, though, I can't trust it.   Meanwhile I keep getting email updates from the MS blog where users like me are still complaining  - mostly about Microsoft's lack of responsiveness to the issue.  Maybe in Windows 8.2 I'll give it another try to the point where I feel I can confidentially depend on it.  Until then I tell anyone who asks to use it with a cautious eye. and verify everything that you expect to happen has indeed happened.

wlapp
wlapp

But what about these snarky MS commercials with Pawn Stars slamming Google netbooks "because it can't run Office" when MS themselves have all but eliminated local Office installs? 

ronaldsauve
ronaldsauve

I have 25 GB space on Skydrive, plus another 20 GB for buying MS Office for IOS. However, there are 2 major shortcomings: 1. There is no app for iPad, only for iPhone, so although I can access it via the iPad, which is where it would be most useful, it is rather awkward to use on the iPad in the iPhone format, . 2. There is no access to your files offline! This is a basic need, as most people have to be able to access their files whether or not they are connected. Sure, it might work okay for those who only use their files in some office, or in their home, but realistically, it is likely that most people need access to their files on a MOBILE device when they are MOBILE, in other words out and about, including where there is no access to internet. Although you comment that there is Internet access "almost anywhere", almost anywhere does not only include home, offices, places of business that have wifi. The real world includes far more than that, and I would dare say, 99% of the real world does not include Internet access. Even if you have a device that includes connection via one of the phone and data service providers, the service is often rather spotty to say the least, unless you only live, work, and play in a city or metropolitan area. Venture outside this unreal world, and you have no access to your files. That is why I prefer Dropbox for example, with which one can "favorite" their files, and have access anytime, anywhere. It seems to me it would be a simple matter for MS to include this feature in Skydrive

a.portman
a.portman

Skydrive has two severe limitations. You need a Microsoft Account. There is some baggage associated with creating a MS account. For some it is a deal breaker.


Tight security? Your listed definition of tight security is poor. SSL encryption? All of the cloud players have that. HIPAA, SobOx? Skydrive is a big no. Worse than that, Microsoft does not provide a clear answer on this deal breaker for many organizations. Dropbox makes it much simpler. "Is Dropbox HIPAA compliant?" "No."  https://www.dropbox.com/help/238/en


Is Skydrive? Read for yourself: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/skydrive/forum/sdfiles-sdother/is-skydrive-hipaa-compliant/fff030cf-1194-46f3-8e7c-55430292d8b2?msgId=35d26d3a-102a-4906-9c76-f02ad17eab69

Peter Tilbrook
Peter Tilbrook

Only they got sued and SkyDrive is no longer appropriate. Wait and see.

fdthornton
fdthornton

I love Skydrive have used it for a while now. I have 3 computers set-up with Skydrive, it saves me considerable time carrying files around. 

jdev1
jdev1

Near Perfect using three desktop PC and Lenovo Thinkpad2 windows pro 8.1

iPhone and ipad

John Edwards
John Edwards

Leon you're thinking of Google and Google Drive. I wouldn't put anything important on the cloud anyway.

Leon Jordaan
Leon Jordaan

what i dont like is that it is shared by ms with nsa...good enough?

Robby Miller
Robby Miller

Cannot access from ie9. And what Scott said.

Anabela Bras Fernandes Crapart
Anabela Bras Fernandes Crapart

love the compatibility with IOS devices - iCloud is useless when you own a non IOS device. I am now using Skydrive to share information between both IOS and Windows devices

PatrickNeborg
PatrickNeborg

Great summary Susan. 8raynee is right that with windows 8 & 8.1 there have been some changes to SkyDrive. Some are good and some less than good. For example, the desktop app with remote access has been depricated. I cover this detail as well as other in my PluralSight (pluralsight.com) course on Using SkyDrive for Communication and Collaboration.

8raynee
8raynee

I think that with windows 8.1 it seems that some of these nice features do not work anymore:

1. You need to sign in YOUR Windows machine with a Microsoft Accout

2. No Desktop Application since all this is now supposed to be "integrated" which means you do not have a clue on what is happening

I used it before Windows 8.1. Not anymore.

Scott Baden
Scott Baden

I don't like that I can't access documents/folders that have been shared with me through the desktop app. I have to log in to the web portal in order to view them.

Gisabun
Gisabun

@dhamilt01 : Hmmm. Same mobo and with a SSD. Probably a bug somewhere [and I'm not using 8.1]. I don't think Steve [Ballmer] really cares about this "bug". Fact is that neither will the next Poo-bah.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

@BuckyKat Can't you set up Skydrive Microsoft accounts within a Win 8 account that is uses domain credentials?

VortexCortex
VortexCortex

@TheSysEng  That's why you should always encrypt your data before uploading them to the cloud. 

ssharkins
ssharkins

@WinHaven Thanks John -- that's exactly the point I hoped to make. SkyDrive, like Office 365, is another tool in the box--there for those who will benefit to exploit and appreciate. If you don't need it, you don't need it.SkyDrive is a huge help to me. Today's user isn't always sitting in front of the same system. S/he's out and about and getting info via smart phones and tablets, and even cyber cafes. I think SkyDrive fits in nicely. I love the interface with Office 2013. 

AES2
AES2

Microsoft did not eliminate local Office installs.  Office Web Apps run in browsers, but without full function.  The hope is for Office 365 users to subscribe to versions that include licenses for the latest version of locally installed Office, and for the rest to buy and install Office locally and let SkyDrive or Office365 manage the files.

rkalbus
rkalbus

The Biggest fault, unless someone has a solution.  you can not open PDF files from skydrive on an IPHONE.  Any solutions?  I have the skydrive app on iphone its a worthless app for viewing files.  I could / can view word and excel files just fine with or with out app.  Its PDF files that will not open  Any solutions? 

AES2
AES2

I forgot to mention the locally installed Office allows working while not connected to the Internet.  Google Apps eliminated offline support when they killed Gears two years ago, and only recently restored offline capability, but only from the Chrome browser and some files are read only.