The Windows Live family of online-enabled services just grew a little bigger last week with the introduction of SkyDrive online storage. During the beta period, the storage limit was 1GB, but now that it's live, you get 5GB of online storage - free. You'll need a Windows Live ID (a Hotmail address will do) to get started. You can get a Hotmail account and sign up for Skydrive and other Live services at http://get.live.com.
SkyDrive provides personal folders only you can access, as well as shared folders you grant access to on an invitation-only basis, and public folders anyone can view. As soon as you add your profile in Spaces, your name and picture appear in place of the "no name" shown in the figure below.
To add files to any folder, open the folder and click Add Files. You can use drag and drop to add groups of files after you install an ActiveX control, or you can browse for files to upload. An Online Storage "gas gauge" display at upper right shows you how much space remains, and if you've accessed other SkyDrive folders.
An individual file can be up to 50MB in size, which is more than enough to transfer RAW digital camera pix and many high-resolution videos. During the upload process, SkyDrive checks files for errors. If a file has errors, it won't be uploaded. SkyDrive may have problems handling a large number of large (over 3MB) files at a time; if some files don't upload, upload them in smaller batches.
Accessing Your Files
To access files with SkyDrive, go to http://home.live.com and sign in. Then, click the SkyDrive link in the Spaces category, and you're there. Click an individual file to view it. Each file offers options to open, download, send a web link, rename or delete it.
Sharing Files with SkyDrive
To share files with friends and family, click the Create a New Folder link in the Shared section. Specify the contacts (automatically pulled from your Hotmail or Live Mail account, or add new ones) you want to share with. Contacts can be Readers (view access) or Editors (have view/add/change/delete access). Click Create Folder after selecting contacts. Your contacts will get emails notifying them how to access your files. You can add files using the file uploader or Browse button.
Use the same method to set up Public folders, but specify Anyone on the Internet for sharing.
While SkyDrive's integration with Spaces is aimed squarely at Web 2.0 social networking types, SkyDrive has lots of potential for businesses and creative types as well. If you're worried about walking off without your flash drive, getting to important files, or if you need a backup of vital files for your next meeting, consider giving SkyDrive a try. It gives you access anywhere you can connect to the Internet.