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November 30, 2013

Using SkyDrive Pro

Filed under: Information Architecture,Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 21:46

With SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013 we now have SkyDrive Pro at our disposal, as a part of the intranet environment. So what is it, what do I use it for, how does it work and what doesn’t work?

What is it?

SkyDrive Pro is a personal library intended for storing and organising your work documents.

Please note: you get to it by clicking on SkyDrive at the top of your SharePoint screen, but it is not the same thing as the product SkyDrive without the Pro: that is personal and does not have anything to do with your work. SkyDrive Pro it is part of SharePoint (Office 365′s SharePoint Online or SharePoint Server 2013), so you get into it using your work username and password and you can share a document with a colleague using his or her work account. Here’s Microsoft’s What is SkyDrive Pro.

SkyDrive Pro offers two main things:

  • Space to store your files: 25GB in SharePoint Online. This used to the Personal Documents and Shared Documents Libraries in MySite, in earlier versions of MySite. By default, your files are only visible to you; if you put them in the folder shared with everyone, you colleagues can also see it.
  • Synchronisation of files between SharePoint and your computers. In earlier versions, we had Groove and then SharePoint Workspace for this.

And the good thing is that the synchronisation to your computer not only works between your computer and your personal library explicitly labeled as SkyDrive Pro, but also with other Document Libraries, in team sites and project sites for example.

When I click in SkyDrive in the top bar, I get my personal library. The folder is shared, the rest is locked. I can synchronise by clicking Sync.

When I click in SkyDrive in the top bar, I get my personal library. The folder is shared, the rest is locked. I can synchronise by clicking Sync.

What do I use it for?

It is a good idea to use SkyDrive Pro for:

  • Storing documents in your personal site
    • Storing personal documents
      For example, I have an Excel file with my travel expenses there. Nobody else needs to see it, but I don’t want to lose it and I want to be able to access it from different computers, so I store it in my SkyDrive Pro instead of on the hard drive of my laptop.
    • Ad hoc sharing of documents
      For example, when I have found an interesting report that does not really belong to a particular team or project, I share it a colleague who is interested in it via my SkyDrive Pro.
  • Pulling documents offline and synchronizing when online
    • Working on team or project documents while I am offline
      For example, I commute by train and I work offline when I am on the train (the available wifi usually does not work well enough for me). I can be sure to have the latest version of a team site document with me, I can edit it, and when I arrive at the office and on the network, my changes are synchronised back to the team site.
    • Making my personal documents available on my different devices
      I don’t have to open my work laptop if I want to update, for example, my travel expenses overview. I have SkyDrive Pro folders that synchronise to my personal library on my home computer and my iPad as well. Please note: I have secured my computer and iPad with a password, because I don’t want anyone who picks it up to be able to see my stuff.

It is not a good idea to use SkyDrive Pro for:

  • Sharing team documents or project documents.
    These documents belong in the team site or project site where they get:

    • The appropriate security settings
      (e.g. the group of project members so that you don’t forget or include the wrong people accidentally when you share your document)
    • Metadata that allow people to find it more easily
      (if they search the intranet, they will find the document using its categorisation)
    • Visbility in the view of the latest team/project documents
      (the team / project members are already on the team / project site and they want to see your document there too)
  • Pulling confidential stuff offline to a non-secured device
    Don’t just assume that the technical people keep everything watertight, use your own common sense as well. Don’t pull important documents to your iPad and then let your 4-year old kid play with it. Don’t put it on an unsecured device and then leave it on the train. You know what I mean… it’s the same “don’t be stupid” rule that also applies to printed documents that you should not leave lying around.

How do I…

… start using the SkyDrive Pro I see in our SharePoint Online intranet?

Just Click on sync button where you want to synchronise to your computer:

  • In a Document Library of a team site
  • On the homepage of your team site
    Please note: this only works if a document library is displayed there in a web part and no more than one document library; otherwise the system does not know what you would want to synchronise so it does not offer the sync button.
  • On the SkyDrive page of your personal site

And then follow the few steps the wizard prompts you to take. See also Microsoft’s Sync SkyDrive Pro or SharePoint libraries to your computer.

… find the documents on my computer, after I have set this up?

When you set this up, the system creates a “folder” in your Windows Explorer, under Favorites. You get:

  • SkyDrive Pro or SkyDrive Pro @YourCompany for your personal library
  • SharePoint for Document Libraries in team sites.
    For each Document Library that you synchronise, you get a folder in this section that is labeled with [site name] – [library name].
    Please note: All document libraries from all team sites are displayed at the same level. There is no organisation by site.
Under Favorites in my Windows Explorer, I have SkyDrive Pro for my personal files and SharePoint for synchronized libraries from team sites

Under Favorites in my Windows Explorer, I have SkyDrive Pro for my personal files and SharePoint for synchronized libraries from team sites

Can’t find it? You can also get to your SkyDrive Pro folder via the central SkyDrive icon: in the Windows notification area (by clicking the triangle at the bottom of Windows) > right-click the SkyDrive Pro cloud icon > Open your SkyDrive Pro folder.

