Technology•Feb 19, 2014
Comparing Microsoft’s SkyDrive & SkyDrive Pro Cloud Storage (Soon to Be OneDrive)
SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro are online storage services from Microsoft that serve different use cases. Even though the names are similar (and soon to be changed to OneDrive), these services are very different. If you don’t know what SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro are or feel confused about their differences, this primer can help.
SkyDrive is a free public cloud storage service, comparable to Dropbox and Box, which provides document storing and sharing capabilities. It’s designed for personal use and comes with 7 GB of free storage space. To use the service, you need a Microsoft account (aka Hotmail.com, Windows Live, or Outlook.com account).
To install SkyDrive on Windows 7 or 8, you need to download and run the standalone installer. There are also apps for iPhone or iPad, Android, and Windows Phone. On a Windows machine, a special SkyDrive folder is created, and any files added to it will be synced to the cloud (https://skydrive.live.com/) and will be accessible from any other devices you sign in from. You can even use free Office Web Apps to edit Office documents stored in SkyDrive directly in your browser. There are also a number of third party apps that work with SkyDrive.
Windows 8.1 comes with SkyDrive built right into the operating system. It also works a bit differently with the introduction of a new feature called smart files.
SkyDrive offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to sharing files with others. From the SkyDrive website, you can invite anyone via email and give them either read-only or edit access to a file or a folder. You can also specify whether they have to be signed in with a Microsoft account or not. In addition, you can simply generate a hyperlink for read-only, edit, or public access and share it via email, blog, or any website.
SkyDrive provides a rich feature set for personal users. For more details on how it compares to other free cloud storage offerings check out this comparison.
SkyDrive Pro is a storage service for business document sharing via SharePoint Online (Office 365) or SharePoint 2013 (on-premises). It is an evolution of the service offered by Microsoft initially as Groove 2007 (for SharePoint 2007) and then SharePoint Workspace (for SharePoint 2010). Essentially, SkyDrive Pro is a personal document library for storing your work documents in SharePoint. Office 365 users get 25 GB of storage space by default. On-premises SharePoint 2013 users get as much storage space as allowed by the quota set up by their SharePoint administrator. SkyDrive Pro offers enterprise collaboration features and supports the usual SharePoint document features such as versioning, check in/out, content approval, and workflows.
The SkyDrive Pro sync app lets you sync your own SkyDrive Pro library and any other SharePoint document libraries to a local folder on your computer. This allows you to work on files in offline mode and then sync them when you get online. You can install the SkyDrive Pro client either as part of Office 2013 or by using a free standalone installer.
Documents in your SkyDrive Pro library are private to begin with and can be shared with other employees of your organization. Even though SkyDrive Pro allows sharing with external users, this use case is not as straightforward as it is with the personal SkyDrive service. For those using SkyDrive Pro with SharePoint Online, user experience is similar to SkyDrive: you can invite anyone in your organization via email and give them either read-only or edit access to a file or a folder. You can also generate an anonymous guest hyperlink and send it to users outside of your organization as long as they have a Microsoft account. However, if you use SkyDrive Pro with on-premises SharePoint 2013, this becomes difficult, as SharePoint doesn’t allow anyone who is not in your company’s active directory to connect to SharePoint, even if they have a Microsoft account. Therefore, you can only share with external users if your SharePoint administrator has set up federated authentication. For more information about sharing in SkyDrive Pro check out this helpful post.
After losing its trademark dispute over the name SkyDrive with BSkyB last year, Microsoft is now in the process of renaming SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro to OneDrive and OneDrive for Business respectively. The idea behind OneDrive branding is “one place that is seamlessly connected across all the devices you use.” Microsoft is using this opportunity to essentially reboot its online storage offering with new robust features, which are to be announced in the upcoming weeks. Current SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro users should be switched to the new service automatically when it rolls out.
Visiting www.onedrive.com currently displays the following splash page that allows you to sign up for email notifications about the new service.