Archive for the ‘SkyDrive’ Category
Two days ago an app was released by Microsoft that allows you to sync files from your computer to your online storage vault at http://www.skydrive.com, read Microsoft’s announcement at Making personal cloud storage for Windows available anywhere, with the new SkyDrive. To describe this release as overdue is an understatement, I personally have been after a decent sync client for SkyDrive since I first started using the service back in 2007, indeed in my first blog post on the subject in August 2007 I said:
The most requested feature so far is the ability to sync this cloud storage service with conventional storage on our own hardware and I would put that top of my list too. … This should enable seamless dragging and dropping between local folders and live folders using the tools we are all familiar with (e.g. Windows Explorer).
Here we are, nearly five years later, and the ability to sync with the cloud has finally arrived. So how does it measure up? I’ve been using it for a couple of days so herein I’ll share my experiences so far:
- As a user that already had over 4GB worth of data stored on SkyDrive I automatically received the 25GB free storage limit. That’s 25GB of free syncable storage space. Yum.
- I have been using NAS (in the form of Windows Home Server) to backup all of my music and photos for a couple of years now but I’ve never been completely happy with it because
- hard drives can still go pop and redundancy doesn’t make them failsafe
- it still takes maintenance from time-to-time
- there is no ability to sync that storage, certainly not seamlessly built-in anyway
- it is only available to me at home (Home Server does provide access via a web portal but I’ve never found it to be particularly usable)
- it is expensive (both for the hardware and the cost of running the server)
This new SkyDrive app coupled with syncable cloud storage either alleviates or reduces all of those problems so I purchased 100GB of extra storage on SkyDrive for £32 per year (less than the cost of running my Home Server for the same length of time). Here was the first negative though – when I went to purchase the extra storage I was only offered payment in US dollars and hence when asked to fill in my credit card details I was required to enter a US address which I do not have (I live in the UK). This required a call to SkyDrive support where I was informed by the very helpful Jennifer Crispo that SkyDrive had incorrectly identified me as being in the US and that I could purchase storage from the UK by visiting https://skydrive.live.com/managestorage?accountid=0&ctpmkt=en-GB. This worked fine thankfully (thanks Jennifer).
- I loaded my 50+GB worth of media from my Home Server into my local SkyDrive folder and waited to see how long it would take to sync to the cloud. That was approximately 30 hours ago and so far it has loaded up ~15GB. I’ll leave you to decide whether you consider that fast or slow (its worth remembering that the SkyDrive app works as a background, low priority, process), I tell you this so that you have some sort of yardstick as to how long it might take you to sync all of your stuff to SkyDrive should you choose to do so.
- When I heard about the “Fetch” feature (i.e. the ability to access a file from a PC that is running the SkyDrive app elsewhere) I wasn’t too enamoured as I didn’t think I would be using it too much. Turns out I was wrong, it proved invaluable on the first day of use in order to access a file on my home PC that had not yet synced up to SkyDrive.com. Moreover, I was blown away at how quick it was – clicking through the folders from my Home PC was as quick as doing the same on my local hard drive – seriously. Colour me impressed with the new Fetch feature.
There are still many features that I would like to see added to SkyDrive (many of which I alluded to in my post Thoughts on latest SkyDrive news from two months ago):
- There is no access from my XBox and if XBox is intended to be a media hub that has to change [UPDATE: Uncanny that just 90minutes or so after I wrote this that an article has appeared on The Verge revealing plans for a new music service coming to XBox. No word on whether it integrates with SkyDrive or not tho.]
- Currently I cannot play any of my uploaded music online – there needs to be an online music player/experience integrated into SkyDrive.com
- I cannot choose to sync a subset of my SkyDrive to a particular device. This is a big problem as I do have at least two devices (my phone and a tablet PC) that have less storage available than the 125Gb that I now have available on SkyDrive.
- I would like to share all of my media with my wife so that she can access it all on her laptop without logging on as me. Unfortunately that is not possible because the SkyDrive app only syncs folders that belong to you, not those that have been shared with you.
- I don’t understand why storage tops out at 125GB. Why can one not simply pay for however much one wants on a price-per-GB basis?
- It would be really nice of Microsoft to bundle extra storage along with every license of Windows. Say, “buy a copy of Windows and get an extra 2GB of free storage on SkyDrive for life”; I’m not an expert on the economics here but with the cost of storage plummeting all the time I can’t imagine that such an offer would be much of an encumbrance for Microsoft to provide. It would be an incentive to upgrade, an incentive to choose Windows over a rival OS and moreover would introduce SkyDrive to new customers too.
