This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Microsoft, Dropbox Enhance Cloud Offerings Ahead of Rumored Google Drive

Microsoft's SkyDrive becomes more Dropbox-like; Dropbox broadens sharing.

Google Drive has not arrived yet, but both Microsoft and Dropbox have enhanced their consumer-facing cloud storage and sharing options, as if in anticipation.

Given the uncertainty in the timing of Google's announcement of its rumored Drive service, it is almost uncanny that both Microsoft and Dropbox managed to announce reactive updates to their cloud services on the day before Drive is expected to show up.

Since I wrote yesterday's blog on Google Drive, more evidence of its reality has continued to surface. In a Google+ Hangout for Android developers, at one point the Galaxy Nexus belonging to one of the participants is shown with a "Share to Drive" option visible. The fact that Drive shows up on an Android developer's phone doesn't guarantee that it will be announced this week, as rumored, but it does serve as a kind of existence proof.

Microsoft's SkyDrive offering has been expanded so that it looks a good deal more like Dropbox, with a more generous 7 GB of free storage. SkyDrive now has Windows and Mac clients, in addition to the existing ones for Windows Phone, Android, and iOS. The service now offers paid storage tiers, with 20 GB priced at $10 per year and 100 GB at $50 per year. SkyDrive's free storage has dropped back to 7 GB from its initial 25 GB; Microsoft says that the vast majority of SkyDrive customers use less than 7 GB. (That is still 5 GB more than Dropbox offers and 2 GB more than the rumors say Google's Drive will have.) Here is a Microsoft video showing SkyDrive syncing and sharing across multiple devices.

Dropbox's announcement greatly simplifies and expands the sharing of files through the service, including sharing with people who don't have a Dropbox account. It has always been possible to discover and share the public URL of a file (but not a directory) placed in the special "Public" Dropbox folder. But few people knew of this option, and the behavior when a recipient clicked on this public URL was unpredictable.

With the new sharing feature, called Get Link, Dropbox users can share any file or folder stored in Dropbox. When users click on the URL produced by Get Link, they are taken to a special Dropbox page where the file can be viewed (read-only) within the browser. Among the file types accessible through the viewer are text, graphics, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and videos. A directory full of photos is presented as an image gallery; video content streams. (Dropbox does not seem as yet to have posted a complete list of supported file types.)

For IT departments, this robust competition in the consumer cloud space means that it will become even easier and more convenient over time to establish and use these insecure syncing/sharing accounts. People may routinely set up and use several of them. And they may decide to store work files there because it's so easy. And they may share them with colleagues, because it's so easy. Information security? That will not be so easy.