I may seem a little biased, but I really think that SkyDrive is the absolute best of these services in one service. Here’s why, and how it copes with each situation.
Front-end service (like Google Drive and Dropbox)
Front-end service means that you manage your files yourself – you can see the folders in the cloud, for example. GDrive, as I’ll call it, and Dropbox offer desktop apps to let users drag files into a certain folder and have them synced to the cloud and to their devices. SkyDrive also offers this, but it has advantages:
- More space, and better prices for buying even more space. SkyDrive offers 7GB free (25GB for old users in some cases), while GDrive offers 5GB free and Dropbox offers just 2GB free (though by referring many friends you can get up to 18GB free).
- Better Microsoft Office integration (no surprise there). When you upload an Office document to GDrive, you have to convert it into the GDocs format to edit it. When you’ve done that, the file on your PC in your GDrive folder is simply a link to the web, so no offline access. With SkyDrive, the web can edit Office docs and you do have offline access as well.
So SkyDrive works great as a front-end service. But what about the iCloud way?
Background service (like iCloud)
A background service works in the background – it automatically syncs computer settings etc. as well as photos from your phone and more. And SkyDrive works great as a background service, as shown with Windows 8. When you sign into a Windows 8 (or Windows RT) device with a Microsoft account, a ton of stuff is synced. Customisation settings, browser history and favourites, language settings and even passwords (when you’ve ‘trusted’ the PC). I won’t go into much detail here, but you can view my post about it as well as watch a video by clicking here. The best thing about SkyDrive as a background service is that the data synced doesn’t count against your storage limit – that’s just for your docs, photos and files.
Integration with Outlook.com/Windows 8 mail client/Windows Live Mail/Hotmail
One feature I love about SkyDrive is it’s way to escape attachment limits – it can store large photo albums and even office docs (that your friends can edit) for your friends to view without clogging their inboxes (though you can of course send normal attachments if you wish to do so). It works with:
I personally find this feature brilliant, and I couldn’t live without it.
So SkyDrive, in my opinion, works great as both a front-end service and a background service, and is basically all you need in a cloud service. But its usefulness depends on what ecosystem you’ve invested in. If you use Gmail, Google Docs, Google+ and have an Android phone, Google Drive will likely be the most useful to you. If you have a Mac, iPad, iPhone and you buy your content in iTunes iCloud will be very useful to you. But if you’re like me and have a Windows PC and use Hotmail or Outlook.com SkyDrive will be very useful to you… especially if you upgrade to Windows 8 when it’s released.
Which cloud service do you use?