Microsoft`s Pie in the Sky Play with SkyDrive

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

 SkyDrive leaves beta and becomes the next free service offered under the Microsoft Windows Live Moniker, but why should you care?

Although it's a little late to the game, Microsoft's free hosted storage service entered the market with a lot of noise. After all, the company is giving 5GB of storage away for free to any Tom, Dick or Sally and consumers are ready to gobble up that storage.

But, is there anything new here? Other service providers have been giving away free hosted storage for some time now, and many more vendors are offering larger capacities and advanced backup add-ons for just a few bucks per month.

The big difference here is that Microsoft really isn't talking about hosted storage per se, but is focusing more on the collaboration aspect of Skydrive. Of course users can save files and data to their own encrypted folders located on a Skydrive, but the bigger picture here is how easy it is to share those files with others by creating shared folders.

What's more, Skydrive users can deliver particular files via a hyperlink, just select the file, input an email address and the recipient gets a link to the file—nothing could be easier.

But, there is a catch here: For you to effectively share files, especially shared folders, your friends and coworkers will have to sign up for their own Windows Live accounts, and once they sign up, they will have access to a plethora of other free services. The real threat here is to Google, ZoHo and others that are looking to build up their customer base by offering free hosted services and applications, Microsoft might very well be able to trump them.

There should also be some concern here for the channel. Skydrive completely cuts VARs out of the picture, at least for now. Customers will deal direct with Microsoft for their Live services (free or otherwise) without having to interact with a Microsoft Partner or VAR. True, this will only impact the smallest of business, but as those businesses grow and need more space or services, the conversation will occur between Microsoft and that customer, not with a Microsoft Partner.

The technology itself seems sound and could prove to be a benefit to most any user that is connected to the Internet, but if Microsoft want's to turn this service into the latest killer application, all they need to do is add a synchronization option and have the hostage storage space appear as a local drive on the desktop. That way, if users are connected, both the local machine and the hosted space are updated—an instant backup, if you will—and using the service becomes that much easier. Issues about whether or not you have a connection are eliminated (think about the sometimes connected traveling notebook user). The technology is all there to make this happen, Microsoft Windows XP and Vista offer an "Offline Files" capability and Web 2.0 technologies make it possible to synchronize directories—Microsoft just has to do some simple integration and then a user's data can live wherever the user needs it at any given time!

Perhaps Google, ZoHo or others will beat Microsoft to the punch here and give the connected world a truly portable, remote drive!

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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