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SkyDrive's Integration with Windows 8.1

SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage platform and with their Windows 8 operating system they see it as an important part of their infrastructure. That’s even truer with Windows 8.1, the latest update to their OS which sees a number of changes that make SkyDrive a more core component. This article will explore some of these new additional features.

Storing all your data with limited capacity

Microsoft states that people’s data is growing at a much faster rate than storage capacity is. For example, mobile phones only have a limited amount of internal storage (and even if it can be expanded by SD cards, that too has a cap). Microsoft wanted to come up with a solution that would conserve user disk space, but still make all their files accessible to them no matter what device they were using.

Their solution was to use placeholder files. These appear just like regular files and can be opened, edited and browsed as per usual. However, fundamentally, these placeholder files are just thumbnail images with a bit of data attached to them. The full file is only downloaded when you access it. That means you can move it, delete it or rename it without ever needing to download the full file. The benefit of this is that the placeholder far takes up significantly less disk space than the actual file would.

For photos, where users might want to quickly browse between them without waiting for them each to download, the solution was to display large thumbnails instead of the actual file. These thumbnails are fetched prior to browsing in order to enable fast scrolling. It’s only when editing the file that the full picture is downloaded to the drive.

Microsoft claims that someone who has 100GB of files on SkyDrive can have all of this stored on their Windows 8.1 device for less than 5GB of space.

Offline access

Microsoft understands that you might not always have internet connectivity when you’re on the go. As such, they’ve added a feature which allows users to mark which files they want available for offline access. Any edits to the file will be synchronised, ensuring that you always have the most recent version. If you’ve opened or edited a file on a device previously then it will automatically be marked as available offline; you’ll also be able to mark things manually, of course.

If you have a lot of drive storage at your fingertips then it is entirely possible to make your whole SkyDrive library available offline, if you so desire.

Seamless integration

SkyDrive is built into the system with Windows 8.1, which means that any changes made to files are automatically synced back to the cloud, no matter what app you’re using. For example, pictures shared with you via email can easily be saved to SkyDrive from the Mail app.

SkyDrive also appears in the File Explorer and you can move files around just like you can with any other folder. Additionally, the entire SkyDrive library of files is searchable through the standard Windows search functionality.

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