Microsoft a few minutes ago has released software clients for its SkyDrive cloud hosting service. The applications, available for the Windows and Macintosh operating systems, as well as Windows Phone and iPhone, integrate the file hosting service in the operating system.
This works in many regards similar to Dropbox and related services. Windows users install the client, and log into their Windows Live account afterwards to link the PC with the online storage.
SkyDrive creates its own directory in the user directory that is acting as the root folder. The synchronization of all files and folders hosted on SkyDrive begins immediately, so that every single file is available locally as well as in the cloud.
Files and folders can be moved or copied into the SkyDrive folder, to sync them automatically with the cloud server and all other systems the service is running on as an app.
The Windows client does not ship with a lot of settings. A right-click on the system tray icon displays only three options. First an option to autostart SkyDrive with Windows, second an option to make the files of the PC available on the Internet, and third an option to unlink SkyDrive from this computer which basically blocks the synchronization of data.
Making the files of the PC available on other devices? If you have that option enabled, you can access all of the PC's files, and not only those in the SkyDrive folder, from the web interface, provided the PC is currently online, and you enter the correct security code that is send to the connected email account.
If you think that this is too much of a security risk, disable the feature in the settings to only make available files hosted in the SkyDrive folder.
Sharing can only be configured on the SkyDrive website, and not in the clients (at least not in the Windows client).
Microsoft furthermore has made available storage add-ons for SkyDrive. Existing users need to know that their storage is automatically reduced from the previously available 25 Gigabyte to 7 Gigabyte if they have not used more than 4 Gigabyte of SkyDrive storage. It is possible to upgrade the storage again to 25 Gigabyte for free on the site, but it is a manual process that everyone should complete as soon as possible to benefit from the free storage.
We know that many of you signed up for a service that offered 25GB, and some are already using more than 7GB of storage. So, starting today, for a limited time, any registered SkyDrive user as of April 22nd can opt in to keep 25GB of free storage while still getting all of the benefits of the new service. (For users who are already using more than 4GB as of April 1st, we’ve automatically opted you in to 25GB of free storage to avoid any issues.)
New users eventually will only receive 7 Gigabytes of free storage space.
Here are the prices for additional SkyDrive capacities:
The SkyDrive app finally makes it easier for users on supported devices to synchronize their files with Microsoft's cloud hosting service. Users who intent to use it in the future should make sure to opt-in for the storage upgrade to 25 Gigabyte to have that storage size available for free and not only the 7 Gigabyte that the other users get.
SkyDrive users who install the clients need to make sure they understand the FetchFile implications. If the feature is enabled, anyone with web access and access to the email account can access all of the files on the computer the feature is enabled on (provided that it is online at that time).
What's your take on this development?
Update: There are certain things and features that are less than ideal. The SkyDrive for Windows app is for instance not compatible with Windows XP, only with Windows Vista and newer versions of Windows. It also needs to be noted that the Mac app is only compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 or newer.
A second point of criticism is that it is not possible to modify the SkyDrive folder's location on the system. It is always stored in the user folder.
Update 2: It is apparently possible to change the SkyDrive folder during installation.
Read the official announcement here.
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