Best cloud storage 2013: which one is the best?

Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and Box.Net:the four biggest names in cloud storage, do they work out for SMB use?

Price: 7GB Free, 27GB 6 per year per user, 57GB 16 per year per user, 100GB 32 per year per user

Internet: http://skydrive.live.com

While Microsoft's cloud-based business products focus on Office 365 and SharePoint, the integration of SkyDrive with Office 2010, Office 2013 and Windows 8 can be a real boon for smaller companies. 7GB is available free as part of a Windows Live account, and this can easily be upgraded by 20, 50 or 100GB at a surprisingly low annual price.

SkyDrive has been revamped to mirror the new interface of Windows 8, but it still works perfectly well on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. In the past, it was just a browser-based service with no sync facilities whatsoever these were tied into LiveMesh. Now, however, a SkyDrive desktop app gives you a specific SkyDrive folder which works in much the same way as Dropbox's dropbox.

Even used in isolation, SkyDrive is an impressive service. Office files stored on SkyDrive can be viewed and even edited from within the browser, with the appropriate Office Web Apps loading to let you make simple edits. You can save files straight back out to SkyDrive, andthere's no need to mess around with importing and exporting files as you have to do with Google Drive.

Features for sharing media are just as exemplary, with built-in photo, video and audio playback facilities. Images can be viewed as slideshows, Versioning is supported, and the Version History feature means you can browse through earlier versions if you need to return a file to an earlier form. Files and folders can be shared with other users by right-clicking on them, selecting Share and emailing a link. Alternatively, you can post the link to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or even generate code to embed the file on a web page. It's all very convenient, though perhaps too convenient if you're concerned about security.

The real benefit of using SkyDrive is that it's now so heavily tied into both Windows 8 and Office. Windows 8 has its own SkyDrive app as standard, while Office 2013 makes a user's SkyDrive account the default place for saving new documents. In Office 2010, saving to SkyDrive was always a bit of a faff, but in Office 2013 it's actually easier than saving a file to local storage. Provided you're happy with SkyDrive's security, there's no reason not to do it, keeping your Office documents synced across multiple PCs and backed up in the cloud.

SkyDrive uses SSL to encrypt files during transport, but files are unencrypted once at rest on Microsoft's servers. Given that Microsoft's servers are themselves heavily secured this might not be a concern, but it leaves SkyDrive behind Box.net in this respect. SkyDrive was very slow to upload files, taking over three hours with our test folders, but download speeds were more acceptable, at 35 minutes, while changed files synced from PC to PC in less than eighty seconds.

If your business plans to move to Windows 8 and Office 2013 then using SkyDrive is an absolute no-brainer. Even if it doesn't, then the strong feature set, simple interface and affordable pricing make it a strong contender particularly when many users won't need more than the free 7GB allowance. Box.net has it beaten for management and advanced features, while Dropbox has it licked for sheer simplicity, but if you're looking for the best balance between price, capacity, features and ease-of-use, then SkyDrive comes out on top.

Features: 5Ease of Use: 5  Value for Money: 6 Overall: 5

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