Tag Archives: Cloud Storage

Microsoft Announces Updates to SkyDrive Cloud Storage Site

Introduction:
Microsoft recently announced a series of enhancements to SkyDrive, their web-based cloud file storage service.   This is another step in the right direction for Microsoft as they try to gain market share in the cloud-based file storage and web applications arena. Some of the recent improvements announced include:

Better sharing capabilities:
This is one area that was always a little clunky for SkyDrive.  Before, you were forced to place the files you wish to share within a folder that was “shared” and open for public viewing.   In addition, it was difficult for users to share files with other people who were outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

With the new improvements, both of these issues are addressed by allowing files to be shared individually from any folder (instead of only from a “shared” folder) and with other users through several different methods (email, links, and social networks).  As stated on their blog, Microsoft is hoping to create a more “app-centric” experience.

More User Friendly File Management
File management in SkyDrive has not been their strong point.  In comparison to other cloud-based services like Google DocsBox, and Zoho, the SkyDrive user interface has been underwhelming.    These most recent updates hope to address some of those issues.

Some of the added file management functionality include:

  • The ability to change file and folder names inline
  • Move, delete and download multiple files
  • Move and Copy folders and files more easily
  • The addition of right-click functionality for photos and documents
  • Faster creation of Office Web Apps files.

Enhanced User Experience
In addition to the improvements to sharing and file management, Microsoft also made some additional changes to increase the overall speed and user experience for SkyDrive.  Some of the other improvements include:

  • Better browser support for FireFox, Chrome, and Safari
  • Ability to read other file types (PDF, RAW, etc.)
  • Enhanced photo editing

In Conclusion
All of these improvements I think show that Microsoft recognizes that the future is in the cloud.  Even with these improvements, I still think they have a way to go to catch up with other services like Box and Google.

The good news for them is that cloud-based file storage is still in its infancy and they stand to grab a huge market share of enterprise users who currently use products like SharePoint and Office.  As businesses slowly move to the cloud, Microsoft will be in a position to gather a large portion of those customers that wish to keep continuity in their products.

We’ll be watching to see where SkyDrive end up in the cloud computing race.

-TW

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Box Changing Domain Name to Box.com

Box, the file content management and file storage service, recently announced on their blog that they will be changing its domain extension from ‘.net’ to ‘.com’.  They stated that the reason for the change was to that the company “..needed a trusted and updated, enterprise-worthy domain”.This appears to be another step in the evolution of Box from a small start-up to a major player in the cloud computing and file content management industry.  In my opinion, Box has done an excellent job distinguishing themselves from others in the marketplace by offering a great brand and a great product.   There are several cloud-based file services on the market, including services like DropBox and SugarSync, but Box has been able to distinguish themselves as a niche product that offers more than just file storage and syncing files across multiple devices.

When I first heard about the change, I was a little bit concerned that the links that I have shared using the ‘.net’ address would not work.  After testing several of my linked files it doesn’t appear that there are any problems.   Based on some of the comments from the blog post, it sounds like some users IT departments may need to change some of their firewall settings so that the new domain does not get blocked.

Comparing 7 Free Cloud Storage and Syncing Services

Overview
There are several options for storing you files on the cloud and syncing them across multiple computers – how do you know which one is best for you?

Below is a summary of seven popular file storage and syncing services. I’ve compared 7 popular storage services against four categories; amount of free storage, ability to sync across multiple computers/devices, ability to sync user defined folders, and if it offers a mobile application through Android or the iPhone.

Services with Most Features
As I have discussed in a previous post, I still believe that SugarSync offers the best value for a cloud-based file storage and syncing service.  They offer several features that I find advantageous over the others, including 5GB of free storage, a mobile application, and a very nice interface for syncing files across multiple device.

I recently starting using Windows Live Mesh and was impressed with Microsoft’s offering.  They offer a full 5 GB of free storage that can be synced across multiple computers.  I found the syncing to be fast and efficient.   Setting up user defined folders was a little bit of hassle, but works well once the set up was complete.

The Market Leaders
I’ve discussed both DropBox and Box.net previously on this site.  Both of these are great options and are market leaders.  DropBox offers slightly less storage with their free version and also does not have the ability to select custom folders, but still is a very popular choice.  Box.net actually integrates a lot of enhanced features, making it more of a Content Management System.  They offer a lot of collaboration features which several of the other services do not offer.

The 2GB Storage Group
ZumoDrive
, Syncplicity, and SpiderOak round out the other services that I reviewed.  Each of these are very similar in functionality, offer 2GB of free storage, and have the ability to sync across multiple computers.  If you are looking for a free service, I like SugarSync over these because of the larger amount of free storage.

