Microsoft Steps Up Free Online Storage Service

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has unveiled several changes to its online storage service, SkyDrive. It should mean very noticeable improvements to the speed at which it responds to commands.

Share, Access up to 25GB of Free Online Storage

SkyDrive offers users 25 GB of free online storage, meaning files can be accessed from any machine.

Users can decide whether to make files publicly available, in which case the service can be used as a simpler alternative to running a website to host documents or media files, or to make them private and only accessible with a Windows Live log-in.

There's some debate over whether this should be classed under the popular "cloud computing" label. Some interpretations say that term should be restricted to services such as Amazon's EC3, in which the remote computer actually carries out data processing rather than simply storage.

HTML5 Upgrade Key to Changes

The improvements have come about because Microsoft has adopted HTML5 for the service. That's the most fundamental change to the code language used to create web pages in the past 14 years, and is featured in the latest editions of the major web browsers.

The company believes that using HTML5 will not only mean more attractive displays of the stored data (for example, allowing slideshows for browsing through an online photo collection), but also dramatic speed increases.

For instance, the time it takes to open a folder will drop from the current 6-9 seconds to around 100-300 milliseconds. That may not sound like a big deal, but it's the difference between a noticeable and frustrating lag on the screen, and a response that feels as good as instantaneous. (Source:

Added Benefits For Internet Explorer 9 Users

Other changes include revamping the screen users see upon logging in to the service; making it quicker to find particular files; allowing Internet Explorer 9 users to add the service as a Pinned Site or Jump List item, meaning it can be accessed straight from the Windows Taskbar; adjusting the photo album display to be more attractive, and showing thumbnails in their original orientation and aspect ratio rather than squashing or stretching images.

The announcement of the SkyDrive changes has been well-timed. Rival service Dropbox, rated by many as the best online storage service, is recovering from an embarrassing security bug which meant that every account could be accessed by some users regardless of what they typed as a password in the log-in screen. (Source:

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