The cloud storage race – what can SkyDrive improve on?

By damaster | Posted April 28, 2012 53 comments

SkyDrive LogoLast week had been a busy week in the consumer cloud storage space. First we had Microsoft significantly upgrading their SkyDrive service, adding paid storage plans and desktop sync apps. Then we had Google launching their Google Drive service. We’ve even seen Dropbox joining in and adding the Camera Upload feature and giving users additional free space for their photos. Technology blogs had been busy comparing the various services, and we have to say SkyDrive wins hands down in areas of pricing, free storage space provided, Microsoft Office document support, and remote file access. However, we all know that SkyDrive’s competitors aren’t going to sit still and let them take a lead, and there’s also many rooms for improvement for SkyDrive. In this post we’ll start the conversation on what we think SkyDrive could improve on in their next update, which we hope Microsoft could listen to and implement in their next update. Here’s the top 3 from our list:

Ability to choose what to sync

Dropbox - Selective SyncOne of the top criticism and request we’ve seen is SkyDrive desktop app’s lack of the ability for users to choose which folder to sync. If you haven’t tried it out already, the new SkyDrive desktop app will sync your entire SkyDrive files and folders onto your PC or Mac. This might not be a problem for those who only has a few documents and pictures on their SkyDrive, but for power users (which Microsoft is catering for by supporting up to 125 GB of storage), syncing the entire 125 GB worth of files to your PC is an utter waste of bandwidth and storage space, particularly if you’re trying to sync on Windows-based tablets today with limited SSD storage.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s own Windows Live Mesh supported the ability to choose which folders to sync to their desktop. Whilst Microsoft explained that they wanted to simplify the synchronisation model, this shouldn’t come at a cost to consumers who simply wanted to choose what they’d like to sync. SkyDrive’s competitors like Google Drive and Dropbox provides the functionality to allow users to pick which folders to sync to their desktop, so why can’t SkyDrive do the same?

Sync files shared with you

Dropbox - Share This FolderAnother key suggestion we’ve seen is to enable the SkyDrive desktop app to sync files that are shared with you. On SkyDrive.com, clicking on the “Shared” allows you to quickly across all those files and folders your friends had specifically shared with you. Unfortunately, these files aren’t synced to your computer, making collaboration between your friends not as seamless as it should be (yes, whilst you can still collaborate using Microsoft Office 2010, what if I want to collaborate on a Photoshop image?).

Microsoft’s own Windows Live Mesh also supported the ability to sync shared folders with your contacts (up to 10 users). Similarly, Dropbox also supports the ability to share folders with other people, but interestingly, to prevent users from creating multiple accounts to increase their total storage space, Dropbox’s policy is that all folders shared with you counts towards your storage limit. We believe that is something Microsoft should start exploring with SkyDrive too. In fact, Microsoft’s own Mike Torres, Group Program Manager for SkyDrive apps, responded with the following when asked about syncing shared folders:

“Right now the SkyDrive experience on the desktop is for your stuff and not shared stuff. It’s a great feature request though, thanks.”

“Shared content and the ability to sync a subset of folders are definitely top requests – thanks!”

Support for additional file types

Whilst SkyDrive’s Office Web Apps supports editing and collaborating on Microsoft Office documents and ODF files (and recently adding PDF viewing support), as well as a great photo viewing experience, the service’s support for other files types isn’t as feature-rich. One of the biggest selling points for Google Drive is its support for a wide range of file types via its web viewer, including previews for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and AutoCAD files, the ability to play videos directly online, as well as being able to search text within images. We think this is an area SkyDrive could definitely improve on, particularly with support for video and audio files. In fact, Paul Thurrott on Winsupersite.com recently hinted the following:

There are still a few missing pieces to the SkyDrive puzzle, but I suspect they will be implemented by the time Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 ship this fall. Key among them is native support for different file types. With the arrival of the SkyDrive app, we can now very easily sync music files with the cloud, in addition to Office documents and photos. But the service doesn’t understand these types of files yet. And if you try and customize a SkyDrive-based folder for a content type, you’ll see that Documents and Photos are still the only types available. That’s going to change.

