Dropbox and Google Drive Gets #smokedbyskydrive with new SkyDrive App

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Wow – what a Monday morning for Microsoft. After a great earnings announcement last week for the past quarter we now get some big news from the Redmond Campus including Facebook to pay Microsoft $550M for hundreds of former AOL patents and Skype releases Windows Phone app.

Those are great stories but my focus on this post is about the new SkyDrive App that has now been released from Microsoft.  We first heard about this app back in February on the Building Windows 8 blog (Connecting your apps, files, PCs and devices to the cloud with SkyDrive and Windows 8). That post showed us operating system integration with easy drag and drop access to your cloud storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive.

Well that application has now become a reality and has been released today as a preview/beta. There are a lot of details in the latest Building Windows 8 blog entry, Making personal cloud storage for Windows available anywhere, with the new SkyDrive, and I will let you dive into that to get at the nitty-gritty details.

I just want to highlight the features that come with this latest update:

  • SkyDrive for the Windows desktop (preview available now). View and manage your personal SkyDrive directly from Windows Explorer on Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista with this new preview app available in 106 languages worldwide.
  • Fetching files through SkyDrive.com. Easily access, browse, and stream files from a remote PC running the preview app to just about anywhere by simply fetching them via SkyDrive.com.
  • SkyDrive storage updates. A new, more flexible approach to personal cloud storage that allows power users to get additional paid storage as their needs grow.
  • SkyDrive for other devices. We’ve updated the SkyDrive apps on Windows Phone and iOS devices, bringing better management features and sharing options to those devices. We’re also releasing a new preview client for Mac OS X Lion, letting you manage your SkyDrive right from the Finder.

You can visit https://apps.live.com/skydrive and download this new app for your Windows desktop (Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 only), Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad and for your Mac.  The loudest complaint I have read so far on the comments of the Building Windows 8 blog post is that the Windows XP folks are feeling left out with this update.  Might be time for an upgrade folks – that is a 10 year old OS.

As for the Android folks, with no official app for now, there are app recommendations on https://apps.live.com/skydrive/allapps for your phones.

A couple of tidbits about the new SkyDrive setup:

  • Anyone with a Hotmail or Live email account, which means you also have a SkyDrive account, will get the opportunity to opt in to the full 25GB of cloud storage on SkyDrive.  Anyone that already had 4GB or more will be automatically opted into the 25GB.  Keep an eye out for the opt in banner across the top of your online SkyDrive web access. These accounts must have been created before 22 April 2012 to be eligible for the additional free storage option. Another caveat: you must have also uploaded at least one file to your SkyDrive to get the increase in free storage.
  • Microsoft shows the stats in their Building Windows 8 blog post that the majority of SkyDrive users have less than 7GB’s of storage in use. Based on that they are opting to make that the new level of free storage beginning today.  So any new accounts will get the 7GB of free storage.
  • All accounts will have the option of purchasing additional SkyDrive storage if needed. 20GB for $10/year; 50GB for $25/year and 100GB for $50/year. Those options are already live on the SkyDrive website.
  • File size limitations for uploading have been bumped up from 300MB to 2GB per file.
  • The SkyDrive App on Windows will now sync Outlook PST files which Windows Live Mesh/Sync would not do.  Depending on the size of the PST file this may be prohibitive for sharing a PST between two machines.  Uploads/Downloads to SkyDrive are quite slow but that may also be network congestion as everyone is switching over to the new app today.
  • If you are currently using Windows Live Mesh then this page, SkyDrive for Mesh Users, should help you with the transition.

The Fetch option is superb.  This only works through the SkyDrive website and you will get prompted to get a security code to input at the website before you can access the other machine and is needed each time you access the other machine.  This allows a secondary level of authentication for security purposes to verify who you are before gaining access to the entire hard drive of the other machine.

fetchskydrive

The security code seems to work in each browser session so once you close that session a new security code will be needed to fetch items off the other machine.  This makes a lot of sense as the Fetch option gives the user complete access to your hard drives and all the files on it. One exception to the security code each time is if you are on a Trusted PC.

One of the features in Windows Live Mesh/Sync was the ability to pick any folder on your PC and sync them directly with each other and avoid the cloud in the middle.  With this new app that is no longer possible. However, there are options to sync directories and just stick SkyDrive in the middle via the SkyDrive folder on your system and the cloud to sync directories between the two machines. I do this for my wife’s desktop and laptop using the new SkyDrive App.

I just made the default My Documents and My Pictures directories on her two systems in the SkyDrive folder which means her files appear in her own documents and pictures directory even though physically they are in the SkyDrive folder.  That means any change/addition she makes to her documents/pictures folder is synched to her SkyDrive storage in the cloud and then synched automatically to the other machine.  This works in both directions between the desktop and laptop.

You can also use the SkyDrive cloud storage and point that folder in the SkyDrive folder to another directory using the Windows Library feature.  That makes the files appear in the other folder when in reality they are still in the SkyDrive folder. That means they are only stored in one place on your machine not two.

Used in the right manner your documents will be backed up in the cloud yet matching up on multiple machines.  Oh yeah don’t forget the access your will also have from your mobile device to grab any file you might need while on the go.

Bottom line is just like the headline of this story states -  other cloud options like Dropbox and Google Drive have been #smokedbyskydrive – nice work Microsoft!

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