Cloud Computing In Action: How I work with Live Mesh, SkyDrive, and Office Live Workspace

Cloud Computing In Action: How I work with Live Mesh, SkyDrive, and Office Live Workspace

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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.

mesh1

 

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.

mesh2

 

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.

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  • I've been working with SkyDrive for about 6 months and love it! I've been a little confused on the Live Mesh thing -- thanks for clearing that up.

    Also thanks for the MuseScore mention. I play guitar and have been using a small shareware tool for that. This looks very cool indeed my friend :)

    Best Regards,

    Rowland

    (One of your many space-center ex-pats)

  • Awesome!

  • Buck, I use SkyDrive but have yet to hook up Mesh. The thing that concerns me is that it's just a subset of my documents folder that I want to be synchronized with the cloud, so how does that work? Would I create a folder inside my documents (with the same internal folder/file structure as the documents folder) and only sync the contents of that folder?

  • Jeremy - that's right. That's how I do it.

  • Update: The Office Features are indeed now called Office Web Apps - and they have been updated to include even more functionality, specifically with OneNote! blogs.office.com/.../new-skydrive-updates-make-sharing-office-docs-easier.aspx

  • I'm sure that you guys are working on integration more and more these days. Mesh is a great product and so is the SkyDrive.

    I'm a student, I can tell you that 2 out of 10 people in my school know what the SkyDrive is and none knows what Mesh is. On the other hand they all know DropBox. More interestingly, the reason that they chose DropBox over SkyDrive is that they think SkyDrive misses a desktop app! Or in the other word, Mesh.

    Long story short invest on marketing Mesh please. Also the new sharing features of SkyDrive makes it like 2012 app. Office apps are great but I'm sure that you want people to drop DropBox because SkyDrive(+Mesh) is more shiny not Office apps.

  • Hello BuckWoody! This is a very practical, very useful blog you have here. I've been reading in reverse chronological order, it is fun! In a prior comment, I read this:

    "Mesh is a great product and so is the SkyDrive...2 out of 10 people in my school know what the SkyDrive is, none know Mesh... On the other hand they all know DropBox."

    Now I do realize that you are not in charge of Microsoft Product Management or Marketing. But that comment, by @Nima I think, rings true to me as well, and I haven't been a student for a long time. Microsoft has some wonderful offerings. Your blog is great because you explain what they are and very specifically how they can be used. I always feel sad when I see the great work that y'all do, with fine documentation and support, yet hardly anyone is even aware that exists.

    Keep up the good blogging!

  • Great help, which looking at all the comments popping up now, will be of help for a few people!

  • This is all well and good. And I would be impressed, if it were in anyway true. I have a Skydrive account (good - free storage!) and LiveMesh (good - automatic syncing). But the two are like distance acquaintances, not close friends like they should be. I have set up Mesh to snyc the files I need for work and it works very well. However, if you log into Skydrive, for instance from another computer/device, you can't access the synced folders. The only way to call up the synced folders is via the Mesh program itself on the computer from which I am syncing them from anyway. There is also no possibility in Live Mesh to specify a destination folder on Skydrive for synced storage. According to your description, you "send files to Skydrive using Mesh" - as far as I can see this is not possible. Therefore, files which I would like to be able to access from devices which do not have Live Essentials installed are not available (ie other computers, or my Android phone). Have I missed something? Because your article implies that the system works differently to what I am experiencing. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  • Make it work like dropbox, sync with fellow workers

  • I really like the LiveMesh program and all features.  I don't want to see the most important feature to go away.  Being able to connect to a remote computer from another computer and do whatever I want. SkyDrive and LiveMesh need to be merged together and neither of the apps should lose any of their functionality.  I don't want to mark a file to be shared on one machine just so I have to log into a website or SkyDrive app to do whatever I want with the file.  I want to be able to log into that computer where the file is at and work from there.  I also want to be able to share any file with SkyDrive feature if I don't have the time to connect remotely. Please realize that these features (both SkyDrive and LiveMesh) should be at the very heart of ANY Windows (Vista, 7, 8 & Servers) networking wise.  This makes me & my clients feel better knowing that it was created by Microsoft and integrated correctly into Windows core network, firewall, & MSE stacks. I hope you will not kill LiveMesh.

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