At the moment I’m involved in two student projects that we manage through Windows Live Services. In this article I want to explain why we chose Windows Live as a working platform.
We were looking for a solution to share documents and manage a project for a team of students that are not living in the same city. We were comparing different online solutions with the following criteria: no costs, easy access, a communication-tool between team members, time-management possibilities and file sharing.
We wanted everybody in the team to have the same conditions. It didn’t take us long time to discover that the Windows Live ID with its package of services would highly boost our teamwork and efficiency on different levels.
Other promising options have been Google Docs, Box.net or Dropbox. But all of them were rejected through the criteria listed above. The most common problems have been with insufficient storage space or no structured overview about the implemented features. Other knock-outs had been complicated navigation, permanent mirroring of the project folders to the local hard drive or some missing features like a calendar. Of course we could have come up with a multiple-party solution, but to get all the ingredients in a tasty recipe we would need hours of cooking.
Windows Live ID makes workflow easy for us. Primarily it offers every registered user 25GB of free online storage via SkyDrive. Secondarily the files are saved in the cloud on a data-storage in the internet. They are always accessible via your browser and are not dumping your hard drive. You can add workgroups to your account and invite people to work on the same files. The workgroup represents the virtual team desktop and by every login the user gets updated about what’s going on there (like the status reports on Facebook). You can add a team-calendar and comment uploaded or online documents so that you can quickly join or initiate discussions.
Especially for editing documents Microsoft provides online versions of its famous applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note, that can be accessed via your browser through a web-interface. On this way all students can create documents simply online without the need to have an application installed on their machine.
FASCINATING? Yes it is, especially if we stick to the rule above that everybody in the team should have the same conditions to work with each other.
AWESOME? Indeed, because the Online-Features are based on the actual Office 2010 Suite and the basic functionality is almost the same. You can sync your online Windows Live ID with your Office 2010 suite and work offline on documents and the team. It increases workflow sufficiently. Last but not least you can set up team meetings and voice chats via Windows-Messenger. Everything you need for a small student or business project.
To sum it up: Too many cooks spoil the broth!
Windows Live ID was first choice because we have all of our needed components in one system for a unified workflow:
- A 24-7 accessible workspace and file-sharing service
- A calendar for time management
- A communication tool for team meetings
In my next blogpost I will demonstrate how SkyDrive and Windows-Live-Writer are working perfectly together with WordPress for your external communication.