Monday, March 05, 2012

Microsoft’s SkyDrive app won’t offer DropBox style sync

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“To the Cloud!” go the Microsoft commercials. It’s important that you note the “to” in that sentence, because apparently there’s only limited “from” the cloud support in the upcoming SkyDrive app. It won’t offer full-on synchronization like Dropbox and SugarSync do.

According to Microsoft’s Mike Torres, the goal was to deliver a SkyDrive app that was as simple to use as possible. They’re thinking Metro in Redmond nowadays, and that minimalism applies to the experience, not just the interface when it comes to Microsoft applications. To keep SkyDrive from getting muddled, they’ve decided that it needs to function more like a cloud backup service.Windows Phones work like this now: you can choose to automatically upload new images you capture.

Your images are still stored somewhere offline so you can get at them more easily, and that’s another part of Torres’ discussion. Cloud storage is handy, but it’s not an ideal way to restore after a failure. If you’ve got a terabyte or two of family photos and videos, you’re better served keeping a spare hard drive or two loaded up at home. Should one drive crash on you, you can get all your content back within minutes. From a site like SkyDrive or Dropbox, re-downloading that much data could take several days — and if your connection is metered, you’ll be paying for all that extra data you’re transferring.

There’s also the issue of cost. Dropbox charges $20 per month for 100GB. At that rate, you’d be able to buy a spare two terabyte hard drive every six months. The fact that SkyDrive is only offering backup and access goes a long way to explaining how Microsoft will be able to give you 125GB for just $4 per month.

So for now, SkyDrive will provide you with a safety net — and with a convenient way for you to access copies of all your important files via the Microsoft cloud. Maybe one day you’ll see two-way sync implemented…perhaps when Windows 9 launches in a few years.

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