Editorial

It's time to merge SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh, Microsoft

With cloud-based storage services suddenly in vogue, it's no surprise that Microsoft and Google launched their cloud storage services – SkyDrive and Google Drive, respectively – only a day apart from one another. Clearly neither company wants the other to gain valuable momentum. So why then is Microsoft not using its secret weapon, Windows Live Mesh, to put SkyDrive head-and-shoulders above the competition?

It also shouldn't come as any surprise that Microsoft still hasn't decided exactly what it wants to do in the cloud storage industry, given that the company's cloud storage history is tumultuous at best. For those who may be unaware, Microsoft's first legitimate foray into the realm of cloud storage was FolderShare, which it purchased in 2005 and later rebranded Windows Live Sync in 2008. At the same time, the company was preparing the Windows Live Mesh technology preview. It took Microsoft another two years before it combined the two services.

So here we are again, facing the same scenario as four years ago: Microsoft has two competing cloud-based storage services, except this time the two services are actually fairly different. SkyDrive serves as the more typical of the two – when SkyDrive is installed, a specially-branded folder is placed in a user's account; the user can then save or move files to the folder to sync them with SkyDrive's servers. This is the same style of service offered by Microsoft's competitors: Google Drive, Dropbox and most other cloud storage services have a similar management system.

Windows Live Mesh takes a different approach to cloud storage. With Mesh, users can select specific folders to sync with Microsoft's SkyDrive servers. Users don't have to place files or folders in a specific place; instead, the program will recognize where folders are located and sync them across platforms, regardless of their location. The service also has a handy "devices" page on Windows Live where users can manage the devices (including computers and phones) and folders they have synced, should they run into any problems. While a few other services offer similar capabilities – most notably SugarSync – the majority don't, SkyDrive included.

Currently, I have both SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh installed. "Well, that's just stupid!" you might argue. I'd argue it's out of a desire to keep my files backed up without worry. While SkyDrive's great if I want to collaborate with others on specific projects, it's much easier to simply have Mesh sync my important folders. When my last laptop decided life wasn't worth living anymore, all my important documents were already synced to my other computer, which made my life much easier. I didn't have to worry about whether or not I had moved my files to the specific syncing folder – it all just worked. 

That's not to say SkyDrive doesn't have its uses. The service is fantastic for working in groups with others. Sharing photographs between devices is also great. And with its relaunch earlier this week, SkyDrive began offering tiered storage levels for purchase, a service option which isn't available in Windows Live Mesh. What would make these tiered levels more enticing, however, would be the option to use them with Windows Live Mesh's features. More content could be synced in the background, and users wouldn't have to micromanage their files to a specific folder.

From a consumer perspective, I think Windows Live Mesh is currently the more compelling option. If consumers were given the ability to purchase tiered storage levels as they are on SkyDrive, it could prove to be a hit. Businesses likely don't require the same features, however, and sharing a SkyDrive folder may be more than enough for them. But SkyDrive doesn't appear to be marketed at businesses at the moment; in fact, Microsoft's recent discussions of the service have seemed to target consumers. When the company's displayed the deep integration the service will have in Windows 8, for instance, it's primarily showed this through a consumer's viewpoint. If the service is going to cater to consumers, or cater to both consumers and businesses, then it'd make sense to include the intelligent folder syncing capabilities of Mesh.

So, why is Microsoft not combining the two services? I mean, it's no secret that the Windows Live software suite isn't going to be around much longer. And Mesh already uses the SkyDrive servers for its intelligent folder syncing. It's simply perplexing that Microsoft didn't relaunch SkyDrive with Windows Live Mesh's capabilities in tow. It's time to merge SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh, Microsoft. If you want to be the best cloud-based storage service, you need to have all your best features under one brand.

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The biggest difference and feature of MEsh is to let user share any folder he wants.

It should had been simpler to add a Skydrive Library type where folders added to it should be shared, while still anywhere on the hard drive.

After, there is of course the remote desktop feature wich is implented sort of on the new skydrive by browsing distant computer content on web UI

I love mesh, skydrive not so much.

skydrive does NOT seem to have ALL of the features of mesh! There's no remote desktop like feature with skydrive....

