Microsoft’s cloud storage services used to be so easy to differentiate, with the software giant offering SharePoint Online for business users and SkyDrive for consumers. But with Office 2013, Microsoft is introducing something called SkyDrive Pro. Huh?

SkyDrive Pro is like the Shimmer skit from Saturday Night Live. (It’s a dessert topping! It’s a floor wax! It’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping!) That is, it’s a couple of different things.

I’ve already received dozens of emails from people confused about SkyDrive Pro, which has appeared as part of the Office 2013 Public Preview. And for whatever it’s worth, during a June briefing where I was shown the Preview for the first time, I spied a small SkyDrive Pro entry and asked about it immediately. I was told, somewhat confusingly, that it was “a business version of SkyDrive, based on SharePoint, which is being made available through Office 365.”

And that’s true enough. But again, SkyDrive Pro is really a couple of things.

On the cloud side, SkyDrive Pro is in fact just SharePoint Online. Or, more specifically, it’s what’s called a Team Site document library in SharePoint Online today. The difference is that SkyDrive Pro is aimed at a single person, not a team, so you get the one library (“SkyDrive Pro”) and not a site that can be comprised of one or more libraries that can be used by an entire team of people. It is, conceptually, an Office 365-hosted alternative to SkyDrive, one that is based on SharePoint technologies.

On the PC side, SkyDrive Pro is a desktop application that connects and syncs your SkyDrive Pro cloud storage to Windows Explorer. It is identical to the current SkyDrive application for Windows (and can in fact be run alongside it if needed) and works exactly the same way, synching the contents of your SkyDrive Pro storage to a folder on your PC’s file system. Business-oriented Office users will recognize this as a single user replacement for SharePoint Workspace 2010 (formerly Groove).

SkyDrive Pro works like the SkyDrive application for Windows in that you must enable the connection between the service and your PC’s file system. There are a few ways to do this, but the simplest, perhaps, is to visit Office 365 on the web and navigate to SkyDrive (using the top-mounted menu bar). You’ll see a SYNC button in the upper right of the display.

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Click this, and the installer will kick in, offering to sync the document library with your PC. You’ll notice a blue and white tray icon as well, similar to that used by the normal SkyDrive application.

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As with SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro is synced to your user folder by default, though you can change the location. And if you view this user folder, you’ll see that the SkyDrive Pro folder (called SkyDrive @ Office Next currently) sits next to the SkyDrive folder, providing you with side-by-side access to your personal (SkyDrive) and work-related (SkyDrive Pro) files.

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In your Office applications, you’ll be able to choose SkyDrive Pro from the list of Places in the Open and Save experiences. (It appears as Office Next.) You can mix and match between various Places, and as you can see here, I’m using both SkyDrive Pro and SkyDrive.

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As an aside, if you’re not familiar with SharePoint, there are many, many more capabilities available in this service (and thus in SkyDrive Pro) than there are in SkyDrive currently. To see what I mean, visit SkyDrive from the Office 365 web interface and check out the Files and Library tabs.

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Using SharePoint is, of course, a story for another day. :)