The Schwartz
Cloud Report

Blog archive

Google and Microsoft Stir Cloud Storage Free-for-All

The personal cloud storage landscape this week grew with Google throwing its hat in the ring -- but not without the competition attempting to rain on its parade.

Google Drive arrived Tuesday, making it the latest personal cloud storage offering to join the likes of Apple's iCloud, Box, Dropbox and Microsoft SkyDrive. Google Drive includes 5 GB of free storage with the option of paying for more. Among several alternatives, Google Drive subscribers can pay $4.99 per month for 100 GB of storage or $49.99 per month for 1 TB.

Users can download the Google Drive app on their PCs, Macs or Android- or iOS-based devices and use it to store and synchronize files, images and videos. Google Drive uses Google Docs to access files and, naturally, it allows users to search their documents and content.

But in anticipation of the Google Drive launch, Box, Dropbox and Microsoft this week jockeyed for position by announcing new capabilities in their respective offerings. Box announced an updated API designed to make it easier for developers to integrate their apps with its service. Dropbox added a feature to its namesake service that lets users share access to files (documents, spreadsheets, folders, etc.) by providing links to designated recipients. And most prominently, Microsoft, seemingly anticipating the arrival of Google Drive, launched a major new release of its own SkyDrive offering.

I primarily use Dropbox to store documents but put files in there sparingly because the free version I signed up for has a limit of 2 GB. When Microsoft started offering 25 GB for its free SkyDrive service, I couldn't resist setting up an account.

Though I didn't find SkyDrive as easy to use as Dropbox, I did backup all of my personal photos on my SkyDrive account. I assumed SkyDrive would eventually become easier to use but always wondered if the 25 GB capacity limit would be yanked away. Sure enough, this week both of my assumptions came to pass.

Microsoft improved SkyDrive by adding a new downloadable app for Windows that works much like the Dropbox client. Now SkyDrive appears as another drive on Windows, allowing users to drag and drop files from their PCs to SkyDrive and vice versa. Microsoft added some other niceties such as the ability to synchronize and upload large files and folders up to 2 GB.

But as I had feared, Microsoft cut the 25 GB limit. The new maximum is 7 GB. While that's a major cut, it's still more generous than the 2 GB Dropbox offers and just enough to one-up Google Drive (Box offers 5 GB, as well). The good news is for those of us fortunate enough to set up SkyDrive accounts before this week, we get to keep that higher limit as long as we opt to do so. I fail to see why anyone would opt not to but I am presuming Microsoft is betting that many will fail to take that action.

Of course, I am tempering my excitement. While Microsoft hasn't said it may take the 25 GB limit away at some point for those now grandfathered, the company hasn't given any assurances it's permanent either, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

But in a blog post announcing the changes to SkyDrive, Microsoft said 99.94 percent of its SkyDrive customers used less than 7 GB of the capacity. I must admit I was among those in that range but it was nice knowing the added capacity was available.

While many individuals are likely to set up free accounts from multiple providers, all of them want to be your cloud storage provider of choice. And they want your organization to coalesce around a cloud storage provider where collaboration will take place and ultimately customers will start paying to store all of their content.

This is not just about a battle for cloud storage. As Google and Microsoft take each other on with their respective Office 365 and Google Apps cloud productivity offerings, the cloud storage services will lay a foundational layer for how a growing number of groups collaborate.

Many larger organizations use Microsoft SharePoint. But Google wants to stop Microsoft from further taking over the market for collaboration, said Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz in a blog post. "The top deployed workloads for SharePoint are collaboration and content management," Koplowitz noted. "Expect Google Drive to go right after that."

And expect Box (which has gained a strong foothold into numerous large enterprises), Dropbox and a number of other cloud storage providers to go after that, as well.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on April 25, 2012