Summary
With dozens and dozens of file storage systems on the market today, it can be very difficult to find the service that meets your needs.   If you are looking for a decent amount of storage, with the ability to sync across multiple devices I would recommend trying out some of the services I have discussed here.

Google Docs now Integrated within Box.net

One of my favorite cloud file storage systems, Box.net, recently added the ability to edit files through Google Docs.  This is a great feature that sets Box.net apart from several of its competitors.   Of the online file systems that I have uses (Dropbox, SugarSync, ZumoDrive, Box.net), Box.net offers the best overall features for editing files.   In addition to having the ability to use Google Docs for editing, Box.net also offers the option to edit files using Zoho Office.  The editing capabilities were fast and efficient when I used Google Docs.

I really like how Box.net continues to expand its platform and continues to make it more user friendly.    Google Docs is part of the Box Apps ecosystem, which is continuing to expand its offerings.  In addition to Google Docs and Zoho, they offer apps that integrate with several popular cloud and social services, such as LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, and eFax.

Overall I continue to be impressed with Box.net’s expanding functionality.   I would recommend that people try out Box.net if they have not already.   The user experience is nice and the apps ecosystem is a nice feature that most other online file storage systems do not offer.

For a better understanding of how it works, check out the video below from Box.net’s YouTube page.

Cloud Storage – 3 Free Options for Web-Based File Hosting

Conducting a quick Google search on “Cloud-based file hosting” provides several results.   For anyone that has been watching the world of computing shift to the “cloud”, one obvious question is which hosting service is best and what do they offer?   I’ve recently compiled some notes on 3 popular cloud-based hosting services, DropBox, Box.net, and SugarSync.

Dropbox
Dropbox is one of the more popular web file hosting services out there today.  It is a really nice product that has some great features.   The first 2GB of storage are free, which is pretty standard for web-based file hosting services.  Dropbox requires that you download a program that is installed on each computer that you plan on using.   Once installed, it is quite easy to use – just place your files and folders in your “Dropbox” folder on your local computer and it is automatically synced to your web account as well as synced across all of your computers.

This is a great system that is easy to use and has a large user base.   My only gripe about it is that you cannot define your own local folders to sync using the free version (at the time of this writing.)   It may have this functionality with the paid version, which I did not try out.

Pros:  Ease of use, Syncing of Files across web and multiple computers, Supports several platforms
Cons:  Only 2 GB of free storage, Inability to specify custom folders on local drive for syncing in free version

Box.net
Like Dropbox, Box.net is also very popular and has garnered much press for its features and interface.  A very nice feature of Box.net is the 5GB of storage available with the free version.   One major downfall of the free version of Box.net is the lack of support for syncing across multiple computers – this is only available with the “Pro” paid version.

Some other nice features included with Box.net include the ability to share and link files on the web to anyone, as well as the ability to edit spreadsheet and word processing files using their embedded web-based software.  Currently they partner with Zoho to allow the editing of spreadsheets and word processing.  Box.net has a very nice interface and the ability to shares and edit files across an organization.  I mainly use my box.net to post files that I wish to shares with others.

Pros:  Ability to edit files using Zoho, File sharing capabilities, 5GB free storage, no download required to use
Cons:  File syncing across computers and the web only allowed in “Pro” version

SugarSync
SugarSync has been my cloud storage platform of choice.  I currently use it back up all of my person data.   It currently includes 5GB of free storage.   It does require a download to all computers that you wish to be synced, but after setting it up, it has worked perfectly.   Whenever I update a file on one computer, it is automatically updated online and on all other synced computers.

Unlike Box.net, it does not have the ability to edit files easily across the web.  They do have something call “websync” that allows a user to download from the web, edit it offline, and then sync back up to the web.  It is a little clunky though.  My thought is that if you are desire to store and edit online, use a web-based office application like Google Docs or Zoho Office. They also have this funny thing called “The Magic Briefcase” – its basically just a stock folder that is created on your local computer where you can sync files easily without having to set up custom folders.

If you are looking for a no frills cloud storage platform that works well and is easy to set up, I would recommend SugarSync.

Pros: Ability to sync user specified files across multiple computers, 5GB of free storage
Cons:  Does not have web-based editing tools, smaller user base than Box.net or Dropbox

In conclusion
This post just scratches the surface of cloud storage.  There are several types and levels of storage available depending upon one’s needs and budget.   The 3 platforms discussed here represent ones that I have had success with.