I dont want mesh to die.... I use it all the time!

mesh is dead. it's just not consumer friendly enough for the masses.
is a "skydrive" folder any easier? probably. but i agree the missing features from mesh should be brought over

jasonon said,
mesh is dead. it's just not consumer friendly enough for the masses.
is a "skydrive" folder any easier? probably. but i agree the missing features from mesh should be brought over

They already have been, that is why this article is borderline embarrassing to read for the author that doesn't understand the topic.

Additional Notes...

If you want Specific Directories/Folders located on your computer to be 'Synced' to SkyDrive WITHOUT moving them to the SkyDrive folder, you can just create a Junction Point to the Directory/Folder in the SkyDrive Folder and it will be added to SkyDrive.

(Look up Junctions MKLINK or a GUI version of the tool.)

I have folders located on various volumes that I have simply created a Junction to them, and now they are also Synced online via the SkyDrive App.


As for 'business/enterprise' if the IT manager is NOT smart enough to create a Junction to aggregate various Folders into the user's SkyDrive, they should be fired.


There is a LOT to SkyDrive that people do not understand, and IDIOTS like Paul Thurrot will NEVER get after seeing his freaking crazy article.

You can also use WebDAV to access and use SkyDrive, and can even use concepts standard NTFS features, to compress, encrypt, etc content.

As one user was asking last week, you can create a VHD in Windows 7, Lock it using BitLocker, and put it the SkyDrive folder, and mount it as a 'Volume'. This gives you an online 'Drive' inside SkyDrive that is insanely highly encrypted as well.

Wow... So much information, so little understanding...

Creating a junction point isn't a user-friendly solution, and it's also something that isn't built into SkyDrive. This article is discussing SkyDrive and Windows Live Mesh and the features and capabilities from the get-go (and why I think it'd be beneficial if these features were built in to SkyDrive). Using junction points also doesn't sync correctly via cross-platform usage, such as from a PC to Mac, whereas Windows Live Mesh does.

Anurag Kalia said,
Use junction points. I am syncing "my documents" on skydrive. Simple! Most of the other things can easily be saved in skydrive folder!

Exactly...

You can even just pick up the Document Folder and 'Move' it to the SkyDrive Folder, Windows 7 will update the location automatically since it is a 'special folder'.

With so many Linux users and people that have played with *nix over the years, a Junction point is not a new or hard concept.

There is are features of SkyDrive that are not getting any attention.

SkyDrive supports remote access for files now... This is making Live Mesh not needed for 'Syncing' PC to PC.

SkyDrive already supports full Syncing capabilities, just move the folder to the SkyDrive folder, so move your Picture, Documents, Desktop or whatever you want to 'follow you' and be ON SkyDrive.

As for the PC to PC Syncing technology, you can also use SkyDrive now, by accessing any computer you have the SkyDrive App installed on.

Here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?f..._embedded&v=La4KtPLYXxk

...and here...

http://windowsteamblog.com/win...d-storage-and-skydrive.aspx

My ONLY problem with Mesh is that I cannot edit documents in a browser from anywhere, Thats just dumb. Skydrive has that ability. But I do think I should be able to Mesh any folder from anywhere to Skydrive AND have the ability to edit in a browser.

10,000% agree with critical article. This is just another example of MS being completely stupid and just adding to customer confusion. They should have either updated Mesh to use full SkyDrive space, or made the SkyDrive app detect and replace Mesh feature for feature. Way to go, M[ust]S[tupefy].

IntelliMoo said,
10,000% agree with critical article. This is just another example of MS being completely stupid and just adding to customer confusion. They should have either updated Mesh to use full SkyDrive space, or made the SkyDrive app detect and replace Mesh feature for feature. Way to go, M[ust]S[tupefy].

You like the author of the article, just do not get the direction of the products and what is currently available through SkyDrive.

SkyDrive can fully replace the 'Sync' features of Live Mesh already. Windows 8 is where Microsoft is headed and the Mesh features of 'remote access' is going to be part of the OS. Additionally Windows 8 is adding 'roaming profiles' and SkyDrive folders following you as well automatically.

As an old school CIS professor, the lack of understanding is scary, and I don't even have a good suggestion for Microsoft to 'help' people understand that things will just work and the complexity is going away.

thenetavenger said,

You like the author of the article, just do not get the direction of the products and what is currently available through SkyDrive.

