Take it to "the cloud" with Windows Phone 7

Darren Humphries
Columnist from  Oshawa, ON Canada
| December 2, 2010

Do I have to switch the online services I use now?
Should I switch the online services I use now?

Oh, the sleepless nights!  You just got or are thinking of getting a Windows Phone and are not sure what online services you will need to use or change.  Let’s take a look at a couple options.

Part of Microsoft’s idea for Windows Phone is for it to be an extension of your computer, or more correctly, the cloud.  By “cloud” we mean the online services and information you use and have such as email, calendar, contacts, photos, etc.  Microsoft has done a lot of work to update their “Live” branded cloud services.  If you haven’t tried Live Mail in a while take a look at it.

Microsoft has also built in a background sync tool for your pictures to store them online.  The Skydrive service gives you a very generous 25GB of storage and you can set Windows Phone to automatically backup all pictures.  Be careful if you have a plan with limited bandwidth though!  If you have one of the lower bandwidth plans from your cellular provider you can either choose to not back up pictures or select and manually backup specific ones.  By default it is set to manually backup to Skydrive.

All of these Microsoft cloud services are free, which is a fantastic extra.  You can create and edit contacts, calendar items and work with email either on your Windows Phone or online.  Of course, this isn’t anything ground breaking; it has been available with other services and on other phones.

While these Microsoft services are quite good you should know that you aren’t limited to just these.  You can use any Exchange account to sync email, contacts and calendar with a corporate or hosted account and can even use Exchange settings for Google services.


This brings me (FINALLY!) to my recommendation: If you using Gmail currently, stick with it and set your Windows Phone to sync with Google services rather than Windows Live.  Google’s Gmail, contacts and calendar are still better than Live and you will have all of the same functionality.

To do this you will need to set up Gmail manually rather than using the setup wizard.  Start the manual setup process and use the following:

username: your full Gmail address
password: the one you use for Gmail online
server: m.google.com
domain: no domain for regular Gmail users.

Once you set it up you will see checkboxes for contacts and calendar.

By the way, if you are using Outlook for your email you can sync that with Windows Phone but some users have experienced problems.  You are much better off using an online service where syncing is automatic and more reliable.

If you have any questions fire away in the comments.