The cloud naturally represents the future of file storage beyond physical media, but the landscape is a little bit like International waters at the moment. Anything goes and everything is up for grabs.
Google and Microsoft have both made bold moves towards commanding the arena this week, aiming to battle some of the early dominance away from pioneers like Dropbox, which continues to improve its service and lurkers like Apple, Sony and Samsung.
Google’s service comes in the form of Google Drive, finally announced after months of speculation, which offers 5GB of service for free and up to 1TB for a considerable monthly fee, along with a host of neat sharing options.
SkyDrive is Microsoft’s solution. The name has been around for a couple of years now, but Microsoft has significantly enhanced its offering, making SkyDrive an entirely new proposition.
Let’s take a look at which service offers the best option for you.
As we mentioned Google is dangling the carrot by giving all Google account holders a free 5GB of Drive storage for your documents, photos and more. The company claims: “That’s enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on.”
But its also savvy enough to know, that in this age, 5GB isn’t really enough. You can update to 25GB for a mere $2.49 (£1.54) a month and we’d imagine that’ll be the most popular option. Power users can grab 100GB for $4.99 (£3.08) a month, while a 1TB in the cloud will cost $49.99 (£30.80).
Perhaps mindful that Google will only be offering 5GB, Microsoft has cut its free SkyDrive allowance from 25GB right down to 7GB. Existing users will be able to adjust their account settings to hold onto that free storage, but new users will get just 7GB.
Redwood also opts for yearly price plans with 20GB for $10 (£6) a year. 50GB for $25 (£16) a year and 100GB for $50 (£32) a year.
Google has the advantage in terms of pure storage stage (it has also upped Gmail free storage from 7GB to 10GB), but Microsoft’s existing option is cheaper and offers more free space.
Microsoft has upped its file upload maximum size from 100MB to 300MB, whereas Google makes no mention of a maximum upload size within its launch documents, so that remains to be seen.
Google has attempted live document collaboration before with the failed Wave experiment. That feature lives on in Documents and forms a major part of Google Drive.
You can work with colleagues on a document and all changes will be synced back to Drive, while comments can be left on any files stored using the service. You can also receive notifications when changes are made to documents for which you have permissions.
Naturally, with Google aiming to make Drive fit seamlessly within its entire ecosystem, Google+ is also involved. You can post photos from Drive to the social network and attach them to Gmails.
Microsoft has revealed a simpler approach to sharing with its new and improved SkyDrive service, which by-passes the clunky process of sending large email attachments.
Once you’ve uploaded a file to SkyDrive you can send a simple web link to any recipient through email, instant message or even by posting on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Your friends won’t even have to sign up for a SkyDrive account to access the service.
Both Google and Microsoft have unveiled Dropbox-like desktop folders for Mac and PC, which allow users to simply drag and drop files to ensure they’re uploaded to the respective accounts.
You’ll need to download the client to start using both services. Google Drive wasn’t yet available to us at the time of writing, while the existing SkyDrive service client was. Once you start using SkyDrive, all photos added to the folder will immediately be synced and available on other devices running SkyDrive.
Perhaps Microsoft’s ace-in-the-hole here is the Fetch functionality, which also allows SkyDrive users to access any files on their PC harddrive and bring them to wherever they’re currently operating.
However, the computer has to be on and SkyDrive must be installed.
Both services now boast a host of mobile apps, but don’t offer the complete set. Naturally, Google Drive has a ready made Android app which will allow you to share directly to your Drive account.
The app naturally allows you to view, download and upload files from and to Drive, while documents you create can also be saved to the platform and edits will be synced. It’ll also let you share any file from Drive with your phone contacts.
Files from Drive, such as a favourite photo, can be made available offline for when you don’t have an internet connection. Google says it is working hard on an iOS app.
Microsoft, brings you a Windows Phone app, but surprised us all by outing an iOS app, which allows for file sharing and viewing on the iPhone and the iPad.
The SkyDrive for iOS application allows you to upload photos directly to the service, manage and share files and also open your SkyDrive files with other third party iOS apps, such as Pages and Keynote.
It’s a masterstroke from Microsoft and Google would be wise to hurry along with their iOS solution. Android users can access SkyDrive files through the web browser at this stage.
Microsoft’s enterprising and innovative SkyDrive revamp has unexpectedly stolen the thunder from Google’s long-awaited cloud storage solution – and deservedly so.
Despite cutting its offering, SkyDrive still offers more free storage and cheaper tariffs for those wishing to purchase a little more space.
Both services have followed in Dropbox’s footsteps by launching an easy-to-use desktop client for Mac and PC, with easy syncing and sharing of documents, photos and more across your devices.
Google has made it easier to share documents and collaborate with users over the cloud, through its existing Documents, Google+ and Gmail services, while Microsoft will allow easy web-link sharing, even for non-SkyDrive members.
Microsoft’s launch of an iOS app before Google Drive may prove decisive unless Google pulls its finger out.
While we’re impressed with how Google has seamlessly integrated Drive within its ecosystem, we have to give SkyDrive a narrow points victory at this early stage.