Whether you’ve heard of SkyDrive or not, it doesn’t really matter anymore. Microsoft has officially renamed its cloud storage service to OneDrive, and is turning trademark-induced lemons into lemonade with some added features and perks.
As part of the relaunch, Microsoft is adding automatic photo and video backups to its Android app, after bringing the feature to the iPhone last year. Setting up this feature will get you 3 GB of extra storage. Users can also get up to 5 GB by referring other people to OneDrive, at 500 MB per referral.
OneDrive is not significantly different from other cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Box. You get 7 GB of free storage, and can pay a subscription rate for more. In addition to web access to your files, there’s a desktop app for Windows and Mac so you can easily move files in and out, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. (Windows Phone and Windows 8 have OneDrive built right into the operating system.)
Why bother checking out OneDrive if it’s not much different from what you’re using already? There are several scenarios where OneDrive would make sense:
You have Windows 8.1: An underrated feature of Windows 8.1 is its ability to set OneDrive as the default save location for documents, regardless of the application. This is especially helpful if you use third-party software for document creation, photo editing or note-taking, because you can back up your files with no extra effort.
You need a bunch of PCs running Office: If you’re going to subscribe to Office 365, which lets you run Office on five computers for $100 per year, you might as well start using OneDrive for cloud storage. Up to five users can get 20 GB of additional space as part of the subscription.
You use, or plan to use, Office Web Apps: The free, online version of Microsoft Office automatically saves your documents to OneDrive. If you install OneDrive’s desktop software, those same documents will also be stored on your computer automatically. For light editing, it’s a pretty convenient setup.
You want to buy some cloud storage, but not a lot: OneDrive’s annual prices for additional storage are cheaper than Google Drive, Box and Dropbox. You can get 50 GB for $25 per year, 100 GB for $50 per year, or 200 GB for $100 per year–but that’s it. Other services will gladly sell you more storage if you’re willing to pay. (Watch out, though; Microsoft’s monthly prices are much more expensive.)
Clearly, OneDrive caters to users whose computing lives revolve around Windows or Office. Although OneDrive isn’t worthless in other situations, it doesn’t feel as essential when you’re not hooked into other parts of Microsoft’s universe.
For a deeper look into various cloud storage services, CNet has a good comparison of the big ones, including OneDrive.