I kind of missed the release yesterday of the new SkyDrive app from Microsoft. I’ve been using Dropbox for so long I haven’t really searching for alternatives, that allow me to sync files to and from the cloud between multiple computers.
So today I had a chance to install the new SkyDrive app on my laptop (using Windows 7), while simultaneously running Dropbox. Which one is better?
SkyDrive vs. Dropbox clients
The SkyDrive client is really barebones and has nothing extra built in. It synchronizes files and that’s it. It sits in system tray and thankfully doesn’t bother you unless something goes wrong.
The settings page is somewhat 1.0’ish, with only a setting to disconnect the current computer from your SkyDrive account, and make files available directly from my PC (as opposed to using the skydrive.com web site).
Compared to Dropbox, I’m missing a few crucial features. The ability to pause syncing would be nice, as I use this anytime I’m working remotely through a mobile broadband. 3G is fast but chokes easily.
The ability to restrict bandwidth usage would be nice also. Dropbox leads the way here:
Dropbox is also capable of showing storage usage:
While Skydrive is pretty clueless when it comes to storage:
It’s not that important but always nice to know if I’m almost hitting the quota or not. There’s a nice view up on the SkyDrive.com site but you’ll have to go there each time to check the status:
I’m paying $9,99/month for Dropbox. For this I get 50 GB of storage, which seems to be more than enough for my needs at the moment. Alternatively I can pay $99/year in advance, which comes to $8,25/month (or about 6,2 euro). The free alternative gives you 2 GB by default.
For SkyDrive I get 25 GB by default, which is more than Dropbox gives me. I can upgrade to 45 GB for $10/year, or 75 GB for $25/year or 125 GB for $50/year. So by paying roughly half of what I’m paying Dropbox, I can get 125 GB storage, which is twice the storage I get from Dropbox.
What about security then? Dropbox states the following on security:
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption
Since Dropbox uses Amazon S3 for storage, apparently Amazon’s own security policies apply here as well. It’s pretty comprehensive. In fact, searching with the keyword “security” from *.dropbox.com, I get +10,000 hits with topics like security clarification, privacy and security.
For SkyDrive the security story doesn’t look as good. In fact, there’s not much to tell about security since apparently Microsoft believes talking about security might compromise security.
A quick search for “security” on *.skydrive.com gives me exactly one hit:
Thanks, but not really what I was looking for.
Both apps are unobtrusive once installed and configured, which is a good thing. Synchronization should be in autopilot and not require the user to check up on things. Dropbox.exe takes around 60 MB of memory when sitting idle. SkyDrive.exe takes around 20 MB when idle. It’s impossible to make any meaningful comparison between the processes, since SkyDrive might as well be offloading logic to Windows Explorer, while Dropbox might be doing the same work independently.
In Skydrive, I hate the forced Hotmail toolbar I’m given whenever I access the files through a browser. It reminds me too much of 1999, and hints at the fact that I should be using some live.com email as well – which I don’t feel is of any use to me.
In comparison, Dropbox’s UI is nice and clean and doesn’t have the historical weight of Hotmail:
For some reason whenever I open the Dropbox site, I’m automatically authenticated and logged. SkyDrive requires me to log in manually each and every time. Fix this, please.
So, which one?
I’ve been happy with Dropbox. Now that SkyDrive is around, I’m tempted to switch because of the much lower pricing. I’m not happy with the lack of documentation around security and privacy on SkyDrive, so that’s kind of a big deal to me.
For a 1.0 beta-release, the SkyDrive app is pretty solid. Hopefully in the coming versions Microsoft continues to add more configuration options while keeping the pricing at a lower level. Until then, I’ll stick with Dropbox.