So here’s our top 3 feature requests to Microsoft. What are some of the features you’d like to see in the upcoming versions of SkyDrive, both for the desktop apps and SkyDrive.com? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted April 28th, 2012 at 3:55 am
Category: Opinion
Tags: SkyDrive, Wave 5, Windows Live
  • jkth

    “ What are some of the features you’d like to see in the upcoming versions of SkyDrive, both for the desktop apps and SkyDrive.com? Let us know in the comments below!”
    My thoughts on the matter are here:
    http://jamiekt.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/newskydriveapp/ I came to many of the same conclusions as yourself.

  • jkth

    “ What are some of the features you’d like to see in the upcoming versions of SkyDrive, both for the desktop apps and SkyDrive.com? Let us know in the comments below!”
    My thoughts on the matter are here:
    http://jamiekt.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/newskydriveapp/ I came to many of the same conclusions as yourself.

  • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

    Choosing which folders to sync is a must. It’s not a problem for me at all with my main desktop PC that all my SkyDrive syncs, but if/when I get a Windows 8 tablet later this year it’ll be a problem. Another feature that would be nice is changing the location of the SkyDrive folder after installation. And a final feature would be even more available, paid-for storage space. The current maximum is 107GB for new users, and 125GB for old users (I think), and there should be an option to at least 1TB (GDrive offers up to 16TB!!!). 

    I personally don’t mind the one folder in the SkyDrive desktop app (which is different to WL Mesh) – previously, when I changed my main drive to the D drive on my desktop PC, I had to re-set up Mesh to sync the folder, which caused problems on my laptop because of duplicate files. There shouldn’t be this problem with SkyDrive, because (after I refreshed my Win 8 PC as a test) it recognises there is a SkyDrive folder already there and just updates the existing files.

    I think SkyDrive is moving in the right direction, but a few things do need to be changed/improved.

    • Joyette Scantlebury

      Actually. it wouldn’t be a problem with a Windows 8 tablet because it has the Metro Skydrive app, which works like the mobile apps. It is more of a view of the website and not a full on sync with skydrive.

      • http://doctorwhofan98.wordpress.com/ doctorwhofan98

        Good point - I’d forgotten about that! It would still be nice to choose which folders to sync though on ultrabooks etc. that have small SSDs.

    • SchranzHanz

      +1 folder folder selection, absolutely!

      Although… I don’t know how it works for Win8, since it’s supposed to sync your app settings too, and they are not located in your main Skydrive folder, right?

  • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

    Choosing which folders to sync is a must. It’s not a problem for me at all with my main desktop PC that all my SkyDrive syncs, but if/when I get a Windows 8 tablet later this year it’ll be a problem. Another feature that would be nice is changing the location of the SkyDrive folder after installation. And a final feature would be even more available, paid-for storage space. The current maximum is 107GB for new users, and 125GB for old users (I think), and there should be an option to at least 1TB (GDrive offers up to 16TB!!!). 

    I personally don’t mind the one folder in the SkyDrive desktop app (which is different to WL Mesh) – previously, when I changed my documents drive to the D drive on my desktop PC, I had to re-set up Mesh to sync the folder, which caused problems on my laptop because of duplicate files. There shouldn’t be this problem with SkyDrive, because (after I refreshed my Win 8 PC as a test) it recognises there is a SkyDrive folder already there and just updates the existing files.

    I think SkyDrive is moving in the right direction, but a few things do need to be changed/improved.

    • Joyette Scantlebury

      Actually. it wouldn’t be a problem with a Windows 8 tablet because it has the Metro Skydrive app, which works like the mobile apps. It is more of a view of the website and not a full on sync with skydrive.

      • http://alexsimkin.tumblr.com/ Alex Simkin

        Good point - I’d forgotten about that! It would still be nice to choose which folders to sync though on ultrabooks etc. that have small SSDs.

    • SchranzHanz

      +1 folder folder selection, absolutely!

      Although… I don’t know how it works for Win8, since it’s supposed to sync your app settings too, and they are not located in your main Skydrive folder, right?

  • http://simenm.tumblr.com/ Simen Mangseth

    In my opinion:
    1. Ability to choose if it’s a Picture map or Document map in Explorer (and an easier way on SkyDrive.com).
    2. Much faster syncing

    • http://twitter.com/thenonhacker thenonhacker

       Windows 8 Photos integrates with SkyDrive and Flickr seamlessly — when you login Windows 8 using your Windows Live Account.

