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The New Paradigm

I got a very interesting email from a reader last month. He asked, "With cloud services like SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro—and with settings synchronization via Windows Live for Windows 8, User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), Xbox, Windows Phone, and more—how does this do-it-on-one-device/see-it-on-all-devices thing work?" Good question. Actually, this a great question and a fairly common one in recent months so I thought I’d take some time to map out the new paradigm that many of you are now dealing with.

Gone are the days of the five-pound laptop with a 500 GB hard drive. Many of us now use tablets and ultrabooks with 64GB or 128 GB SSDs. I personally have two or three, all of which need to have the same data and settings. The questions is, how do I keep the data synchronized and at my fingertips where and when I need it? And, if my devices crashes, how do I get back up up, running, and back to what I was doing in minutes?

To illustrate the answers to these questions, let’s break down how I work:

  • SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro – I upgraded my personal SkyDrive account to 100 GB for $50 USD a year. All my photos are uploaded to SkyDrive as are any other personal documents I access on a regular basis. