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

 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

 Add SkyDrive to your taskbar for quick access.

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

 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.