I have always been a big fan of Microsoft's SkyDrive and the Windows Live Mesh Service that bolts onto it for syncing all of your folders in "the cloud". One of the things I like about SkyDrive is the ability to map it as a network drive on your machine with relatively little trouble at all. If I am out and about I can access my SkyDrive documents from any web browser I can also edit my office documents online using the Web version of Office. Although I must point out that the web versions of office do have a few limitations when it comes to editing documents with shapes and images I have discovered.
If I install the Live Mesh client on my computer I can also access my computer from a web browser anywhere in the world, Live Mesh will also sync my browser favourites and my Office Templates for me and it will do all of the above mentioned for free!
I believe that Microsoft are great at releasing brilliant services although I don't feel they get quite the cult following they deserve as a service that would have been released by Google or Apple. Microsoft's approach always appears to be an "on going thing", when Google, Facebook or Apple launch something new it usually ends up on some major news websites not just the usual technical news services.
One thing Microsoft could make a bit more clear are some tutorials on some of Sky Drives features . By this I am referring to the features I mentioned at the top of this article. I am surprised that few people realise you can map a drive on your machine to SkyDrive and there is no little app that offers to do this or tutorial on the SkyDrive site (that I could find) that brings this into view. While the more tech savvy users don't mind "hacking" about for this information the less technically astute would probably be lost. Mapping a drive makes things so much easier when uploading pictures and files to SkyDrive in bulk it also make working on Office documents a lot easier.
I believe Microsoft should charge for even greater amounts of space on SkyDrive which is something they don't currently do. SkyDrive is currently capped at 25gigs. I as a user of the service feel that for such a great service, how on earth are Microsoft paying for it? What's the catch? It can't be cheap maintaining the software and infrastructure for such a service and I really can't see how advertising can cover the service. I feel that because its a free service Microsoft could pull it when ever they wanted to if they don't feel its adding value. While I doubt they would, I feel that paying for the service enters me into a contract with them and some type of a guarantee?
Microsoft appear to be very good at "changing" and reinventing everything every few years or changing how services work which can be difficult for users who get used to having things working in a set way. If I wanted to use SkyDrive as my primary storage options for "everything" I'd pretty much want some assurances that it will always be there and that I can access it the same way in the future i.e. a virtual drive on any machine I use in future. If you look at the service agreement on Microsoft's website the following from point number 5 regarding "Your content" has the following paragraph in bold.
"You're responsible for backing up the data that you store on the service. If your service is suspended or canceled, we may permanently delete your data from our servers. We have no obligation to return data to you after the service is suspended or canceled. If data is stored with an expiration date, we may also delete the data as of that date. Data that is deleted may be irretrievable."
The above paragraph is just about the only thing that stops me from using SkyDrive in a serious capacity and makes me feel that the service is seen more as a convenient virtual pen drive that you can access from anywhere or share parts of it with friends than an actual long term storage solution or backup. Its aim appears to just make your data available "everywhere" through syncing maybe with Live Mesh (only 5gigs though) with the machines you use, but at the end of the day you still need to invest in a good old fashioned hard backup solution for "your stuff".