That’s a quick recounting of my experiences so far with the SkyDrive app, I hope this is useful to some of you. If I discover anything significant in the future I shall come back here and update.
I’ve been pondering some improvements that I’d like to see to Hotmail. Namely:
- I’d like the ability to attach files that exist in my skydrive. Taking the idea further, instead of attaching it to the email, let me have the option to instead insert a link to the file on skydrive instead.
- Skydrive has a great drag-and-drop feature that allows people to drag files into the browser window and upload them. I’d love to see the same feature available that would enable us to attach files within hotmail.
I’ve suggested these at http://feedback.live.com. Here’s hoping something turns up.
I just spotted a new button (well, what I THINK is a new button) on the Windows Live Toolbar following my installation of the updated version via Windows Live Suite earlier this week.
Cool, I can now access my folders right from the toolbar! What would be even better would be if it showed me everything that is in those folders (just like Scott’s Windows Live Writer Skydrive plugin does) so I can jump straight to them.
Good question. This might take a bit of thinking about and frankly I’m not the guy that’s going to do it. Is "You should be able to do everything with the API that you can at http://skydrive.live.com" a good enough answer for you Angus?
When you consider what an API should offer you really have to think about it from the point of view of the user. There are two types of user that a SkyDrive API is going to have to support in the future, home users and business users. I fully expect that one day there will be a SkyDrive offering coupled with Office Live. People (both internal and external to Microsoft) are going to want to leverage SkyDrive for their own purposes and that is why an API is vital. In the future I’m going to want to be able to:
- Store documents created in Microsoft Word/Excel/Powerpoint etc… direct to my SkyDrive. This becomes even more important if Microsoft come out with a purely online version of Office (which I think they will) because with that, where else are you going to store your documents to?
- Store documents created in other online software (such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets) in my SkyDrive
- Store documents created on my Mac straight to my SkyDrive
- Embed SkyDrive viewers into social networking sites and other websites
- Access SkyDrive from rich clients on a mobile phone
- Synchronise traditional hard drive storage with SkyDrive. This includes the hard drive on my smartphone by the way.
- Play media stored on my SkyDrive in the media players I have on my PC
- Sync my Zune directly with media store in SkyDrive
I would hope that all of the above would be made possible through the use of an API
Incidentally, yesterday Scott let me have a play with his SkyDriveViewer that Angus talks about (I managed to find a couple of bugs ). Quite impressive stuff in lieu of an API but of course screen-scraping can only go so far. An API needs to be introduced for this ASAP.
UPDATE, 30th June 2008: You should read this blog entry in conjunction with my update: SkyDrive API revisited!
A few days ago I wrote about Skydrive and was critical of the fact that existing links no longer worked post-upgrade.
I registered this bug at connect.microsoft.com where I said:
The new interface looks great but I’m pretty angry that old links no longer work. If you want it proved to you then hit the links on this page:
I accept that this is a beta service but surely you have to maintain links.
Is it going to change again?
I received this reply:
Unfortunately, this is by design because of our name change.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
Now, I can just about accept that given Skydrive is still a beta service (that word "beta" seems to be a handy "Get out of jail free" card) but I don’t accept the poor communication that surrounds it. Why were we not warned at the outset that links we create might not work in the future? Why were we not told about the problem here after the upgrade? Why has the question that I posed been ignored?
I have been generous with my praise of Windows Live initiatives over the past few months but when the teams need calling to task over their actions then I will criticise as well. Here is such a case.
I hope this improves in the future but given the apathetic approach that the Windows Live teams take towards their customers (more of that in another post) I fear it won’t.
I’ve spoken about Live Folders quite alot on here lately and some big news from that product team today is that they have dropped their working name and adopted "Windows Live Skydrive" as their name. Read about it directly from the SkyDrive team here and read more comment here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here (is that enough?).
The new interface is better and includes the new Live Wave 2 UI, the uploading tool is very very cool (drag and drop files that you want to upload directly into the browser), I like the provided embed links, and there is a pretty heavy nod to personalisation too. All is not great though, any existing links no longer work which I happen to think is pretty shocking even for a beta service. Just to verify that they don’t work, go and check out these three previous blog entries of mine where I have had to update the links:
- SSIS Nugget: Bitwise Checkpointing
- Announcing SQL Server Monitor Gadget for Windows Vista Sidebar
- Consuming web services in SSIS 2008
Come on guys. Think about these things huh?