Microsoft updated its long-running SkyDrive cloud-based storage system this week, but the improvements came at a cost: Microsoft slashed its 25GB of free online storage to only 7GB. However, more than 100 million existing SkyDrive users need not lose out. By logging on to the service now, they can claim a free upgrade to 25GB, which means they don't lose out.
This is important because SkyDrive is being integrated into Windows 8.
For the first time, Microsoft is allowing SkyDrive users to buy extra storage, and 20GB costs $10 per year. Google charges $2.49 per month for 25GB, which is almost $30 per year, while Apple charges $40 per year. Getting 25GB free on SkyDrive is therefore a good deal.
SkyDrive is also competitively priced for users who need 100GB storage. That amount costs $50 per year on SkyDrive, $60 per year on Google's Gdrive ($4.99 per month), and $199 on Dropbox ($19.99 per month). Apple charges $100 per year for half as much iCloud storage: 50GB.
How many people need that much online storage is open to doubt. Microsoft justified its reduced storage offering in a blog post (Making personal cloud storage for Windows available anywhere, with the new SkyDrive) that said:
"We chose 7GB as it provides enough space for over 99 percent of people to store their entire Office document library and share photos for several years, along with room for growth. To put things in perspective, 99.94 percent of SkyDrive customers today use 7GB or less – and 7GB is enough for over 20,000 Office documents or 7,000 photos. Since the current base of customers using SkyDrive tilts towards enthusiasts, we are confident that, as we expand the range of people using SkyDrive, this 7GB free limit will prove to be more than enough for even more people."
As well as being accessible from browsers, SkyDrive also works from Windows Explorer on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Vista, which has naturally annoyed the laggards still stuck on Windows XP. With Explorer, users can drag-and-drop files of up to 2GB to and from SkyDrive.
Microsoft has also released SkyDrive apps for Windows, Windows Phone and Apple iOS devices, and is releasing a new "preview client" for Mac OS X Lion. Android users can download existing apps such as Browser for SkyDrive, Cloud Explorer for SkyDrive, Portfolio for SkyDrive and others.
SkyDrive now includes some features from the Live Mesh synchronisation service, which has long been part of Microsoft's Windows Live suite. However, Live Mesh enabled users to synchronise files across Windows PCs, phones and Macs without also depositing them in a cloud. Since SkyDrive allows remote access to your desktop PC, and lets you "fetch" any file from a Windows PC, perhaps Microsoft doesn't think Live Mesh is needed any more.