SkyDrive can fully replace the 'Sync' features of Live Mesh already. Windows 8 is where Microsoft is headed and the Mesh features of 'remote access' is going to be part of the OS. Additionally Windows 8 is adding 'roaming profiles' and SkyDrive folders following you as well automatically.

As an old school CIS professor, the lack of understanding is scary, and I don't even have a good suggestion for Microsoft to 'help' people understand that things will just work and the complexity is going away.


I completely understand Microsoft's direction, I just don't agree with it. Isn't there room for differing opinions in this discussion?

We already know that certain settings will be synced with Windows 8, but that's not something Mesh does right now beyond Internet Explorer favorites, and it wasn't something I was attempting to address with this article. I was specifically referring to the intelligent folder syncing.

I agree pc to pc sync is needed, along with selective folder sync. I use SkyDrive now for my documents and its easy to get around the 'special SkyDrive folder' limitation. Add the documents SkyDrive folder to your my documents library and set it as default save location for that library - then move current docs (excluding specific program save folders if you wish) and job done.

duddit2 said,
I agree pc to pc sync is needed, along with selective folder sync. I use SkyDrive now for my documents and its easy to get around the 'special SkyDrive folder' limitation. Add the documents SkyDrive folder to your my documents library and set it as default save location for that library - then move current docs (excluding specific program save folders if you wish) and job done.

i also use mesh for specific folders too large for SkyDrive (videos, pictures etc). Until SkyDrive app supports selective sync I can't use it for larger folders (as my laptop has a 64GB SSD drive with 10GB remaining).
as soon as selective sync appears I'll buy more space and stop using mesh.
I really hope they don't kill mesh before adding selective sync.

Oh also local network sync, big deal that one. Don't want to have traffic coming in and out just to sync files that are local, big files will cause issues here.

duddit2 said,

i also use mesh for specific folders too large for SkyDrive (videos, pictures etc). Until SkyDrive app supports selective sync I can't use it for larger folders (as my laptop has a 64GB SSD drive with 10GB remaining).
as soon as selective sync appears I'll buy more space and stop using mesh.
I really hope they don't kill mesh before adding selective sync.

Oh also local network sync, big deal that one. Don't want to have traffic coming in and out just to sync files that are local, big files will cause issues here.

Use this feature for things you don't want to keep Synced or on SkyDrive...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?f..._embedded&v=La4KtPLYXxk

Microsoft's Mesh technology is a device to device smart sync technology that They're not quite sure of how to use just yet. They've tried it as a web only with a service client on PCs, they've tried adding it to messenger with shared folders and they've added it to Windows Live Sync (some call it rebranded). I'm not sure where its going to end up, but I think with the way Microsoft is pushing cloud profiles with the Live ID sign in with Windows 8, and how you can access the skydrive from Metro apps, including apps from Windows Phone, *already*. I can only assume Mesh will be more of a backend updating technology that'll work alongside Skydrive... just out of sight.

Wasn't Live Mesh always considered a beta product? I always figured Live Mesh was the stepping stone to Sky Drive. Doesn't necessarily mean they will keep all the features from Live Mesh. PC to PC sync was awesome, but maybe Microsoft had too many user problems with that particular feature and decided they didn't want to support it.

If the cloud storage is sufficiently large, does it matter to most users?

Shadrack said,
Wasn't Live Mesh always considered a beta product?

It was in Beta for many years, but it has since migrated out of Beta (after a bit of a re-branding fiasco by Microsoft - they re-branded it Live Sync, but finally caved in after users complained about the name confusion, as so it became Live Mesh)

Shadrack said,
Wasn't Live Mesh always considered a beta product? I always figured Live Mesh was the stepping stone to Sky Drive. Doesn't necessarily mean they will keep all the features from Live Mesh. PC to PC sync was awesome, but maybe Microsoft had too many user problems with that particular feature and decided they didn't want to support it.

If the cloud storage is sufficiently large, does it matter to most users?

Yes it was a stepping stone to SkyDrive, but no it wasn't always a beta product.

The reasoning behind Live Mesh and the way it works was a 'step' while the Microsoft cloud technologies were being updated, which started around the time Vista was in production.

Microsoft has been bringing their cloud technologies online for several years, which includes the Windows NT Azure underlying OS technologies.

