SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, is critical to the company’s strategic direction for Windows. It is the means by which content and settings are kept in synch across different Windows machines; or more precisely, user accounts across different Windows machines.
Content in SkyDrive is accessible via any web browser, and there are clients for Windows and for various mobile devices. Office Web Apps are also built-in so you can create and edit documents in the cloud.
In principle it is an excellent service, but since the release of Windows 8.1 a few problems have emerged. Specifically:
Some users report problems synching. Check out this thread which begins with users of the 8.1 preview but continues through to the release. The main issue mentioned is that synchronisation simply fails for some users, but others report duplicate documents created with names like somedoc-mypc.xls and somedoc-mylaptop.xls, where “mypc” and “mylaptop” are the names of computers used with the service. Working out which document is the most current can be tricky.
I have encountered this myself, even on some occasions with a document created and edited solely on one machine. Somehow SkyDrive manages to think there is a conflict.
Another problems is unnecessary network traffic. Here is an example of some of these issues:
My brand new shiny Surface Pro 2 was set to have the documents available offline and everything else online only. The sync has stalled just like everyone else reports in this thread. I changed the folder to "online only" and the sync claimed to complete. I then changed the folder back to "available offline" and it proceeded to redownload thousands of files, finally stalling again with a little more than 200 left. The Metro app says that the files have completed yet they are still in the pending queue.
Many users express what seems to me a valid complaint, that Windows 8.1 gives you less information and control than was in Windows 8.0.
Some users dislike being tied to a Microsoft account. SkyDrive is a consumer service, and you can only use it with a Microsoft account (MSA) – a descendant of what was once called Passport. In Windows 8 and earlier, which had standalone SkyDrive clients, that was not too bad. You can sign into SkyDrive just as you would into Dropbox or any cloud service. In Windows 8.1 though, SkyDrive is baked into the operating system, which means that you have to sign in centrally to a Microsoft account.
There are several reasons users struggle with this, including privacy concerns, inconvenience if you have more than one SkyDrive account you want to use, and complications when you have a corporate login to a Windows domain as well as SkyDrive:
When I login with my domain account and connect my MSA to it, Skydrive still won’t sync, it keeps creating "Skydrive" folders in the user directory each time it tries to start. I can’t find anything in the logs to help.
If I instead login with the MSA account to the computer it will sync.
SkyDrive is a free service and Microsoft has good reason to encourage users to sign in with one of its accounts, which gives access to the Windows Store, Xbox Music and other services. I can see why users object, but also why Microsoft wants to encourage users to sign in.
It is harder to understand why the service does not work reliably. The impression I get is that this is more to do with the client, especially in Windows 8.1, than with the cloud service; but it is hard to be sure.
How extensive are the problems? Again, it is hard to get firm data. I find it works reasonably well for me, though I get the duplicate file problem as well as regular issues saving Office documents. The notorious Office Upload Center reports a problem and you have to re-open the document in Office and save to resolve it.