Windows

SkyDrive is the limit for consumer and small business users

Ian Hardenburgh explains why he is high on the free Windows SkyDrive cloud service option for consumers and even small businesses on a budget for basic office software, storage, and file-sharing.

Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive is a comprehensive document creation, sharing and cloud storage service that is more than able to meet with most consumer and small-business needs. For a consumer unwilling to pay the hefty price tag attached to even the entry-level MS Office 2010 Home and Student edition, SkyDrive is not only a lower-cost alternative, it's a no-cost one, with very little sacrifice on functionality. For a small-business owner looking to avoid the overhead of desktop licensing costs, while retaining the worker productivity that word processor and spreadsheet software can offer, SkyDrive can save you thousands of dollars.

As part of Windows Live, SkyDrive itself serves as the storage point for Office Web Apps, an in-browser version of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Furthermore, SkyDrive also serves as a repository for your photos, which can be uploaded directly from within Windows Live Photo Gallery (part of Microsoft's free to download Live Essentials software bundle), or by simply using a file browser control. Secondarily, SkyDrive has the ability to integrate with other Live products, like Hotmail, as with file attachment and in-message document editing. Did I fail to mention this all comes with a whopping 25 GB of space, soon to become an unlimited amount of space for all Web Office Apps documents and photos, with SkyDrive's next release?

Microsoft is touting two commodities lately, Windows 8 and the cloud. Additionally, Microsoft is looking toward ways to scale Windows 8 directly into their cloud products, namely SkyDrive. Therefore, as an everyday consumer of these products, I've recently been able to share thousands of photos from my wedding and honeymoon over the summer with friends and family, in the matter of minutes, all while on my honeymoon in Italy. It's safe to say I look forward to having my family's documents grow with SkyDrive. On the other hand, as a business user/owner, I lament those 200+ dollars I spent on the bona fide version of Office that isn't that much more useful than Office Web Apps, prior to my recent love affair with Windows Live. I tend to recall this sentiment when I just end up synching my desktop Office files with my SkyDrive ones using Live Mesh. Oh well, I suppose I can call that 200+ dollars a sunk cost.

About

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

4 comments
fiosdave
fiosdave

Been using it for quite a while to archive my hundreds of docs and thousands of images. Now that I have a Samsung Focus running WP7.5, I use it almost daily to automatically send all my pictures up. It's also useful for showing almost unlimited pics of items to sell on eBay. Once they up the limit to limitless, I just hope they allow system backups to be stored! That, and allowing video storage as well, would make it ideal!

jfuller05
jfuller05

I really like using skydrive, especially with my Windows Phone. I have my "must-have-on-the-go" documents with me and that helps out a lot. If I have to work on a remote computer I haven't touched in months, I can bring up my excel spreadsheet with all of the specs on the user and the pc in less than a minute using skydrive on my phone. I haven't used it for file sharing yet, but for what I use it for, it's great.

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

GLParker4, you make a great argument. To answer your questions, no I don't own a Windows Phone 7 (too rich for my blood), and no I didn't lug a laptop across my entire Italian honeymoon. I would of, but my suitcase was already full with Italian coffee, biscotti and Amarone! Therefore, I had to throw it overboard somewhere between my excursion from the Almafi Coast to the island of Capri, in true Caligula fashion. Anyway, I haven't investigated SkyDrive's compatibility with smartphone or tablet devices, so I couldn't give you an honest answer. However, I'm almost certain this will be introduced when Windows 8 comes out of beta, as consumer adoption of tablet devices is only an inevitability - given some time. Regarding the workplace, I don't see this taking place for some time, as most are still trying to catch up with technology available 5 years ago. And I think this is where we might differ in opinion. I just don't see your casual business user needing much beyond what SkyDrive already has to offer (e.g., Office Web Apps). Regarding storage, yes, we are in the era of talking in terms of terabytes of online data storage. However, let's be frank, that marketing/sales/whatever presentation your colleague showed to only a handful of people (unfortunately one of these people was yourself) a couple of years ago is most likely no longer relevant to your company's bottom-line today. In closing, it's funny you should mention Office 365, as this is the topic of my post set to release next week. Like I said from the beginning, you make a good argument, but I think your needs might exceed that of the casual workplace user. Comment on my next post, as I'd love to continue this dichotomy.

glparker4
glparker4

This was a very good article but you did not mention any of the limitations. While I am still a fan of SkyDrive, I find myself turning to competing services such as Dropbox, SugarSync, Box.net, and iCloud for greater versatility. The biggest annoyance I discovered with SkyDrive is that support for mobile and tablet devices is practically nonexistent. There is no native support for Android and iOS and I found third party solutions (iSMEStorage) to be unreliable. Windows Phone 7 provides limited support and I understand the Mango update has expanded that. This provides promise for the future, but this could be a deal breaker for many prospective adopters at this time. Imagine how many people would use tablets to edit Office documents via Office Web Apps if this option was available. Out of curiosity, do you own a Windows Phone 7 device or did you lug around your laptop during your Italian honeymoon? The second greatest annoyance for me is the lack of a premium subscription service. 25 GB may seem like enough storage for most people but that could easily be consumed with video files and presentations. Also, there is a file size limit of 50 MB. If the user attempts to upload a larger file, the upload process fails. Again, this may be a significant limitation. Many modern smartphones record 1080p HD video and this limitation would only allow a three minute recording. From a business perspective, this should be a huge cash grab for Microsoft and could be offered as an Office 365 entry level service.

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