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Microsoft, Google unveil cloud storage and file-sharing services

Google and Microsoft’s cloud storage and file-sharing services, Google Drive and SkyDrive, give IT more Dropbox alternatives, but data security concerns persist.

IT pros have two more enterprise file-sharing services to choose from now that Google and Microsoft offer their own versions of a Dropbox product.

This week, both Google and Microsoft announced offerings that aim to provide more IT value than other cloud storage and file-sharing services. Unlike Dropbox, Google and Microsoft use their file-sharing services to extend applications. The services act as a “central information hub,” rather than a storage locker, said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a research firm based in Kirkland, Wash.

For instance, Google Drive integrates with Google Docs and the company’s other online applications. The file-sharing service also integrates with third-party apps such as the photo editing app, Pixlr, and VMware Inc.’s online presentation tool, SlideRocket. There are more than 20 Web applications with which Drive integrates, Google said.

SkyDrive ties into Microsoft’s Web-based Office 365 suite and Windows 8 operating system, and every Windows 8 user will have access to a free SkyDrive account.

IT wary of cloud storage and file-sharing services

The approach of tightly integrating cloud storage services with existing products has given some IT pros cause for concern over how the service providers will use and store that data.

“It was bad when companies were just offering dedicated clouds, but it’s going to be a security nightmare now that data is embedded into Web services and operating systems,” said Geoff Webb, director of product marketing for Credant Technologies Inc., a data security vendor based in Addison, Texas.

At Credant, company policy allows employees to use Dropbox, as long users don’t store sensitive files there. Webb said he worries that Google might use files uploaded to Drive for advertising or that the data could unintentionally leak out to other integrated services, such as Gmail and Google +.

Experts said it could be a long time before companies see a business need for Drive or SkyDrive, but these types of cloud-based corporate file-sharing services aren’t going away anytime soon.

“The pendulum has really swung toward openness, sharing and collaboration, which is the power of these services and the cloud,” Webb said. “Hopefully for IT, it’ll swing back the other way a little toward security.”

Google Drive and SkyDrive: Features and costs

Microsoft and Google included mobile and desktop applications that sync across a user’s devices. The idea is for people to have access to their files whether they’re “at grandma’s house or travelling to Chicago for work,” Miller said.

There are limitations, however. Microsoft and Google don’t offer security or administrative controls that protect data or help the file-sharing services integrate with existing on-premise infrastructure, said Richard Edwards, an analyst at Ovum, a London-based research firm. That could change for Microsoft SkyDrive when the enterprise edition of Windows 8 -- which will feature data encryption and other security features -- is released, Edwards said.

Before this week, SkyDrive users could only access the service through a Web browser. With the recent inclusion of a SkyDrive folder for Windows and Macs, SkyDrive and Dropbox are more similar. Users receive 7 GB of free space, with paid storage starting at $10 for 20 GB per year, up to $50 per year for 100 GB of space. In the past, Microsoft offered SkyDrive users 25 GB of free space, which existing users will continue to enjoy.

Google Drive offers 5 GB of free storage and users can purchase more storage at various levels: 25 GB for $2.49 per month, 100 GB for $4.99 per month or even 1 terabyte for $49.99 per month. When users upgrade to one of these paid accounts, their Gmail account storage will also expand to 25 GB.

Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage and users can upgrade to 18 GB by referring others to use the service. Paid storage is available, with 50 GB of space at $100 per year and 100 GB for $200 per year.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush  on Twitter. Like on Facebook.

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