Microsoft Launches OneDrive to Rule Them All (and to replace SkyDrive)

As people across the world slept on Wednesday night, Microsoft subtly shifted the branding associated with SkyDrive, the company's Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive competitor. The now rebranded OneDrive, offers a basic storage capability across devices. The initial allocation is an interesting 7GB. To get you started, mobile users who choose to backup their photos to OneDrive will be rewarded with an additional 3GB, bringing the storage capacity for new users to 10GB. Like Dropbox before it, OneDrive now encourages its adherents to send out referrals. Each referral that takes up the offer returns 500MB in incremental storage, maxing at 5GB of extra free storage.

Those who received bonus storage as users of previous Microsoft online storage solutions at SkyDrive's launch, or Office 365 subscribers, will retain the additional storage they already have. You can take advantage of the referral program; but many existing users already have over 50GB of storage, so getting 500MB here or there may not be worth the effort. Microsoft is after growing their market share for online file storage. They have done a pretty good job of rewarding loyalty already.

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If you’re feeling lucky, you can enter Microsoft’s contest to give away 100GB of storage to 100,000 people for a year. Visit a Microsoft store during the promotion period and provide proof of OneDrive use and some personal details. Complete rules can be found here.

Although OneDrive can be used much like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive as a storage location for just about anything, Microsoft Office 2013/365 users end up with a much more integrated experience. OneDrive becomes a key default location for those not using Microsoft’s SharePoint enterprise platform. At this time Windows Office apps have not been updated with the new branding, but they work seamlessly with OneDrive. Branding, however, has been updated in Windows, where the SkyDrive icon in Windows Explorer has been replaced by a OneDrive icon.

In addition to core service updates, Microsoft also released an updated iOS version of OneDrive (Free) with slight modifications to the user experience. A new Android app joins the options offering file access and photo/video backup to that community. OneDrive, of course, also connects to other Microsoft technologies like Windows Phone and Xbox, and it support Macintoshes as well. OneDrive also supports sharing of files, even for non-OneDrive users.

For those looking at a more robust enterprise solution, the Microsoft press materials hinted at OneDrive for business, which will probably cost a bit more, but come with higher capacities, more features, and a more robust service level agreement.

People who don’t want to wait for their storage to grow organically from referrals can subscribe to additional storage. 50GB will run $25 a year; for $50 subscribers receive 100GB, and for $100, 200GB. Given all of the various plans across the online storage market, this pricing appears reasonable. Google, for instance, starts people out with 15GB, and an annual upgrade to 100GB costs $4.99 a month, or roughly, the same $50 as Microsoft’s offer. Google, however, will go up to 16TB today ($799), well beyond OneDrive’s current offers.

Free is good. Collect all of the online storage you can. One can never know when a service will be acquired, change its strategy or just go belly up. As you collect the storage though, make a plan for what goes where. Online storage can get unruly pretty quickly unless you think about it as designated volumes. Design you storage experience. Don't just let it happen. Of course, with a name like OneDrive, Microsoft wants to be the one place you store everything. Until 32GB or more becomes the standard free level, it’s unlikely people are going to stick with just one free offering.

Online storage has become competitively priced with physical storage. The next time you think about plunking down $20 for a USB stick, ask yourself if that money wouldn’t be better spent buying additional online storage. Of course, with the memory stick, you pay once—but if you are like me, you pay again and again as you either loose, loan, or repurpose the USB drive. With so many options for free online storage, you can purposefully place things in their own corner of the Internet and keep them secure until the next time you need them—and when you do need something from the almighty Cloud, you won’t have to rummage around a drawer or mount a dozen drives until you find what you are looking for.

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Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. Rasmus is the author of Listening to the Future and Management by Design. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding. He is also the Chief Knowledge Officer with the Virtual World Society.