When Office 2013 was first released, the client included SkyDrive Pro. This client application was available only with a new SharePoint 2013 installation and allowed for a user to sync content from a SharePoint library to their local machine or mobile device. This feature was a much anticipated feature, but unfortunately for many, the upgrade to Office 2013 wasn't possible.
Earlier this week,Microsoft released a version of the client that can be installed side by side with Office 2007 and 2010, allowing for more users to take advantage of the rich features available within SkyDrive Pro.
What's In a Name Anyway?
Many people have wondered what the difference is between SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro and it seems that the simplest way to sum it up is that SkyDrive Pro is essentially an instance of local document syncing for the organization, while SkyDrive is the document sync option for individuals.
This means that users can sync content locally with their client machines, within the guidelines of their secure network connections. When your organization deploys SharePoint 2013, each user has a SkyDrive library created for them when their personal site is created.
Once the SkyDrive Pro client is installed, users can then elect to Sync their library onto their local machine. This will then allow them to access their content directly from their client machines, even if they are not connected to the network. If they work on content while they are disconnected, the content will sync with their SharePoint location the next time they are connected to the Network. The process for syncing content is completed by selecting the SYNC button that is visible in the top right of the SharePoint sites. This makes the process pretty straightforward and easy for users to access.
The content is by default synced to the user's libraries folder, but this can easily be updated by opening the SkyDrive Pro client and setting a different default location.
More than a My Site Sync
SkyDrive Pro is a powerful tool for syncing content that is stored within a user’s My Site, but it can also be used to sync other document libraries within SharePoint. The process is the same, and by selecting the SYNC option on a site or library you can easily sync content to your local machine.
Accessing Content on a Client Machine
Once the content has been synced from SharePoint you can see the content by accessing your Favorites folders in File Explorer. There will be two default folders -- SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint. This allows for your personal content (from your My Site) to be synced in a location separate from other SharePoint libraries. This provides an easy division of content, making it simpler for users to clearly identify what content they are working with.
Working with the Client Only
Using this approach of syncing content, users can work directly with the content locally and it will sync as they are connected to the network. This approach can be great if you are trying to upload a large amount of data or if you are trying to get users comfortable using the SharePoint interface. Documents within the library will be denoted in two ways, those with a green check mark have been successfully synced with the library and those without the green check mark are not synced. When a document is in the process of syncing you will see a grey arrow, denoting it is in the syncing process.
By having the libraries in sync on your client you can also easily navigate to them using your other client applications. These small set of features can be a huge win within your organization for users that are struggling with moving and storing content within SharePoint.
The beauty of SharePoint is that while many features are available, many of them are also customizable. One of these things that can be customized is the ability to sync content locally. Setting this configuration option will remove the SYNC button from the library page, thus restricting the ability for them to access the library offline. This is a great additional feature that allows you to configure your environment in the way that makes the most sense for your needs. I may want users to be able to sync project documents, but restrict their ability to sync financial documents.
Office 2013 Not Required
While SkyDrive Pro is not a new tool, the ability to install it on a Windows machine, without having the latest version of Office installed is new. Users can now download this tool for free and run it alongside of existing Office applications. The release of this tool by Microsoft provides a huge win for organizations that want to take full advantage of SharePoint 2013, but haven’t quite been able to release the newest office suite. By taking the time to instruct your users on using this feature you will be helping to ensure that you are getting the most out of your SharePoint investment.
Editor's Note: To read about some other features of SharePoint, see Jennifer's SharePoint 2013: Social Feature Highlights