I started this post to talk about Microsoft’s SkyDrive service. As I was logging in, I realized I could go a lot of directions with it. I could write about how I am writing this post on my Windows Phone while sitting in my stylist’s chair getting my hair cut. I could write about LastPass, which stores all my passwords in the cloud (and which I just logged into in order to get my WordPress password). I could write about WordPress itself, which is allowing me to blog from my phone. Or, I could even write about how great Heather is going to make my hair look.
Since I already titled it with a cloud reference, I guess I’ll stick with talking about cloud services (though my hair is certainly looking good enough to blog about). I was recently asked about how the average user can store files in the cloud. At the time, I recommended DropBox, which is a cloud-based file storage service. But, in addition to DropBox, Microsoft has a service called SkyDrive. Amazon has one called Cloud Drive and Google recently launched their service, Google Drive. (Apple has the iCloud service, too, but it doesn’t really compare to these other services. It is (as you might expect, since it is from Apple) more isolated and really meant for Apple-only users. While there is a PC client, you’re stuck if your phone and tablet aren’t Apple devices.)
If you’re not already using one of these, you absolutely should be. Allow me to tell you why. All of these services allow you to store your personal files securely in the cloud (well, Google’s service probably reads and indexes everything you store there, but Google calls that secure…) and access them from any web browser. No more need to move your files around on USB drives. You get always available access to your important data. DropBox and SkyDrive take this a step further, providing clients for multiple operating systems, both desktop and mobile. This means that the files you want in the cloud automaticallysync between your PCs (yes, multiple PCs) and the cloud. You can install the app on your smartphone for instant access to all your files on the go. (Google has an app for PC, Mac, and Android with the promise of an iOS app coming soon.)
So… in this cloud-filled sky, which is the best? The answer is, as is often the case, it depends. There are certainly benefits to all of these services and you can’t really go wrong by picking one and using it. (I, for instance, have been using both SkyDrive and DropBox for quite some time.) The nice thing is, there’s no problem with using multiple services, as long as you remember what you stored where. I have a Windows Phone. As you might expect, it syncs seamlessly with SkyDrive. In fact, all of my pictures are automatically uploaded from my phone to my SkyDrive account from my phone as soon as I take them. Android users will be getting the same level of service from Google Drive. Many of the apps on my phone also allow me to use DropBox as my primary cloud service. (I even have an app installed that lets me easily access both SkyDrive and DropBox files from the same app.) Amazon’s Cloud Drive is currently running a promotion that means that all the .mp3 files you store don’t count toward your limit, making it a great place to store your music in the cloud. They also include all purchases from Amazon for free. So, any videos, music, and books you purchase from Amazon get stored for free. Google Drive incorporates Google Docs and SkyDrive does the same with Office Web Apps, letting you use Office Applications right from your SkyDrive webpage.
Let’s take a comparative look at these services. (I left out the iCloud service, as Apple users are going to use it because it’s Apple and it doesn’t make sense for anyone else.)
These are the basic feature comparisons. As you can see, Microsoft’s SkyDrive has a distinct advantage over it’s competition. That advantage grows when we take a look at that last row in the table – “Remote Access to PC.” This means that, using a web browser, you can actually access the files on your home PC – even the ones not stored in your SkyDrive account!!