Microsoft's involvement with online backup and synchronisation has always seemed rather half-hearted. Although we appreciated the 5GB storage provided by previous versions of SkyDrive, its limited features and lack of upgradability meant it was never a serious contender against rivals such as SugarSync and Livedrive. Although the old Live Mesh and SkyDrive service is still online, Microsoft has re-launched the latter with more space, many more features and the option of buying extra capacity.
The most immediate improvement is that SkyDrive’s online storage has gone from being a dumb file list to a Google Drive-style affair which lets you create, share and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files online. The tools you're given feel like a cut-down version of Office 2010, although some key features are conspicuous by their absence: the Excel WebApp lacks the ability to sort data, for example.
SkyDrive now feels similar to Google Docs, or Google Drive as it's now known
You can also view and edit Office documents that you upload, but we had to wait a couple of minutes for the WebApp to open some of our more complicated and graph-heavy Excel documents. All of their elements appeared exactly as we'd created them, which isn't always the case when working with Google Drive. It's worth noting that some common document formats, including RTF, are not supported for viewing or editing. Files in these formats are simply downloaded to your PC if you click on them.
Like SugarSync, SkyDrive creates a special folder that synchronises anything you save or copy in to it with your SkyDrive online storage. This content is also synchronised with any other PC on which you've installed SkyDrive.
SkyDrive also gives you a photo gallery that you can use to share your favourite snaps with friends and family. There's no audio player, but the service has a great range of features and is supported by mobile apps for iOS and Windows Phone. Android users can access content stored on SkyDrive using OneNote.
Although its features are cutting-edge, SkyDrive’s looks could be better. Its small icons and cluttered screen make it feel slightly dated, but we like its versatile right-click menu, which makes it easy to download, share and even generate HTML code to embed your content in another web page.
Every user gets 7GB of online storage for free and if you used the previous version of SkyDrive you can currently get a free upgrade to 25GB of storage. If you need more, you can buy it for relatively little cost. An extra 20GB costs £6 a year, 50GB costs £16 per year and 100GB is £32 per year. You can’t pay monthly for packages, but even the 100GB bundle, which adds up to 107GB if you add it to the standard free space you're given, works out at just £1.34 per month. That’s a bargain by any standard.
For a second opinion, check out our sister site Cloud Pro's SkyDrive review