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Windows Live SkyDrive Review

Radford C. Dec 14, 2011 0

Let’s be real here for a minute: Dropbox has a pretty strong griphold in my own household and with our staff. I’ve gotten a chance to play with Box.net, Pogoplug and Sugarsync. Those particular solutions I mentioned are somewhat unfriendly. I can get into more details with those cloud solutions but for now let’s talk about SkyDrive. I’m aware, that there are a couple of other ones out there, but these are the services that go across a variety of devices. So, unless you can suggest to me anything better, I’m open for it. My wife and I are looking for a solution between WP7 and iPhone and I’m not going to leave Windows Phone so switching phones is out of the question.

Anyway,  I took the iPhone version of SkyDrive for a quick test flight, and compared it to cloud-storage competitors Dropbox,Box.net and Pogoplug.

Details

Skydrive is decent in its own right. And at its current version, is not going to dethrone Dropbox. The most glaring problem with SkyDrive is the absence of an option to save or “favorite” a file for accessing it offline. Both Box.net and Dropbox have prominent Favorite buttons, but SkyDrive only lets you save photos, not any other kind of file. In all honesty, if they want my household and my wallet, this feature needs to be added. I’m certain that taking care of this issue would at least put a dent in those other services’ market share. Dropbox is excellent on the desktop, synching is seamless across the board when it comes to just moving files in and out of the cloud. Additionally, you get some nice notifications of what’s been moving around or what has changed.

Sadly, Skydrive on the desktop is non existent and subpar with Dropbox because  it’s still over the web browser and isn’t tightly integrated. Dropbox looks like a typical explorer folder while SkyDrive has a size limit per file going through most browsers. If it can at least mimic Dropbox’s native Windows desktop app to ftp to the site automatically, they could be more competitive. So if there are connectivity issues, you can’t que up your files. Being that it’s an early version, it’s acceptable. Making it free doesn’t hurt it either. On the bright side, Skydrive does have one big thing going for it – Space. Tons of it.

For raw storage, SkyDrive is the champ. Microsoft gives you 25GB free with signup. Box.net and Pogoplug offer just one-fifth of that (5GB), and Dropbox trails at a measly 2GB.

Is SkyDrive an iCloud competitor?

They’re both cloud services but the execution is quite different. iCloud is a service that mostly runs in the background, storing and backing up data automatically, while SkyDrive aims to appoint the user of their own files.  But if Microsoft can quickly build bridges to its other iOS apps, it could really have something here.

At the moment, SkyDrive supports iPhone and, naturally, Windows Phone. Android does have an app created by a third party developer under the name SMEStorage. The SkyDrive app syncs anything you upload on another machine almost instantly. Folders are clearly labeled; you can nest them, and photos uploaded into a folder will become that folder’s thumbnail. I liked being able to choose between a thumbnail view of files and a more detailed list with information about file size, time modified, and so on.

However, there’s some weirdness right off the bat, though. SkyDrive’s “Recent” option doesn’t actually show recently uploaded files; instead, it appears to be a repository of items you’ve created in OneNote. That would be great if SkyDrive actually let you browse the notes and open them, or at least tie in with the OneNote app.

It actually does none of those things. A Microsoft spokesperson told Mashable that the Recents option just shows the items you’ve most recently worked on via the Web, not the app, and that OneNote access would be coming in a future version.

SkyDrive on iPhone

SkyDrive on Windows Phone

skydrivewp7app

The SkyDrive is a well thought out, well conceived tool and it’s smart that Microsoft is providing it free. At 25GB, the storage space can’t be beat – at least for now. Executives of buisnesses may find it lacking space and speed but to get any better they would have to pay monthly. Aside from the nagging “Favorites”, the more bigger issue is reliability. At peak time, Skydrive has its cloudy days. I don’t know how well maintained the competing services handle this but rest assured, SkyDrive does not.

SkyDrive Error Message

Pages take about 30-120 seconds to load and are often incomplete for annother 60 seconds – giving even more the reason to have a dedicated desktop app. But if all you’re looking to do is store tons of stuff over the cloud,  it works. Ultimately, those who aren’t already using SkyDrive can skip the 1.0 version, but it’s worth keeping on your “save for later” list.

Rating: ★★★☆☆