      But yeah, it would be great if Windows 7 users would have this nice feature, too!

  • Simen Mangseth

    In my opinion:
    1. Ability to choose if it’s a Picture map or Document map in Explorer (and an easier way on SkyDrive.com).
    2. Much faster syncing

    • thenonhacker

       Windows 8 Photos integrates with SkyDrive and Flickr seamlessly — when you login Windows 8 using your Windows Live Account.

      But yeah, it would be great if Windows 7 users would have this nice feature, too!

  • Tuxplorer

    1. Ability to “Get a link” of any file stored on SkyDrive from Windows context menu.
    2. Allow shortened links by default — not just for posting on Twitter, but for all links achieved via “Get a link”.

    • 0110110101100100

      Agree, plus versioning for all file types and recovering/undeleting.

      And what about delta-sync? Does the windows client support that? And does their API for developers?

      • Damaster – LiveSide.net

        DeltaSync is for synchronizing emails, contacts, calendar…etc. used by Hotmail. This has nothing to do with SkyDrive and file synchronisation.

        In terms of API support, SkyDrive provides various APIs and SDKs for developers. Check out http://dev.live.com for details. 

  • Tuxplorer

    1. Ability to “Get a link” of any file stored on SkyDrive from Windows context menu.
    2. Allow shortened links by default — not just for posting on Twitter, but for all links achieved via “Get a link”.

    • 0110110101100100

      Agree, plus versioning for all file types and recovering/undeleting.

      And what about delta-sync? Does the windows client support that? And does their API for developers?

      • damaster

        DeltaSync is for synchronizing emails, contacts, calendar…etc. used by Hotmail. This has nothing to do with SkyDrive and file synchronisation.

        In terms of API support, SkyDrive provides various APIs and SDKs for developers. Check out http://dev.live.com for details. 

      • damaster

        DeltaSync is for synchronizing emails, contacts, calendar…etc. used by Hotmail. This has nothing to do with SkyDrive and file synchronisation.

        In terms of API support, SkyDrive provides various APIs and SDKs for developers. Check out http://dev.live.com for details. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OM767R2C375QOAZBKR5TTZN4XU Thiago

    1. Faster and more transparent syncing (no. of files, speed etc.)
    2. Android app. The Dropbox app is such a pleasure to use! The SkyDrive one would certainly stick to those giant tiles and all, but something as smooth and functional as DB would be brilliant
    3. Versioning, undelete and changed/uploaded/deleted files log for everything
    4. In short, improve on the Dropbox mimicry

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OM767R2C375QOAZBKR5TTZN4XU Thiago

    1. Faster and more transparent syncing (no. of files, speed etc.)
    2. Android app. The Dropbox app is such a pleasure to use! The SkyDrive one would certainly stick to those giant tiles and all, but something as smooth and functional as DB would be brilliant
    3. Versioning, undelete and changed/uploaded/deleted files log for everything
    4. In short, improve on the Dropbox mimicry

  • Harsh Shah

    I love the new features and but there few things which are highly required as per my experience with other services.

    1. Expand search to any and every type of file stored on SkyDrive.  (I can’t search files on skydrive web.. it’s really not fully functional.
    2. Folder Tree View is highly required to browse through various nested folders. Same as Windows Explorer.
    3. Marking files or folder as Favorites and list them separately would be very helpful. Same should be available on Mobile View so that we can access it quickly when needed.
    4. PDF viewing is highly required.. Should not be dependent on any plugins.
    5. It would be really good , if skydrive can search inside the documents as well.. so that it provides a complete search experience.

  • Harsh Shah

    I love the new features and but there few things which are highly required as per my experience with other services.

    1. Expand search to any and every type of file stored on SkyDrive.  (I can’t search files on skydrive web.. it’s really not fully functional.
    2. Folder Tree View is highly required to browse through various nested folders. Same as Windows Explorer.
    3. Marking files or folder as Favorites and list them separately would be very helpful. Same should be available on Mobile View so that we can access it quickly when needed.
    4. PDF viewing is highly required.. Should not be dependent on any plugins.
    5. It would be really good , if skydrive can search inside the documents as well.. so that it provides a complete search experience.

