SkyDox is a cloud sharing suite with a difference: it allows users to upload and share almost any file type. The application requires nothing more than a browser for the basics, so it runs on practically any device. However, more advanced (and possibly useful) features rely heavily on plug-ins.
SkyDox automatically adds users from your own domain once you share something with them. The application can be skinned with your own company logo and colour scheme, and there are a number of features for collaboration. In some ways, though, SkyDox is unusual: it’s primarily a collaboration and review platform, and is not particularly geared towards editing in a browser.
Sharing a document
Getting started with SkyDox is pretty straightforward. I uploaded a test document in Word .doc format (just one of the 200 formats SkyDox supports): documents can also be emailed directly into the account or dragged onto the browser window.
Once uploaded, I had the option of moving the document into a folder, downloading it, sharing it and so on. SkyDox offers a huge vault for file storage and sharing: 500GB per person with a Business subscription, and unlimited storage (SLA permitting) with the Enterprise plan.
Anyone familiar with Dropbox, Google Drive or another cloud storage solution will find SkyDox easy to get to grips with on a basic level. The options are similar: each person who is given access to the document can be given a set of privileges or permissions to allow them to work with it (I’ve highlighted the permissions box to make this clearer). The permissions are more comprehensive than its rivals offer, and that’s a good thing: I found they struck the right balance between control and complexity.
Making the file public is simply a case of checking the ‘Publish this file’ box; users are warned that publishing a file makes it accessible to the wider internet (and Google crawlers), so care is needed not to publish sensitive information.
Working on a document
Clicking the document name from the welcome screen opens it in an edit window. Again, this is all pretty familiar stuff. But clicking once on the document doesn’t allow you to edit the document as you might expect (we’ll come back to this later). Instead, it brings up a pop-up menu. Options in this area allow you to comment at the position you clicked, change the zoom level or alter your view view (there’s no tooltip help here, sadly, so you’ll have to play with the icons to see what happens).
Adding a comment is interesting: the comment becomes a selection box which can be dragged and reshaped. I’ve highlighted the first comment box and associated comment so you can see how the two relate.
Ideally comments would be dragged around particular sections or paragraphs. This was fiddly, but it did work, and I prefer it to the way Microsoft Office handles comments.
The Tracking menu provides basic analytics data: who’s viewed your document and when, in other words. There’s also an option to view all comments, although unfortunately clicking Close didn’t actually close this screen. I may have inadvertently discovered a bug here.
Finally, you can start a meeting directly from this page – no need to switch to another application to hold a teleconference or to give an online presentation.
SkyDox doesn’t offer voice or video, so it won’t replace WebEx just yet.
Editing a document
This is the point where SkyDox and Google Drive diverge. In order to edit documents within the application, users must download and install a special SkyDox app or plug-in for the software they wish to use. These plug-ins exist for most commonly-used Microsoft Office applications, as well as providing deep integration with Sharepoint and many of the file types supported by Adobe’s Creative Suite.
Collaborating within Microsoft desktop products really does make sense, and this is probably SkyDox’s biggest selling point. I didn’t delve into this area as I didn’t have space to digress too far from the cloud interface, but the tutorials promise real-time editing, version checking and the ability to sync documents and combine edits from multiple users.
SkyDox is missing the one feature I was expecting to see: online document editing of a file in the browser. This wouldn’t work for every one of the 200 file types the service supports, of course, but it would work for some of them. I was genuinely surprised to see that my humble Word document couldn’t be edited once I’d uploaded it.
Is SkyDox missing a trick?
The SkyDox website is light on basic product information. When trying to find out whether I could edit a Word document in the cloud via a browser using Skydox, I clicked the link on their homepage marked ‘Cloud Computing on the Move’ which I thought may give me some clues as to browser editing. This is an excerpt from that page (highlighting is my own):
“Organizations are often faced with a choice of allowing individuals to download and use of untested mobile applications onto corporate or personal mobile devices with a or without or closing the channel completely. Today neither of these approaches works as they should, with most users finding a work-around for sharing files and collaborating using unapproved services and devices, which remain unsynchronized and do not facilitate an auditable activity trail by user or file type..”
The application itself is impressive and easy to handle, but the website doesn’t support it well. The help database was only partially populated (to be fair, I did find my answer there after a few fruitless searches), and the sales pitch needs to be a little bit clearer.
SkyDox has its place for enterprise, but for $15/month, the Business plan seems to be aimed at SMEs. The features are great, but broadening the software’s repertoire with a few solid basics would help Skydox to draw more people away from big-name competitors. That’s not to dismiss the great features it has, on the contrary: for many users, SkyDox could mean an end to emailing documents. But that’s providing all users are willing to install the right apps and plugins to get everything to work.
Category: Initial Reviews
About the AuthorClaire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.
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