SkyDrive takes on the online-storage arena

Michael lasky By Michael Lasky

Office 2010 marked Microsoft’s aggressive entrance into the cloud-computing arena, and Sky Drive is a key component of the company’s move to online services.

Part of the new Windows Live service, SkyDrive offers generous — and free — online data storage and simple collaboration. But there are other cloud-based services that provide more features and better options.

With the price of external hard drives in free fall (based on cost-per-megabyte), storing data online could seem inconvenient at best and a threat to your data security at worst. But online-storage sites, both paid and free, offer two advantages attached external hard drives can’t match: safe and secure offsite backups and anytime-anywhere file sharing. Images and documents stored online are accessible 24/7 to anyone with the right password … anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

Online storage is, in fact, more secure than the external hard drives sitting next to your PC. Unless you religiously lock these drives away, thieves and disgruntled employees could walk off with your entire customer list or business account files. Online storage sites typically use industry-standard backup systems for their storage and employ multiple levels of security including password protection, data encryption on their servers, and Secure Socket Layer encryption between your PC and the cloud.

Most online-storage services offer automated backups, which run unobtrusively in the background and have little or no effect on PC performance. The better services now connect to mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, and Android devices — an excellent way to quickly back up and share photos and other mobile documents.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-06-24:

Michael Lasky

About Michael Lasky

WS contributing editor Michael Lasky is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California, who has 20 years of computer-magazine experience, most recently as senior editor at PC World.