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[Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that SkyDrive did not provide access to deleted files. It does, in fact, have a Recycle Bin available through the web interface. I apologize for the error.]
SkyDrive was a real me-too service until the latest generations of Microsoft software came along. Office and Windows 8.1 make SkyDrive first-class peers. Both work easily with files on SkyDrive. I'm a big OneNote user, and it's far easier to work on SkyDrive with the mobile versions of OneNote than with other services.
With Windows 8.1 Microsoft adds support for "smart files" on SkyDrive. These are smaller, locally stored thumbnail versions of files stored on SkyDrive that behave like the full-size versions. They cut the amount of storage and bandwidth necessary on the local device. This can be a major benefit on mobile devices which often have limited storage.
SkyDrive is also the second-least expensive product per GB, behind Copy.com. SkyDrive does not offer monthly billing, and only recently added a 200GB plan. (Note in the chart that the numbers are 107, 207, etc. because they add the 7GB you get for free.) The low upper limit may be a problem for some, but not for me.
Storage (GB) $ monthly $/GB monthly $ annual $/GB annual 7 N/A N/A $0.00 $0.00 27 N/A N/A $10.00 $0.37 57 N/A N/A $25.00 $0.44 107 N/A N/A $50.00 $0.47 207 N/A N/A $100.00 $0.48
Another problem element for SkyDrive is Microsoft's confused strategy relative to SkyDrive Pro, their business-oriented cloud storage service. Pro is, behind the product name and logos, an entirely different service from the consumer SkyDrive. It is, in fact, largely a renaming of SharePoint Workspace. If you have accounts on both SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro (as I do) you need to use different client access software and different accounts for both. The storage is completely separate and even the user accounts are unrelated. SkyDrive Pro is integral to the more expensive plans for Office 365. You can work with SkyDrive Pro from the mobile OneNote apps, but it's a pain in the butt.
It may be that Microsoft limits the storage capacity of SkyDrive in order to push users into SkyDrive Pro. If that's right, it's a really bad decision. It's much easier for a consumer who needs more storage to change services than to add on SkyDrive Pro.
Microsoft lost a trademark battle over the name SkyDrive and it's possible, maybe even likely, that the name will change soon. I'm rather surprised that it didn't change before the release of Windows 8.1.
Microsoft makes SkyDrive clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
SugarSync is a tempting option from a feature standpoint. The most interesting feature (to me) is their Outlook attachment client: It plugs into Outlook and, rather than sending attachments through the e-mail system, puts them on your SugarSync share and includes a link. For heavy Outlook users this could make SugarSync a good option. Note that HighTail (formerly YouSendIt) offers a similar feature with their (not cheap) paid plans. I expect that, before too long, this capability will become de rigueur for companies, like Microsoft and Google, who offer both cloud email and cloud storage.
SugarSync allows not just undelete, but they maintain the last 5 versions of a file, and only the most recent version counts against the storage limit.
But SugarSync is really expensive, in some configurations the most expensive option here. Their prices don't get good until you get their business-oriented (1 to 3 users) 1TB plan and, at that point, they're even cheaper than Google Drive.
Storage (GB) $ monthly $/GB monthly $ annual $/GB annual 5 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 60 $7.49 0.12 $74.99 1.25 100 $9.99 0.10 $99.99 1.00 250 $24.99 0.10 $249.99 1.00 1000 $55.00 0.06 $550.00 0.55
SugarSync has an interesting client collection: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile (NOT Windows Phone, and no third parties have picked up the slack there).
Gold, Silver and Bronze
Tying it all together, I have to say I'm most impressed with Google Drive - in the abstract. They're not the least expensive, but their combination of price and plans is head and shoulders above the rest. Most of the other services are trying to game you into buying a plan that's better for them, than for you. Not Google. Google's platform coverage is excellent, if not everything I need.
I'm also very impressed with Copy.com. The reason they're not #1 is that I feel manipulated by their restrictive plan structure. Like I said, if what Copy offers (free/15GB, 250GB, 500GB) is good for you, they go for it. They've got an impressive service.
Third place was a tough decision. I seriously considered all of the remaining three products: Dropbox, SkyDrive and SugarSync at different times for different reasons. I'm choosing SkyDrive in spite of the their major disadvantage, that they max out at 207GB. The main advantage it has over SugarSync and Dropbox is the huge price differential. And if you're a Windows/Office user, SkyDrive has extra appeal.
SugarSync fails to medal in this event, mostly because of price. It could be a lot higher. But it could be worse. It could be Dropbox.
Dropbox is the market leader now, and they've done a good job with their product, but I have to think things will get a lot more competitive in the next few years. Windows users will have SkyDrive in their faces from now on and Google users have good reason to use Google Drive. That's a big chunk of the market. Maybe they should have taken Steve Jobs up on his offer.