  • DukeN

    Here is a feature: Better collaboration!

    If I open a Word file in my SkyDrive folder Word looses the ability to track that somebody else is also opening this document and editing it! However if I open it directly from skydrive (or in bunisses from SkyDrive) word shows me in the lower left corner somebody else is working on it!

  • DukeN

    Here is a feature: Better collaboration!

    If I open a Word file in my SkyDrive folder Word looses the ability to track that somebody else is also opening this document and editing it! However if I open it directly from skydrive (or in bunisses from SkyDrive) word shows me in the lower left corner somebody else is working on it!

  • http://drag0nr3b0rn.tumblr.com/ Drag0nR3b0rn

    One “power user” feature Dropbox already has – and I miss from SkyDrive – is supporting symbolic links to folders. Dropbox syncs the folder pointed by the link – thus allowing to sync folders outside the Dropbox folder quite easily for those of us who need this functionality – while avoiding cluttering the UI for those who don’t care for syncing other folders. SkyDrive currently syncs the link itself, which isn’t useful at all =S

    Additionally some OCR/image recognition/third party apps functions ala Google Drive – could be really cool, but those are just cool bonuses.

  • http://drag0nr3b0rn.tumblr.com/ Drag0nR3b0rn

    One “power user” feature Dropbox already has – and I miss from SkyDrive – is supporting symbolic links to folders. Dropbox syncs the folder pointed by the link – thus allowing to sync folders outside the Dropbox folder quite easily for those of us who need this functionality – while avoiding cluttering the UI for those who don’t care for syncing other folders. SkyDrive currently syncs the link itself, which isn’t useful at all =S

    Additionally some OCR/image recognition/third party apps functions ala Google Drive – could be really cool, but those are just cool bonuses.

  • Guest

    Wouldn’t it be a bad idea to automatically sync files that are shared with you?  For example, someone could upload a malicious file which would be put on your computer and then cause all sorts of problems when opened.  Is there anything stopping people (or bots) uploading malicious files en masse and sharing them with hotmail/live addresses that have been found online?

  • Guest

    Wouldn’t it be a bad idea to automatically sync files that are shared with you?  For example, someone could upload a malicious file which would be put on your computer and then cause all sorts of problems when opened.  Is there anything stopping people (or bots) uploading malicious files en masse and sharing them with hotmail/live addresses that have been found online?

  • Nitin Singhal

    Thumbs up liveside.net. Infact, you have hit the bulls eye. These are the features which definitely should be there.

  • Nitin Singhal

    Thumbs up liveside.net. Infact, you have hit the bulls eye. These are the features which definitely should be there.

  • uberlaff

    I kind of hope that MS can turn SkyDrive into a Xbox Live type services for 3rd party developers. They build synchronous collaboration & communication tech into SkyDrive and give 3rd parties access to these APIs. 

    They need to beat Google Docs and the killer feature of Docs is the collaboration. If they can create the same thing, and act as an enabler for other companies, they could have a hit on their hands.

  • uberlaff

    I kind of hope that MS can turn SkyDrive into a Xbox Live type services for 3rd party developers. They build synchronous collaboration & communication tech into SkyDrive and give 3rd parties access to these APIs. 

    They need to beat Google Docs and the killer feature of Docs is the collaboration. If they can create the same thing, and act as an enabler for other companies, they could have a hit on their hands.

  • SchranzHanz

    And another thing: Mesh also allowed syncing of (theoretically) unlimited data bypassing SkyDrive when at least two of the machines were turned on, which is also quite useful in some scenarios! Plus, you could quickly switch between them by adding/removing “SkyDrive synced storage” from the devices list. I suppose this great feature is also extinct in the new SkyDrive app…

  • SchranzHanz

    And another thing: Mesh also allowed syncing of (theoretically) unlimited data bypassing SkyDrive when at least two of the machines were turned on, which is also quite useful in some scenarios! Plus, you could quickly switch between them by adding/removing “SkyDrive synced storage” from the devices list. I suppose this great feature is also extinct in the new SkyDrive app…

  • Tommy

    The cloud service race is heating up with the latest Google Drive and the overhauled Microsoft SkyDrive. The other players in the market have to come up with some unique features to survive in the competitive market. Consumers are offered number of
    similar solutions and are confused to choose the right one that fits in their needs. I would probably stick with SkyDrive for all my personal use and SyncBlaze for official purposes. 

