Microsoft Expands SkyDrive for Windows 8.1 Cloud Storage Options
Microsoft has tightened its integration of SkyDrive with Windows 8.1 by adding new bandwidth-saving placeholder files and more offline file options.Syncing folders full of photos and multi-megabyte documents can take a healthy bite out of a device's hard drive or solid-state drive (SSD). Microsoft wants to help its Windows 8.1 users to reclaim some space with an upcoming version of SkyDrive, which is already fairly well integrated into the current OS. In a July 22 Inside SkyDrive blog post, Mona Akmal, Microsoft's group program manager of SkyDrive apps, detailed some of the changes her team is making to its cloud-based storage and file share and sync service. The enhancements are meant to address a thorny dilemma posed by the mobile device boom. In short, users' storage needs are rapidly outpacing the onboard data-keeping capabilities of their devices. "Industry trends suggest that even though devices have larger storage capacities (growing 25 percent per year), people's data and files are growing significantly faster (around 50 percent per year)," she wrote. SkyDrive for Windows 8.1 remedies this by enlisting a sliver of local storage for file browsing and letting the cloud perform most of the heavy lifting. With Microsoft's placeholder file technology, instead of streaming file details over the Internet, placeholder files contain thumbnails and metadata, allowing users to explore their folders without devoting large chunks of local storage to them or taxing their sometimes tenuous network connections.
"Placeholder files look and feel like normal folders and files," wrote Akmal, adding that they can be edited, saved and deleted just like their traditional counterparts. "This means that the placeholder file is significantly smaller in size [than] the file in SkyDrive, but when you need to use it, we'll download the full file for you," she boasted.