Thoughts on the new SkyDrive app
Two days ago an app was released by Microsoft that allows you to sync files from your computer to your online storage vault at http://www.skydrive.com, read Microsoft’s announcement at Making personal cloud storage for Windows available anywhere, with the new SkyDrive. To describe this release as overdue is an understatement, I personally have been after a decent sync client for SkyDrive since I first started using the service back in 2007, indeed in my first blog post on the subject in August 2007 I said:
The most requested feature so far is the ability to sync this cloud storage service with conventional storage on our own hardware and I would put that top of my list too. … This should enable seamless dragging and dropping between local folders and live folders using the tools we are all familiar with (e.g. Windows Explorer).
Here we are, nearly five years later, and the ability to sync with the cloud has finally arrived. So how does it measure up? I’ve been using it for a couple of days so herein I’ll share my experiences so far:
- As a user that already had over 4GB worth of data stored on SkyDrive I automatically received the 25GB free storage limit. That’s 25GB of free syncable storage space. Yum.
- I have been using NAS (in the form of Windows Home Server) to backup all of my music and photos for a couple of years now but I’ve never been completely happy with it because
- hard drives can still go pop and redundancy doesn’t make them failsafe
- it still takes maintenance from time-to-time
- there is no ability to sync that storage, certainly not seamlessly built-in anyway
- it is only available to me at home (Home Server does provide access via a web portal but I’ve never found it to be particularly usable)
- it is expensive (both for the hardware and the cost of running the server)
This new SkyDrive app coupled with syncable cloud storage either alleviates or reduces all of those problems so I purchased 100GB of extra storage on SkyDrive for £32 per year (less than the cost of running my Home Server for the same length of time). Here was the first negative though – when I went to purchase the extra storage I was only offered payment in US dollars and hence when asked to fill in my credit card details I was required to enter a US address which I do not have (I live in the UK). This required a call to SkyDrive support where I was informed by the very helpful Jennifer Crispo that SkyDrive had incorrectly identified me as being in the US and that I could purchase storage from the UK by visiting https://skydrive.live.com/managestorage?accountid=0&ctpmkt=en-GB. This worked fine thankfully (thanks Jennifer).
- I loaded my 50+GB worth of media from my Home Server into my local SkyDrive folder and waited to see how long it would take to sync to the cloud. That was approximately 30 hours ago and so far it has loaded up ~15GB. I’ll leave you to decide whether you consider that fast or slow (its worth remembering that the SkyDrive app works as a background, low priority, process), I tell you this so that you have some sort of yardstick as to how long it might take you to sync all of your stuff to SkyDrive should you choose to do so.
- When I heard about the “Fetch” feature (i.e. the ability to access a file from a PC that is running the SkyDrive app elsewhere) I wasn’t too enamoured as I didn’t think I would be using it too much. Turns out I was wrong, it proved invaluable on the first day of use in order to access a file on my home PC that had not yet synced up to SkyDrive.com. Moreover, I was blown away at how quick it was – clicking through the folders from my Home PC was as quick as doing the same on my local hard drive – seriously. Colour me impressed with the new Fetch feature.
There are still many features that I would like to see added to SkyDrive (many of which I alluded to in my post Thoughts on latest SkyDrive news from two months ago):
- There is no access from my XBox and if XBox is intended to be a media hub that has to change [UPDATE: Uncanny that just 90minutes or so after I wrote this that an article has appeared on The Verge revealing plans for a new music service coming to XBox. No word on whether it integrates with SkyDrive or not tho.]
- Currently I cannot play any of my uploaded music online – there needs to be an online music player/experience integrated into SkyDrive.com
- I cannot choose to sync a subset of my SkyDrive to a particular device. This is a big problem as I do have at least two devices (my phone and a tablet PC) that have less storage available than the 125Gb that I now have available on SkyDrive.
- I would like to share all of my media with my wife so that she can access it all on her laptop without logging on as me. Unfortunately that is not possible because the SkyDrive app only syncs folders that belong to you, not those that have been shared with you.
- I don’t understand why storage tops out at 125GB. Why can one not simply pay for however much one wants on a price-per-GB basis?
- It would be really nice of Microsoft to bundle extra storage along with every license of Windows. Say, “buy a copy of Windows and get an extra 2GB of free storage on SkyDrive for life”; I’m not an expert on the economics here but with the cost of storage plummeting all the time I can’t imagine that such an offer would be much of an encumbrance for Microsoft to provide. It would be an incentive to upgrade, an incentive to choose Windows over a rival OS and moreover would introduce SkyDrive to new customers too.
That’s a quick recounting of my experiences so far with the SkyDrive app, I hope this is useful to some of you. If I discover anything significant in the future I shall come back here and update.