  • Tommy

    The cloud service race is heating up with the latest Google Drive and the overhauled Microsoft SkyDrive. The other players in the market have to come up with some unique features to survive in the competitive market. Consumers are offered number of
    similar solutions and are confused to choose the right one that fits in their needs. I would probably stick with SkyDrive for all my personal use and SyncBlaze for official purposes. 

  • Luis Felipe

    Some interesting points: 1) http://explore.live.com no more exists, it redirects to a internal Windows site; 2) htpp://essentials.live.com no more exists, also points to an internal Windows site; 3)Skydrive app isn’t included in Essentials suite; 4) “Inside Windows Live” blog has been renamed to “Inside Skydrive, Hotmail and Messenger”. All these points let’s us believe the “Windows Live” brand is “dead” from Microsoft plans…

  • http://www.facebook.com/luisotoni Luis Felipe

    Some interesting points: 1) http://explore.live.com no more exists, it redirects to a internal Windows site; 2) htpp://essentials.live.com no more exists, also points to an internal Windows site; 3)Skydrive app isn’t included in Essentials suite; 4) “Inside Windows Live” blog has been renamed to “Inside Skydrive, Hotmail and Messenger”. All these points let’s us believe the “Windows Live” brand is “dead” from Microsoft plans…

  • Frylock86

    Every single service except Microsoft’s supports XP and Android so they are maybe reaching limited customers because of that

  • Anonymous

    Every single service except Microsoft’s supports XP and Android so they are maybe reaching limited customers because of that

  • Jan Hannemann

    I you wanna sync any folder to SkyDrive then check out my shell extension http://janhannemann.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/sync-any-folder-to-skydrive/

  • http://twitter.com/bitdisaster Jan Hannemann

    I you wanna sync any folder to SkyDrive then check out my shell extension http://janhannemann.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/sync-any-folder-to-skydrive/

  • Ben Renegar

    1. Ability to specify proxy settings (like Dropbox and Google Drive) so
    it works within corporate networks would be a good start.

    2. LAN sync (same as Dropbox) so my bandwidth isn’t wasted downloading
    files from the cloud when the file already exists locally on my network.

    3. SkyDrive client app maxes out the CPU for considerable amounts of
    time “Processing Changes” (I have around 30GB of files in there). This
    doesn’t happen with Dropbox or SkyDrive

    4. It takes upwards of 15 minutes even for a tiny 1kb text file to be
    synced to all my other computers, i.e. SkyDrive doesn’t seem to be able
    to recognise changes to the filesystem as quickly as Dropbox.

  • Ben Renegar

    1. Ability to specify proxy settings (like Dropbox and Google Drive) so
    it works within corporate networks would be a good start.

    2. LAN sync (same as Dropbox) so my bandwidth isn’t wasted downloading
    files from the cloud when the file already exists locally on my network.

    3. SkyDrive client app maxes out the CPU for considerable amounts of
    time “Processing Changes” (I have around 30GB of files in there). This
    doesn’t happen with Dropbox or SkyDrive

    4. It takes upwards of 15 minutes even for a tiny 1kb text file to be
    synced to all my other computers, i.e. SkyDrive doesn’t seem to be able
    to recognise changes to the filesystem as quickly as Dropbox.

  • Trav

    What happens if my harddrive gets corrupted – by not being able to limit which files are synced I put all my skydrive files at risk.

  • Trav

    What happens if my harddrive gets corrupted – by not being able to limit which files are synced I put all my skydrive files at risk.

  • Trav135

    Google Drive is exactly what I want the Skydrive app to be – ie select directorys I want synced – then organise them as i want on the cloud drive or my own hard drive – its quick as well. Please listen MS I don’t want to abandon skydrive.

  • Trav135

    Google Drive is exactly what I want the Skydrive app to be – ie select directorys I want synced – then organise them as i want on the cloud drive or my own hard drive – its quick as well. Please listen MS I don’t want to abandon skydrive.