The battle between Google and Microsoft is heating up as Microsoft is offering its own Web 2.0 free service. This week I am going to talk about a free online storage space available from Microsoft called SkyDrive. SkyDrive provides users with 5GB of storage space for free. This is a great resource for teachers and students that need to have files accessible from multiple computers. If you would like to get access to your very own SkyDrive go to the SkyDrive link available in our show notes and sign up for a free account, all that is needed is a Microsoft Windows Live account. The sign-up process is easy and in less than 60 seconds you will have 5GB that’s Gigabytes with a G, available to you for free online storage. There are definitely two competing philosophies between the Google and Microsoft approaches to Web 2.0 services and it will be interesting to see which model will win in the future.
Will Microsoft develop a online “lite” version of the Office applications that will be free? Will Google build a “beefier” set of Office applications for Google Docs that they might charge for? The future is still unclear and in the state of flux and it is a bit ironic that Google and Microsoft are working from different ends of the spectrum to find solutions. What is interesting is that neither of Microsoft or Google approaches currently have the answers to meet the needs of the majority of users. While free is a good selling point users will be well advised to understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that costs are being recuperated through either online advertising or some other form of subsidy as companies compete to gain market share. This is an epic battle with much to gain or lose.
Google has staked a claim in the Software as a Service model where Google applications run on the Web using Google servers. While this provides a great deal of flexibility for access the downside is that applications like Google Docs and Spreadsheets are bare-boned examples of what users have become accustomed compared to the Microsoft Office products that offer a full set of features. The advantage that Google claims is that you and others can access your documents online regardless of what type of software or computer you are using. The big downside of course is that you HAVE to be online and connected to the Internet for this model to work. For many schools the ubiquity of wireless access required for this approach is not yet a reality. I do believe Google is working on some type of offline functionality that would allow users to work offline and then sync up their files to the Internet once a connection would become available to address this deficiency.
Microsoft on the other hand has started from the other direction taking advantage of its full featured Office Suite of products and using the Internet as a collaboration and storage platform. In the Microsoft approach of using SkyDrive you have the advantage of both the online and offline worlds. The disadvantage is that Microsoft charges for the Office suite of tools whereas Google’s tools are currently free. I am quite impressed with what Microsoft is doing with the “Live” set of tools now available on the Internet. There are also many other Web 2.0 services that Microsoft is rolling out for online users. The Skydrive has the added benefit of allowing the user complete control over how they want to share files with others. There is a Public folder on the SkyDrive that a user can place files in to share with a selected group of friends or share with the entire online community if they so wish! This is a big selling point for teachers and students because a teacher can upload a file to their Public SkyDrive folder and students and immediately have access to the file. The SkyDrive also has folders for music, pictures, and videos very similar to your regular PC’s hard drive in Windows XP and Vista so it is a familiar interface. If you would like you can give the users of the Public SkyDrive folder read-only access or you could allow full editing capability depending upon the circumstances.
If you have not already gotten your SkyDrive account I recommend you try out the service to see what you think, afterall it is 5GB of free storage! For my students that are constantly losing their flash drives this might also be worthy of consideration. If nothing else it can serve as a good place to backup important files. I would not upload anything confidential to these services and as with all Web 2.0 services be sure to check out school policies before using these technologies for school purposes.
Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology pick of the week this week is the Microsoft SkyDrive. A link to articles and information about how to signup for a free SkyDrive account is provided in the shownotes. Be aware that Microsoft offers many more services under the Live banner of branded products so give others a try and let me know if you find them helpful.
That wraps it up for this episode of TechTalk4Teachers Show notes for Episode 28 of TechTalk4Teachers along with archived versions of this show are available on the web at techtalk4teachers.blogspot.com that’s techtalk the number 4 teachers.blogspot.com
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Until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.