Open your Skydrive Pro folder from the windows notification area

Open your Skydrive Pro folder from the windows notification area

… add a document to my SkyDrive Pro?

You can add documents both in your library online (personal SkyDrive Pro library or a Document Library in a team site) and in the folders on your computer (SkyDrive Pro folder or a sub-folder in the SharePoint folder). When added to the one side, they will be synchronized to the other side.
Please note: OneNote files can only be added online or they won’t be synchronized.

… see if documents have been synchronised?

On your computer, you see in the synchronisation status in the file icon: a green check symbol if it has been synchronized to the online site, a blue refresh symbol if it is still working on it.

One file is still synchronizing from the site to my computer, the others are synchronized.

One file is still synchronizing from the site to my computer, the others are synchronized.

Please note: This depends on your Windows version, 8.1 assumes everything is synchronized unless it is not, so it does not confirm it with the green check icon.

The document library in the site does not show if your file has been copied to your computer yet, so check if it has arrived on your computer if you need to have those files offline after you unplug and run.

If you are working in the document on your computer and you have no connection to the online site, MS Office tells you that you are working in an offline copy:

When I am offline, I see that when I work on a document.

When I am offline, I see that when I work on a document.

and you can see more when you click on File in Word:

More info about the offline copy and where it will be online after synchronisation

More info about the offline copy and where it will be online after synchronisation

… sync other files than documents to my computer?

Put all files that you want to work on and synchronize using the SkyDrive Pro mechanism in the Document Library. Other library types (Pictures, Assets, Pages, Reports ) do not have the sync option (at least not now, November 2013).

… associate metadata like a category to my document?

You can add metadata to your document in the team site (like the category or status, owner) but not in the SharePoint folder on your computer.

When you edit a document on your computer, it will keep the metadata it has in the team site. But if your offline work has changed the status for example, you need to edit the status field in the team site. You can get to the library where you can make that change via a quick link in the folder on your computer:

… make sure that others can see my documents in the team site?

You can add a document to a Document Library on a team site by adding it to the appropriate folder in the SharePoint section on your computer. However, you cannot add information to the metadata fields in that folder.

So if the library has required fields, your document cannot be published. You need to go to the browser, fill in those required fields, and

Right-click on the file on your computer to open its online equivalent in the browser - if you are online.

Right-click on the file on your computer to open its online equivalent in the browser when you are online.

check in the document. Then your colleagues can see it too.

… get back a file that I accidentally deleted from the SharePoint folder on my computer?

You can delete a file from the SharePoint or Skydrive Pro folder on your computer just like you delete one from any other folder on your computer. This also deletes the online version of your file, from the team site or your personal library in SharePoint.

It actually deletes it in SharePoint. So if you want to get it back, you need to restore it from the recycle bin in your team site or personal library. The file cannot be found in the Recycle Bin of your computer.

… stop synchronizing a library?

When you are no longer interested in the latest versions of the documents of, for example, a project that has finished, you can stop synchronizing it to your computer and remove the documents from your computer. You cannot do that by deleting the folder in the SharePoint section directly. You need to open the Windows notification area (by clicking the triangle at the bottom of Windows) > right-click the SkyDrive Pro cloud icon > Stop syncing folder > select the folder. See Microsoft about Stop syncing a library with SkyDrive Pro.

Open the Windows notification area, right-click the SkyDrive Pro cloud icon and stop synchronizing folder.

Open the Windows notification area, right-click the SkyDrive Pro cloud icon and stop syncing folder.

The folder and its documents then still are available in the SharePoint section, but they are no longer connected to the online Document Library.

After syncing has been stopped, the folder has become a regular Windows folder

After syncing has been stopped, the folder has become a regular Windows folder

If you want to start synchronizing again, delete the old folder and click sync in the library again. If you leave the old folder, the sync action will create a second folder for that library…

Limitations: what won’t work?

SkyDrive Pro has some limitations, which make sense when you realize that it uses SharePoint Document Libraries.

You cannot synchronise files that have:

  • Symbols in the filename: \ / : * ? ” < > | # %
    (in SharePoint 2013 on-premises { } ~ and & are also forbidden. I usually try to avoid any kind of symbol),
    or if the filename begins with a period or has several periods halfway (.filename.docx and file..name.docx are forbidden)
  • Too many characters: A file name of more than 128 characters (including spaces) or a path of more than 256 characters.
    So you will hit trouble if you have a lot of nested folders with long folder names. Fortunately, the SharePoint site and the SkyDrive Pro folders on your computer will warn you if you create folders that already run over that limit by themselves.
  • Over 2 GB
  • Blocked file types .ashx, .asmx, .asp, .aspq, .axd, .cshtm, .chtml, .json, .rem, .shtm, .shtml, .soap, .stm, .svc, .vbhtm, .vbhtml, .xamlx,  (This is for SharePoint Online, SharePoint 2013 on-premises blocks a lot more; see Types of files that cannot be added to a list or library)

And you can only sync OneNote files one way: create them in SharePoint and then sync to your computer. It does not work if you create it on your computer and then try to sync it back online.

