Well it looks like we recently got another update to SkyDrive. For me SkyDrive has been one of those services that has had limited usefulness(similar to DropBox until recently) . I have used it for various things over the years. But due to the difficulty in getting stuff into it, it just wasn’t convenient. Well, I guess that is only partially true. When they opened up 5 gig of my Skydrive space to be used for Windows Live Mesh, I did use that space up pretty quick (because there was a convenient access method).
However with these new updates, it is starting to appeal to me once more. They did drop the free space from 25 gig to 7 gig. But for those of us who have been ‘loyal’ users for a long time, they have offered an amnesty program to allow us to request that we retain our free 25 gig. So that’s not an issue for me. They also add some reasonable options for upgrading your space if you need (50 gig for $25/year, etc.).
With this update, also came a windows application that allows you to access/sync your SkyDrive with your computer(Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OS X Lion). This was a bit of shock since it was becoming apparent to me that Microsoft was not interested in making it easy to access and use this space. Apparently that mind set has changed. With this new app, the barrier to get stuff in and out of your SkyDrive has been lifted. They also have a Windows Phone 7 app and an iOS app (now supporting iPad). Sadly there is no Android app.
So how will SkyDrive become a more active part of my life? Well I am not sure yet. I am currently as huge user of Windows Live Mesh, which is an integral part of my backup solution. And they don’t appear to be trying to merge these systems (in fact they appear to be separating them even more as my 5 gig of used space does not show up in my used count in my 25 gig of SkyDrive space). They have created a page entitled “SkyDrive for Mesh Users”. However this page seems more to me to be more of a migration guide and propaganda to get you to move off of mesh and not documentation on how to get them to work together.
There are a lot of collaboration feature built into SkyDrive. The integrated office webapps makes in browser editing of office docs a breeze. It is a much, much more elegant solution than Google docs when it comes to a document repository and collaboration environment. I guess we’ll just have to see. If its useful, I imagine I will see it starting to creep back into my life more and more as time passes. If they would just add an Android app to their lineup, that may seal the deal for me.
I am a big fan of file synchronization tools. For me, file sync’ing across my multiple devices not only makes my life easier but also serves to backup my data. But I have yet to find the perfect tool that handles all of the different scenarios I have for my data. And while I have had a Dropbox account for quite a while, I have rarely used it. It has a limited amount of space for free (2 gigs) and doesn’t provide simple synchronization between devices only (separate from their cloud storage space). I am currently using Microsoft Live Mesh as my main tool which allows me unlimited sync’ing between computers and also lets me use 5 gigs of cloud storage from my SkyDrive (not too bad). I use it mainly for the sync’ing (and backing up) of large amounts of files between computers. Where it fails, and where dropbox shines, is in its support for the various mobile device platforms. Mesh currently does not support any mobile device.
However Dropbox is currently testing a new feature which I am somewhat excited about. They are testing the capability to automatically upload photos and videos taken on mobile devices to a Dropbox folder. I currently am using Google+ for that (and it works well). However, things uploaded by Google+ only live on the Google+ servers. This great for posting to Google+. But it requires extra steps to get them onto my computer for manipulation, permanent storage and/or sharing to other services. With this new feature in Dropbox, I can automatically sync my pictures and videos to any machine I want. Simply put, its like having a wireless USB cable that continually dumps my photos/videos to a pre-specified folder, from anywhere in the world.
The one downside, 2 gig wasn’t enough for the 1080p videos I had on my phone. Fortunately Dropbox thought of that and was offering additional space for anyone willing to test the new feature. Basically I received 500 meg for trying it out (on first photo upload). I then received an additional 500 meg for every 500 meg I uploaded using the new feature (up to 4.5 gig). When my phone was done sync’ing, my Dropbox account had jumped from 2 gig to 7 gig. Now that’s not too bad for scratch space for my photos and videos. And who knows, if I start actively using it again for this purpose I may actually start using it for others. Good move Dropbox.
For those who want to participate, I think the deal is still on. You can go here to get the Android installers for this new test version. And if you don’t have an Android phone, they are testing out new versions of their desktop clients as well. These clients supposedly work with any camera or video device that you connect to your computer. You can find details here.