Skydrive and Google Drive

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Online storage services are everywhere but now the big players have joined the game in earnest.

Online storage services are everywhere but now the big players have joined the game in earnest. 

Both Skydrive and Google Drive are interesting to us because, unlike other cloud storage services, they include online editing of word-processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Cloud storage with syncronization has many benefits.  Your documents are automatically copied to your computers (desktop/laptop  work/home) as well as tablets and smartphones.  Files too big for email can be saved to the online storage with a download link emailed to anyone you like.  Photos, videos and other files can be viewed online by anyone you choose or the public.  It also acts as a form of backup in case of computer failure.

Some kind of online storage is an essential part of a modern computer users toolkit.

Microsoft has released an upgraded Skydrive with a 7GB allowance (25GB for past users) and a Windows program to automatically sync folders on your computer with the online store.  Skydrive is linked to the online version of Office – Office Web Apps.

Google has finally released the long-awaited Google Drive.  You get 5GB of storage but documents saved in their ‘g’ formats don’t count towards that limit.  Google Drive is part of Google Docs, the browser based office suite.

Those services, plus ‘independent’ offerings like DropBox and SugarSync all have their pros and cons.

No surprise that Skydrive has the best compatibility with Microsoft Office documents.  However Skydrive is hobbled by poor or deceptive ‘support’ for non-Windows devices and the deliberate failure to exclude the best features of Microsoft’s own Live Mesh.

Google Drive is even more of a disappointment.  When you dig into the details, as we did, it became clear that Google Docs files are NOT directly synced offline.  All you get is a shortcut to the content online.  Separately, the document may be stored a hidden cache.  To add insult, you can’t edit Google docs offline, only view them.

Offline is the key

In our view, syncronization of cloud storage to a local computer is vital and not an optional extra.  Offline access to cloud saved files isn’t just for airplane passengers and travellers off the beaten track.

The rosy world of cloud storage marketing would have us beleive that we all have 100% reliable, incredibly fast, Internet access.  Out in the real world most of us don’t have really fast Internet access and no-one has completely dependable access.

With syncronization to your computer, tablet or phone you can quickly and reliably access your files without a constant Internet connection.  When the connection resumes any changes you make are automatically copied online and to other computers.

It’s the syncronization issue where both Microsoft and Google let people down, but in different ways.

Skydrive only has proper sync software for Windows, Windows Mobile and Macintosh OSx. The iPad/iPhone app does not syncronize content, only link to the cloud.  There’s no Android app at all.  But it does have a ‘remote access’ that lets you copy files from another computer to Skydrive via the web.

Google Drive has apps for PC, Mac and Android with Apple devices coming soon.  However the caching of documents is messy and Google documents saved in a unique format not supported by any other software.

So there’s no single ‘good’ choice for Microsoft Office users.  You might like Skydrive for the larger storage plus online editing of documents via Office Web Apps.  Google Drive can sync MS Office documents (just like any other file) to a wider range of documents than Skydrive but there’s no direct online editing.

SugarSync and Dropbox support a wider range of devices than other Skydrive or Google Drive. has been looking at both Skydrive and Google Drive with more to come as we peel back the hype to see what’s really available for you.

Getting started with Skydrive

How to use the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s Skydrive. click here for more

Boost Skydrive 7GB storage to 25GB

How to get the bonus Skydrive storage click here for more

Google Drive problems for Google documents

Google Drive doesn’t really save Google Docs content to your computer so the offline support is limited and clumsy. click here for more

Google Drive and privacy

We look into the privacy claims about Google Drive. click here for more

Getting Started with Google Drive

How to setup Google Drive and share documents. click here for more

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