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Cloud Storage Providers: Comparison Of Features And Prices

Microsoft OneDrive Cloud Storage - Pricing And Features

Microsoft rebranded SkyDrive as OneDrive earlier this year, and continues as a service primarily centered around Microsoft Office documents. While any file can be stored and shared in OneDrive, the greatest benefit is gained when saving, viewing and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

The core file storage component has improved because you get a larger amount of storage at a much lower cost, making OneDrive competitive with the pure-play providers. As of the summer of 2014, Microsoft increased the quota for paying Office 365 users to 1TB each for up to five users. The free service increased from 7GB to 15GB.

The ultimate value proposition of OneDrive revolves around tight Microsoft Office file and application integration. While the first product to utilize OneDrive for its cloud back-end was OneNote (a cross-platform note-taking tool), the service provides storage for all Office and non-Office files, with varying levels of integration and viewing capabilities.

You can view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files within a browser or download them for local editing, including directly within Microsoft Office 2013 applications. This is similar to the way SharePoint, running on corporate networks, allows cloud-based open and save, embedded right within Office 2010 and Office 2013.

However, there are some caveats. The first is that in order to provide a seamless experience, usernames have to “sync” between the host computer and the OneDrive service. This is easy on Windows 8 and Office 2013, which have direct OneDrive logins, but less so on earlier platforms, notably Windows 7 and Office 2010, which lack the direct sign-in hooks. In my testing, opening a Word, PowerPoint or Excel document for editing on a local instance of Office 2010 resulted in the system thinking that I was a different user from the OneDrive user I was signed in as.

For those wishing to strictly use Office in a browser, simple file viewing also has its limitations; we could only view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Support for Visio and Project documents is missing, resulting in an awkward “iTunes-like” permissions dialog box asking if the file opened properly or, if not, whether I wanted to purchase the tool.

Microsoft does provide a local computer sync app, just like the other file sharing services do, and it is conceptually very similar to the “Save to SharePoint site” feature in Office (2010+). For many users, this is an attractive means to save and retrieve documents, but from our experience with the earlier SharePoint integration, we found that it was difficult to remove old sites and/or strip the network save out completely. As noted above, Windows 8 and Office 2013 are superior in this regard, as they are directly tied into OneDrive accounts at the core, removing the need to download a separate sync app.

On the Mac OS X side, the Office programs are a generation behind, lacking the integration with OneDrive found on Windows. The only Mac Office application to use the new Office foundation platform is OneNote, which has been integrated with OneDrive (SkyDrive) for some time. Also as of this writing, Microsoft has not officially announced a date for the next version of Office Mac that aligns OneDrive sign-in with Office 2013 and Office 365 sign in.

While Microsoft provides a suite of applications and a large amount of storage, our primary beef with OneDrive is that it is not a differentiated service beyond the Office apps, and getting content into and out of the system is cumbersome compared to the cloud storage alternatives. While Windows 8.x integration is good, this addresses a small portion of the OS market (between 11% and 13% of OS shipments, according to The Next Web May 2014 research).

The greatest value in OneDrive comes from the premium service, including the most current version of Microsoft Office with automated Cloud-based backup. We just wish Microsoft took the next step to include Project and Visio to differentiate itself from the other players.

Microsoft OneDrive Pricing