Recently I had an tweetversation with a couple of friends on some confusion around two of our products: SkyDrive and Live Mesh. Like most of our software, there’s no single way to do things. That can be a strength or it can cause that confusion. They asked if I would blog how I work with these two products, and what advantages there are to this way of working.
Before I start – this is specific to these two Microsoft products. If you’re a fanboi of another product, that’s great. Awesome. Go for it. You don’t have to use these. There’s no law about it or anything. It’s all good. I use the products you see below because I evaluated lots of them, and these work the best for me – not because I work at Microsoft. But do what makes you happy.
Let’s start with what each of these products do. Live Mesh synchronizes files to various locations. You can create a file on one PC, save it, and then when you fire up another PC that file will be copied from the original location. It’s a mirror of the file, and it exists in both places. You can change the file on the second location, and it will be copied back to the other system, stepping right on top of it.
SkyDrive is a storage system. You can store lots of data in there – larger than most of the other free offerings.
Office Live Workspaces allows you to integrate SkyDrive into your local copy of Microsoft Office, so that you can create, save and edit a document and it will be stored in SkyDrive, and not only that, it will keep a local, synced copy so that you can work offline. But it also has a web-based subset of Microsoft Office. You can create, edit and work with Microsoft Office documents with no software installed at all. From Linux, Mac, a cell phone, whatever has a browser. In fact, we’ve released one of my favorite products, OneNote, in iPhone and iPad flavors, which also buffer down the file as if you had a PC and Microsoft Office.
I rely on these each of these products every day. Here’s how I use them.
I use Live Mesh to copy my entire “Data” directory – files, music, everything – from my home “server” to my work and other systems. Since SkyDrive has a limit, I only send certain files to SkyDrive using Mesh. Just the ones I need access to from non Microsoft-OS devices. Of course, this means I have to leave my home server turned on – which I do anyway since it’s my media server, web server, TV, etc. But everything else I sync to about four computers running Windows.
For my OneNote files – quickly becoming the center of my universe – and anything else I want to access from anywhere, all the time, I use SkyDrive and Live Office. Here’s how that works.
If it’s an MP3, Visual Studio Code, a training video or whatever my customer needs, I save it in SkyDrive, mark it public, and send them the link. Done. Any device that can render these can access the file over the web. Since I play in a group on Sunday, I even put my music there (I use MuseScore) and then I can pop the music up on my netbook right at the pulpit and leave the paper at home.
For OneNote or other Microsoft Office documents, I create the document first in Office Live. Once the file is open, and before I even type in it, I click the button marked “Open in OneNote” (or Word, or Excel, or whatever) and from them on I have that file linked in the local system, and a shadow copy for working offline. I can also work with that document from the web using my Linux or Apple OS’s if needed. I recently attended a very Microsoft-hostile environment, so everything from the presentation to the code review for Windows Azure I did from Live Office and my SkyDrive, all from my Linux Laptop.
As I’ve always said – use what works. This arrangement gives me the ultimate flexibility. I have my data from Live Mesh synchronized on multiple systems. More than once I’ve deleted something I needed, or changed something. I simply boot up the other device without being connected to the web, copy the old version off, and then let it connect and sync. I also back up my home server once a week to a set of local drives, so I have offsite and onsite backups. I can work from anywhere I have a browser, or someone that will let me borrow a device. I have all my presentations ready to present from any system, even if mine breaks.
Hopefully this helps – and hopefully it inspires you to write a blog entry on how you use your favorite cloud products. There are always multiple ways to do things, and I love to learn.