Looking at the libraries, you cannot synchronise:

  • Over 5000 items site Document Libraries, which includes folders and files. This corresponds to the limit Document Libraries have for displaying items in a single view.
    You can synchronize up to a maximum of 20,000 items in your personal SkyDrive Pro document library, which includes folders and files.
  • Over 25 GB in your personal SkyDrive Pro library

When SkyDrive Pro cannot synchronise what’s on your computer into SharePoint, it gives an error message.

When you are doing something in the folder structure that will result in a path that is too long:

SkyDrive Pro warns you if your folders would result in a path that is too long

SkyDrive Pro warns you if your folders would result in a path that is too long

When your file name is too long or has invalid characters, you see an error icon with the file. You can investigate, by right-clicking on the filename and selecting SkyDrive Pro > View sync problems.

Right-click the file name to find out why it does not synchronise

Right-click the file name to find out why it does not synchronise

The Upload center gives you an error message where applicable, and short cuts to places where you could resolve the problem

The Upload center gives you an error message where applicable, and short cuts to places where you could resolve the problem

Please note: the actual message does not always clearly pinpoint the real problem: I get the message “Invalid characters” for a file that has a filename of more than 128 characters, none of which is invalid in itself.

All in all, SkyDrive Pro is a nice tool for storing your personal documents and for synchronizing files between your sites and between your computers. You just need to think about what you put where.

November 30, 2010

Business Taxonomy. Just Do It.

Filed under: Governance,Information Architecture — Tags: , — frederique @ 22:53

Taxonomy. Scary word. Biologists classifying the animal kingdom? Lots of old school librarians or latter day information scientists setting up huge and complicated structures? Not necessarily.

In the context of websites or intranets, we have business taxonomies that are the schemes for organizing the content, usually in categories and subcategories, so that the users of the site can find it more easily.

Recently, I’ve attended a series of taxonomy webinars organized by the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) and given by people from Project Performance Corporation. In that series, they discussed detailed best practices for getting a taxonomy. But they also emphasized some very basic key notions that tend to be overlooked.

First of all: A taxonomy is a means to an end and not a goal in itself.

You don’t create a taxonomy for your site just to have a beautiful taxonomy, but because you want your users to find information easily. If we keep this in mind, we see that:

  • You need to be clear about the goal
    What are you trying to achieve with the taxonomy? Sell more shoes in your webshop by allowing the users to browse through the kinds of shoes they like? Increase productivity in your information workers by enabling them to search and find the information they need?
    It helps to formulate this goal explicitly, so that you can communicate it and keep checking against it.
  • The taxonomy should be intuitive for the users, both the people entering and tagging content and the people searching for content. This implies that:
    • You have to understand the audience, keep your audience in mind when you design it, and you should involve user groups in the process, to make sure that you end up with something that makes sense to them.
      You can do that with workshops, interviews and card sorting exercises.
    • The taxonomy should be simple, not too fine-grained and consistent.
      The best practice is to use a subject-based categorization of no more than 12 to 15 subjects and no more than 2 or 3 levels of subcategories for your main navigation. Avoid jargon, avoid overdoses of metadata fields and over-long picklists . And check with real users if your taxonomy is indeed as intuitive as you think.
    • Communication is key, two-way communication.
      Listen to the users, to get their input and feedback. And talk to them, to get everybody on board and to get them to use the taxonomy properly. The users need to understand why the taxonomy is relevant and how to use it, especially when you ask them to tag content based on this taxonomy. If even 10% of them mis-tag content, the whole system gets messed up.
  • The taxonomy should evolve.
    If it does not fit the needs, it has to be changed. And this is not just a case of fixing mistakes and learning from real life. Your organisation, your users, your market and everything else changes, so your taxonomy should change along with it to stay up to date. This implies that:

    • The taxonomy should be flexible and extensible.
      Don’t carve it in stone so that you would need to demolish the entire site to make small change in the taxonomy. Don’t waste endless time chipping out details of something that probably won’t last until next month’s reorganisation.
    • You should plan an incremental process to get a working taxonomy:
      Start with the basics and build iteratively from there.
    • You need good governance.
      Another scary word, but you need to “govern” your taxonomy, so that it doesn’t grow obsolete or spin out of control as soon as it has been implemented. As a taxonomy of a site is never finished, somebody has to keep an eye on it and where necessary keep a tight rein.

So, your business taxonomy, Just Do It. You just need one. And you can just get started somewhere and let it evolve from there.

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