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Windows 8 deep-dive: Get to know your SkyDrive app

Alex Wawro | Nov. 14, 2012
Most cloud storage services already offer apps for accessing their servers from every major platform, but Microsoft is taking the model one step further by weaving its cloud storage service directly into Windows 8—if not every major component of the new Windows universe, including Windows Phone 8 and the new Office Web app.

Most cloud storage services already offer apps for accessing their servers from every major platform, but Microsoft is taking the model one step further by weaving its cloud storage service directly into Windows 8if not every major component of the new Windows universe, including Windows Phone 8 and the new Office Web app.

Welcome to SkyDrive. Microsoft's cloud service has been in business since late 2007, but now its app lives front and center on the Windows Start screen, and it's built to integrate with other Microsoft software and hardware. SkyDrive offers features and pricing plans that rival established cloud storage services like Dropbox and Box. But because there are three ways to access SkyDrive on a Windows 8 PC, each with its own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, it can be a pain to figure out how to best bend the service to serve your needs.

What SkyDrive does well

SkyDrive has evolved from humble origins (remember Windows Live Folders?) into a useful cloud storage service that competes favorably with established services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Apple iCloud. SkyDrive offers new users 7GB of free space, with the option to upgrade to 50GB or 100GB via a monthly subscription.

Despite the Microsoft logo, SkyDrive is relatively platform-agnostic, and you can access files stored on SkyDrive via apps on an Android, iOS or any other device with a Web browser. That said, SkyDrive really shines if you use Microsoft Office or own multiple Windows devices, because it has a bunch of neat features that tie into the Windows ecosystem.

For example, Microsoft has built a Web app version of Microsoft Office directly into the SkyDrive app. You can now view and edit documents in your SkyDrive folder right from your browser using a limited version of Microsoft Word, or create a spreadsheet in your browser and email it to a client (or share it directly to their SkyDrive) so you can both edit it simultaneously. It works just like real-time collaboration via Google Drive, but the Office Web apps offer more features (like tracking changes in Word) than Google Drive's editing suite.

SkyDrive really shines in this regard, because it basically offers anyone with an Internet connection the opportunity to access Microsoft Office products for free, with few limitations on how they share their work.

SkyDrive is a remarkably good platform for sharing data with friends and family, too. Theres an option to share just about any file type in your SkyDrive folder via email, Facebook, or HTML embed codes, or directly to another SkyDrive user. I particularly appreciate the option to share images stored on SkyDrive via a URL, which lets you use the service as a more secure stand-in for popular image-hosting services like imgur. Simply upload an image to SkyDrive (which uses HTTP Secure encryption), and then select choose Share  from the Sharing  menu and copy and paste the link into an email, an IM conversation, or your social network of choice.

 

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