Take A Closer Look At Windows Live Offerings

They’re at it again! Seems like Microsoft just keeps changing what Windows Live means, and re-branding existing things as Windows Live and basically confusing the heck out of everyone.

But if you look past all the hoopla, you may find a couple of great apps in there, available for free to everyone.

First of all, there are actually two “Windows Live” categories.
In the first category, software programs: downloadable apps that should have come with Windows, but don’t, because Microsoft is afraid of more antitrust lawsuits. They’re a one-click download away, they’re collectively called Windows Live Essentials, and they include Windows Live Mail (formerly Windows Mail, formerly Outlook Express); Windows Live Photo Gallery; Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger); Windows Live Movie Maker; Windows Live Family Safety; Windows Live Toolbar; and Windows Live Writer (a tool for composing blog posts).

The second group is a suite of Windows Live *services*–basically Web sites–that includes Windows Live Calendar; Windows Live Events (a invitation service); Windows Live Groups (discussions–great for organizing team, club, or family events); Windows Live Hotmail (yes, regular old Hotmail); Windows Live People (address book); Windows Live Photos (online Web gallery); Windows Live Spaces (a blog site); and Windows Live Skydrive.

Some of these services are really good, and some offer just bare-bones functionality, a feeble attempt to catch up with rival products from Google, Apple and many others. But there are some gems.

Take SkyDrive for instance.
SkyDrive is a free, 25-gigabyte virtual hard drive on the Internet, accessible from any computer. It’s a perfect temporary parking spot for files you want to transfer from one computer to another. You can also use it for offsite backup of your files, or as a handy intermediary for sharing big files and folders with friends and family. This feature alone is becoming much more important as personal file sizes are growing larger than most ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) like Verizon and Comcast allow you to transfer or share via email.

The key point is that you can access the SkyDrive from any computer–Mac, Windows, whatever–at your office, at your home, at your friend’s house, so you don’t need to carry around a CD, DVD or USB Stick to transport files.

Yes, of course, this is the same idea as dozens of other online storage services–but there are two big differences. First, this one is free. Second, its storage offering is many times larger than the other free services, which usually offer something like 2 gigabytes per account.

It’s easy to get started. First, you’ll need to sign up for a free Windows Live account (http://home.live.com). Once you’re signed up and logged on, choose SkyDrive. If you already have a Windows Live ID, go directly to SkyDrive here: http://skydrive.live.com.

Now that I’ve defined Microsoft’s free online storage service, there’s yet another player offering double the storage space – 50GB – for free. For you folks who simply hate all things Microsoft, check out this site: www.adrive.com

The adrive.com service doesn’t integrate directly with Internet Explorer but it does let you send links via e-mail to individual downloadable files you’ve parked there. Sign up for your free account here: https://www.adrive.com/login/signup

Now for my caveat! Even though you get substantially more storage space with these free services then with the “other guys” offering a paid application as well, remember… when something is given to you for FREE, you tend to get your money’s worth.

Don’t expect either company to provide you with guarantees that the free service will meet your needs or be reliable and available when you need it. Do not, I repeat, Do Not use these sites as the only place you store your irreplaceable files. Take a few minutes to actually read the “terms of use” policy – it’s a good thing to do with any service you intend to take advantage of.

If you do sign up for either or both of these services, feel free to come back here an post an entry describing your experiences. My readers would love to hear from you!

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