** Update ** With the rebranding of SkyDrive Pro to OneDrive for Business, this article is a bit outdated. Though the concepts explained in this article are still valid and applicable, for the latest news, see our updated article on OneDrive for Business
With the release of SharePoint 2013 came a new feature that has proven to confuse almost everyone, SkyDrive Pro. The confusion lies with another Microsoft product called SkyDrive that is completely unrelated to SharePoint. Confused as well? You’re not the only one and you shouldn’t feel bad about it, I have talked with people that make a living with SharePoint who are just as confused. I am writing this to answer some of the many questions I get when speaking on SharePoint 2013 “What People want from SharePoint 2013”.
First, there was SkyDrive
Let’s start with the one everyone knows, SkyDrive. SkyDrive is free to the public; anyone can have a SkyDrive account it is usually attached to your Hotmail, Live or Outlook.com account.
SkyDrive is a place somewhere in the “cloud” as some would say. Essentially, a place where you can store your files without having to worry about it and Microsoft is taking care of the storage for you. A competitor to the very popular service called Dropbox.
If we try to simply the service, because I could write quite a bit just on SkyDrive, you can put your files there and share them with others. After adding your files on SkyDrive, you assign “Public”, “View” or “View and Edit” permissions and generate a hyperlink for people to access the files or folders. You do have 7GB of storage, though you can always purchase more. There are a few other fun features like commenting on files and folders but this is not the focus of my article.
Do you remember the SharePoint “My Sites”?
These became popular with SharePoint 2010 though in many cases, it wasn’t really used to its full potential. The same goes for SharePoint 2007 where it was even less popular. The way I see it, My Sites is the new “My Documents” found on our computers.
In SharePoint 2013, we still have the concept of My Sites.
SharePoint My Sites:
If activated, it allows users in your organization to have a “personal” environment, so to speak. It creates a SharePoint Site Collection for every user that uses a My Site. This Site Collection comes with a few things including a Blog subsite, a Tasks List and of course… a Document Library.
Teaser: This Document Library is what some confuse with “SkyDrive Pro”.
The SkyDrive link in the Top Bar of SharePoint 2013
So why did I talk about the My Sites earlier if we are covering SharePoint 2013 SkyDrive Pro exactly? Well, we established that when you create a My Site as a user, you get your own Site Collection, which includes a Site with a Documents Library amongst other things. The SkyDrive hyperlink at the top is just a link to this Document Library.
If you look at this screenshot, you’ll notice that after I clicked on the SkyDrive link, I arrived to my so-called “SkyDrive Pro” which, if we look at the url, really just is my Document Library. Here is the fun part, this is still not SkyDrive Pro, all it is, is a hyperlink with the name SkyDrive to a personal Document Library.
SkyDrive Pro – The document synchronization service
SkyDrive Pro is not really something that comes with SharePoint 2013. It actually comes with Microsoft Office 2013 and very recently as a standalone download from the Microsoft site.
Let’s take the Document Library in our personal My Site for example, which is called SkyDrive Pro in many places. SharePoint 2013 has a new “Sync” button that tells your installed SkyDrive Pro to launch and sync with this document library to make the documents available offline and on your desktop.
Once you click on it, SkyDrive Pro will launch
and will allow you to Sync this Document Library to the specified location.
So is this SkyDrive Pro?
Well this is what I am trying to explain; SkyDrive Pro isn’t a specific Document Library or place in SharePoint. It’s the service that runs on your computer that does the Sync job for you. You can even launch SkyDrive Pro from the start menu.
SkyDrive Pro can be used with almost every Document Library
Right now we established that there is a public service called SkyDrive and that there is also a link called SkyDrive in SharePoint that actually points to your Document Library in your My Site. Then, we looked at a “Sync” button that launches your installed SkyDrive Pro service to Sync that Document Library to your Desktop.
But, what about other Document Libraries?
The Sync button is contextual to the url or where you are when you click it. So if I go to my Team Site and click on Sync, it will want to Sync with the Document Library there. If I go to a specific Document Library and click on Sync, then it will want to Sync with that Library. Let’s see.
The only difference with the Document Library from your My Site is that this one will not be stored under SkyDrive Pro in your Favorites but under SharePoint.
But it’s still SkyDrive Pro on your computer doing everything and making it happen.
Prevent Document Libraries from being sync’ed with SkyDrive Pro
If you do not wish for a Document Library to be available to Sync through SkyDrive Pro, there is an option in the Advanced Settings of a Document Library.
Once set to no, the Sync button for the Document Library will not longer be available.
Launching SkyDrive Pro from your Computer
The SkyDrive Pro client on your computer can also be launched and used to browse your Site and available document Libraries.
Once launched, it will appear in your tray as an icon with blue clouds. You can use it to Sync to a new Library by right clicking and selecting “Sync a new Library”.
This will launch a new menu where you can enter a SharePoint 2013 url and select a Document Library to Sync.
Problem with the terminology and things to know
Let’s try to put everything we learned in an easy summarized view.
SkyDrive: A free online service offered by Microsoft that lets you store and share files and folders. It has nothing to do with SharePoint.
My Site: This is not SkyDrive Pro; it’s still your My Site which is a Site Collection owned by the User.
SkyDrive Pro (the link): In SharePoint 2013 there is a link at the top called SkyDrive which points to the Document Library in your My Site. Once “Sync’ed” it will appear in your Computer by using the application SkyDrive Pro installed by Office 2013 or standalone. This Document Library will appear as “SkyDrive Pro” in your local “Favorites” which can lead to confusion.
The Real SkyDrive Pro: A synchronization service installed by Office 2013 or standalone from the Microsoft download site. Once installed it will allow you to Sync any Document Library from SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 to your Computer. These will then appear in your Windows Explorer under “Favorites”.
Things to know
SkyDrive Pro is not a Migration Tool: Just because you can drag and drop files to SharePoint using SkyDrive Pro does not mean it is a migration tool for content. You will want to preserve the authors and timestamps (created, created by, modified, modified by). This is something SkyDrive Pro will not do while copying your files.
Work Offline: When it Syncs your files from SharePoint 2013 to your Computer, the files are actually copied. This lets users work offline. SkyDrive Pro is the new Groove 2007 and SharePoint Workspace 2010 but simplified.
Stopping a Sync: Important to know, especially for security reasons is that files that were copied by a Sync with SkyDrive Pro will stay on the users computer once the Sync is stopped.
The real challenge for you
You’ll have to see how you will take on this confusion within your own organization. Microsoft has opted to call the Document Library in your My Site “SkyDrive Pro” in hope to keep the confusion to a minimum no doubt. This would probably help users think of SkyDrive as the free service and SkyDrive Pro a similar service but with files and folders stored in their own corporate Document Library on SharePoint 2013 or even Office 365.
Everything will depend on how you bring this terminology in. If you are migrating to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 this is something you’ll want to make sure is understood beforehand by your Power Users.
I wrote this article because I saw a lot of confusion both online and during my conference sessions on SharePoint 2013. I wrote an article “What People want from SharePoint 2013” which covers many other questions and uncertainties I have noticed. You can also check out my comparison of SkyDrive Pro vs Dropbox.