Microsoft and Google release new cloud services

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Google's release of Google Drive, or GDrive, on April 24 was preceded by a few days by a new version of Microsoft's SkyDrive. Both cloud services are designed to enable real-time sharing between office and mobile devices. Google's service is still in its final state of testing and been released as a beta product. SkyDrive was first released about four years ago. The difference in maturity is obvious.

I downloaded the Windows client for Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Drive by going to drive.google.com. There's a button that lets you download the client appropriate for your computer. Google provides clients for both Windows and Mac machines, and when the installation is finished you'll find a Google Drive folder on your desktop. You'll need a Google account to make this work.

Google Drive is very closely integrated with Google Docs. It's so close, in fact, that the two products appear to be one service. You can edit documents on Google Drive using Google Docs. You can also store up to 5 gigabytes of data for free. Up to 1 terabyte is available if you're willing to pay for it.

Getting SkyDrive works in a similar manner. You go to skydrive.live.com, and as is the case with Google Drive, you can download clients for Windows and Mac computers. If you're using a Linux machine, you'll need to access either product using your browser. SkyDrive gives you 7 GB for free, unless you joined early enough that you got 25 GB, in which case you can keep that storage with the new version.

In the world of mobile devices, however, things are very different. Currently, Google Drive offers only one app, and that's for Android devices. Everything else must access their storage using the browser on their device, although Google has said that some older Android devices won't support Drive. Reportedly, clients for iOS devices are in the pipeline, but there's no clear delivery date.

SkyDrive, on the other hand, is widely supported. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) provides clients for Windows Phone and iOS devices. In addition, third-party SkyDrive clients are available for Android and BlackBerry devices. If you use Microsoft Office OneNote, then you'll find your notes files in your SkyDrive as well.

Microsoft's SkyDrive appears to share some resources from Microsoft Office 365--I found test documents on my SkyDrive that I'd created when I reviewed that product about a year ago. Likewise, I found some old press releases on my Google Drive that I'd stashed in Google Apps and Google Docs in the past.

In the case of both products, the process of saving documents, images, videos or whatever is a simple drag and drop. SkyDrive does have a second-level directory structure in place so you can sort things that should be public from things that should not. Both are easy and fast, and whatever you save is instantly available to all of your devices.

There have been some concerns in the press about Google's privacy policies regarding material you store on Google Drive. You may want to check with your legal team regarding that. Microsoft does not appear to have this issue. Both products allow sharing, although with Google Drive, whoever you share with must also have a Google account. SkyDrive lets you send out a URL to share something with others, and they don't need to be SkyDrive users to access what you share.

Currently, SkyDrive is obviously the more mature product, and the Microsoft cloud service supports more mobile devices. Whether this changes remains to be seen, but it's clear that Google Drive is still a work in progress.

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