Planning for Windows 8 has always included moving users to online 'integration' and creating the 'roaming' features that have been a main feature of Windows NT since the early 90s in corporate environments. (Windows 7 was a possible point of these features, but the release schedule to replace Vista, bandwidth averages, and the changing server side features were not where Microsoft wanted.)

It took bandwidth catching up to be able to add this integration to for the home/consumer users, as 'roaming' in a LAN environment was always rather easy for Windows.

The Microsoft cloud strategy is still very much in 'progress' as Windows NT Azure technology continues to mature and more Microsoft online technologies are brought online.

I like Mesh's ability to sync folders between PCs *without* uploading them to the cloud, too. So I can sync large folders without having to use space on my SkyDrive, I'll be annoyed if they take that away.

This is just like WHS's Drive Extender feature being taken away. A lot of users are pleading Microsoft to not discontinue the features they want in Live Mesh and Microsoft is just ignoring that and saying SkyDrive will be the half-baked replacement that won't do everything Mesh did.

xpclient said,
This is just like WHS's Drive Extender feature being taken away. A lot of users are pleading Microsoft to not discontinue the features they want in Live Mesh and Microsoft is just ignoring that and saying SkyDrive will be the half-baked replacement that won't do everything Mesh did.

Exactly; I do not want a special folder synced among my devices; I want the ability to sync files and folders located in different places.
MS did it right at the beginning with MESH and now they are messing things.

Fritzly said,

Exactly; I do not want a special folder synced among my devices; I want the ability to sync files and folders located in different places.
MS did it right at the beginning with MESH and now they are messing things.

agreed... while for WHS they had technical issues... i don't thats even the case here since it works pretty great in mesh.

I agree with this idea, merging two applications into one is more usefull.

I'm myself using Live Mesh for all my Internet Explorer's Favorites and MS Office settings to sync.
Before releasing a skydrive app, Microsoft could simply have upgraded Live Mesh with new features...

psreloaded said,
Skydrive + Mesh's capability to sync any folder from anywhere on multiple machine and remote desktop would be a killer...

They won't do that, it was already stated by MS

FoxieFoxie said,

They won't do that, it was already stated by MS

Oh... well, that is sad... Having developed the tech implemented in mesh, it would be stupid to not use it on skydrive once mesh is killed.

any source like?

psreloaded said,

Oh... well, that is sad... Having developed the tech implemented in mesh, it would be stupid to not use it on skydrive once mesh is killed.

any source like?

Check MS blog, basically they want to focus on the cloud while mes h is more "out of cloud"

AWilliams87 said,
Seriously dude, the plan is to phase out live mesh in the coming month. There's no need to write this editorial.

I think the point of this article was to point out that the SkyDrive app doesn't have features present in Live Mesh, such as PC to PC sync w/out first uploading to the Web, Remote Desktop access, and the ability to sync any folder.

In the SkyDrive app, only that folder is synced, you have to move a folder to the SkyDrive folder to sync it -- unlike Live Mesh which can sync any folder, regardless of where it is on your hard drive (it doesn't have be to in the SkyDrive folder).

I'm using both Live Mesh to sync PCs offline and SkyDrive to have copies of files online.

Also, Microsoft did say that SkyDrive will not sync folders w/out first going to the Web.

AWilliams87 said,
Seriously dude, the plan is to phase out live mesh in the coming month. There's no need to write this editorial.

My point wasn't that Mesh needs to be killed -- we already know it will be, as I pointed out in the article. The point I was making is that Mesh's intelligent folder syncing needs to be rolled into SkyDrive.

Anthony Tosie said,

My point wasn't that Mesh needs to be killed -- we already know it will be, as I pointed out in the article. The point I was making is that Mesh's intelligent folder syncing needs to be rolled into SkyDrive.

The Blog says:


In Windows Live Mesh, which some of you have come to rely on, we allowed arbitrary folders to be synchronized. Our experience has been that this introduced too many unresolvable complexities across different PCs, with the path on one PC synchronizing to entirely different paths on other PCs and the cloud. In order to maintain our goal of “it just works,” we designed SkyDrive to be the same everywhere, and to work well with libraries in Windows.

FoxieFoxie said,
Mesh will die and SkyDrive + Mesh won't include pc sync , sync.

If so it will not be a merge of Skydrive and Mesh but a killing of the former which is the better one of course.