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SkyDrive Pro offers another corporate cloud storage service option

Cloud-based storage is in high demand, but will Windows 8.1 with SkyDrive meet the need for an enterprise-grade service?

End users realize the value of public cloud storage services for personal data, but when they copy work files to consumer-grade file-sharing services, they unwittingly compromise corporate data.

Working in the CloudData security concerns may pique when Windows 8.1 ships integrated with SkyDrive next month and users begin sharing business files on the free consumer version of Microsoft's cloud-based file-sharing service.

SkyDrive will be built in to Windows 8.1, and that convenience may drive greater use. Microsoft last week said it has 250 million SkyDrive users.

Enterprises that have yet to offer an approved cloud-based storage option to their employees may want to do so to stymie the threat of compromised corporate data. Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage providers offer corporate versions of their services, and secure file-sharing vendors such as WatchDox only target the enterprise.

Microsoft's SkyDrive Pro is the closest competitor to WatchDox because Microsoft has Web apps, while others may not integrate client-side editors, annotation capability and security, said Ryan Kalember, chief product officer at WatchDox, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Others agree that SkyDrive is a compelling capability as part of Windows.

"Folks have recognized the power of cloud storage, and the fact that this is integrated into the operating system is definitely a positive," said Milind Gadekar, CEO of CloudOn, an online productivity suite provider based in Palo Alto.

SkyDrive will likely be popular with the Windows users, while services such as Dropbox, Box and Google continue to provide advantages in their own way, Gadekar added.

SkyDrive vs. SkyDrive Pro

SkyDrive comes in two versions: SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro. A 7 GB SkyDrive account is free for those with a Microsoft account or use Outlook. Moreover, this week Microsoft said it will offer 200 GB SkyDrive accounts for $100 per year, or free for two years if end users purchase a new Surface tablet when it ships on Oct. 22.

The consumer-grade version is tied to users' Live ID account and doesn't offer IT control, said Peter Renner, Microsoft Professional Services director at En Pointe Technologies, a technology solutions provider based in Gardena, Calif.

"It's free, but the downside is the inability to manage the information," Renner said.

En Pointe encourages its enterprise customers to use SkyDrive Pro instead. It gives businesses the ability to control the storage space, encrypt files and enable more security than the standard version. It also allows co-workers to collaborate on documents.

SkyDrive Pro includes a 25 GB account for business users and works with Office 365 and SharePoint, enabling workers to share and collaborate on documents.

The SkyDrive Pro version allows IT administrators to manage and control employees' SkyDrive Pro libraries, yet keeps files private unless employees choose to share them.

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Essential Guide

Working in the cloud: How IT enables mobile productivity

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