If you were smart (or lucky), you signed up for a Microsoft SkyDrive account before April 2012. I did, and I’m very glad; it means the service, which is a PCMag Editors’ Choice, grandfathered me in for 25 gigabytes (GB) of free online storage. Since I also bought the $99 subscription for Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium (on up to five PCs), I received an extra 20GB of SkyDrive storage.
That’s a solid amount of online storage.
Compare that with the basic SkyDrive allotment today of 7GB. Or Google Drive’s 5GB. Or Dropbox’s paltry 2GB. And those are just the three most popular services that provide not only storage, but also synchronization of files to multiple PCs.
I’m a long-time diehard Dropbox user. I started with it and while other sync/backup services have since surpassed it—such as another Editors’ Choice, SugarSync—I’ve stuck with it for a number of reasons. Many of my friends use it, so we can easily share files. I’ve earned an extra 2.5GB of free space on the service by recommending it to others and through Dropbox’s own expansion of space. Most importantly, it has never, ever let me down whenever I sync folders between three computers and occasionally access files on the Web or via iPhone.
So why would I give that up? One possible reason is that expanded storage is significantly overpriced at $99 a year for an extra 100GB. SkyDrive costs half as much per gig at $50 per year for the extra 100GB. Even Google Drive only charges $60 a year for an extra 100GB, and shares that space with Picasa for online image storage.
I’m also a heavy user of Microsoft Word (and a few other Microsoft Office products), so I have folders littered with .DOC files I don’t want to lose. With the integration of SkyDrive and the enormous amount of space it offers, why wouldn’t I make the switch? After all, I can open .DOC files online with the Web-based version of Word, much like I can open Google Drive files in the Google Drive word processor. Why not embrace a return to Microsoft whole-heartedly?
I thought about it and realized—why not create an unholy hybrid of SkyDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, all nested together so my files get double, or even triple, redundant backups? So I did, and it works. Here’s how you can, too.
Set Up Your Nesting Folders
Nesting works best when you place your local Dropbox folder (and Google Drive, if inclined) inside the local SkyDrive folder. There are two reasons. First, you are allowed to specify the location of your Dropbox folder and move it. The SkyDrive folder, typically at C:\Users\username\SkyDrive in Windows 7 or Windows 8, can be changed, but it overwrites its new home, so it’s less of a move and more of a “copy.”
You also unfortunately can’t specify a folder outside the Dropbox folder for Dropbox to monitor, nor can SkyDrive monitor a folder outside the SkyDrive Folder. That would make this a whole lot easier.
The second reason, of course, is that SkyDrive just holds more—at least mine with the 45GB of storage does. If you’ve purchased extra Dropbox or Google Drive space out the wazoo, this tip probably isn’t going to work for you.
All you have to do in Windows 7 or the Windows 8 desktop (this can’t be done in the limited Windows 8 apps) is right click the Dropbox icon in the system tray and select Preferences. On the Advanced tab, you’ll see Dropbox listed at C:\Users\username\My Dropbox. Click Move to pick a new location and put the contents in C:\Users\username\
And just like that, your data is redundant. The files in the Dropbox folder will now be backed up to both services and synced with your other computers using SkyDrive and Dropbox. You’ll have access to all the files with the SkyDrive app.
Changing the location of Google Drive local storage to go inside the SkyDrive folder is pretty simple. Access the Preferences for Google Drive and click Disconnect Account. This won’t erase the files, but synchronization will turn off. Click the system tray icon to sign in; when you reconnect and go through the steps, look for the Advanced Setup button. On that page, you’ll see a Folder location, which you can change to C:\Users\username\
SkyDrive\GoogleDrive. You’ll have to delete the old Google Drive folder yourself because it doesn’t actually move like the Dropbox folder does.
Users of services like SugarSync or Box should also be able to get into the action. And straight backup services like MozyHome ($5.99/month for 50GB) or Carbonite ($59/year for unlimited storage on one PC) could add yet another layer of redundancy.
The Problem with Redundancy
The Problem with Redundancy
Let’s say you do all of the above. This is a data-based Matryoshka Doll. Nothing’s stopping you from nesting your Dropbox folder (smallest) inside of Google Drive (a little bigger) which is inside your SkyDrive folder (biggest, if you are lucky). It could be all the backup you ever need. Keep your most important files in Dropbox and, in this example, it’s backed-up to three online services. If this is your only PC, you’re golden.
However, when you sync with other computers, there’s a potential problem. Let’s say you set up the nesting on your primary PC. On your secondary PCs, which also have SkyDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, each service still has its own local folder. But now, if you go look inside the SkyDrive folder, you’ll see that nested Dropbox again. That’s because one folder is synchronized by Dropbox, and the other by SkyDrive. If you update in the \Dropbox only folder on a secondary PC while the primary PC is off, then it’s possible some of the changes won’t be reflected in the secondary PC’s \SkyDrive\Dropbox folder. Perform the Dropbox folder move again, to mimic what was set up on the primary, or risk not being able to keep track of which file is which.
This is okay with Dropbox, but I had a scary moment trying to do it with Google Drive. On my secondary PC, I tried to change the directory to \SkyDrive\Google Drive, but Google Drive didn’t want to do it because the folder was already in existence with contents, because SkyDrive had copied it there from my primary PC. So, I deleted the contents, thinking I’d be fine since I was not actively syncing at that point.
Google Drive deleted all the files, even online.
Luckily, I went to https://drive.google.com/#trash and managed to restore them. I highly recommend you empty that trash before trying this on your secondary PCs, since you could end up restoring files you might have trashed on purpose.
The other issue is Internet traffic. If you update a file in one sync folder like SkyDrive, the file is then uploaded to the Internet. It’s then downloaded to other computers when they have Internet access. Pretty simple. If you nest synchronization folders, updating one file can double or triple the Internet traffic on your system. For most, it won’t be an issue in the age of broadband, but those with limited Internet connections should keep this in mind.
Third Parties for Redundant Sync
You don’t necessarily have to do this all yourself. There are third-party services that will help you link up your backup/sync services.
WappWolf is one. It has protocols for Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. Give it access to your Dropbox (either the whole account or just one folder) and you can set up various automated “actions.” It could, for example, take every file put in a specific folder and convert it and/or send it out to another service (like Kindle, Flickr, or Facebook—or Google Drive). The site has a list of options.
BackupBox is a free service to transfer files in the background between your backup/sync services. It supports Box, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive, SugarSync, and even Amazon S3 storage and straight-up FTP sites.
The excellent If This Then That (IFTTT) can do the same thing in many ways, allowing you to create “recipes” that ensure redundancy by, for example, placing new Dropbox files in Google Drive, or vice versa. It can then alert you with a tweet, email, or SMS message. IFTTT supports Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and SkyDrive. There are already stored recipes to sync Dropbox to SkyDrive using IFTTT. Pair it up with social networks too; you could set IFTTT to take every photo you get tagged in on Facebook and upload it to your SkyDrive. This might be safer than playing with the folders on multiple PCs, but won’t do you much good if the service goes down for some reason.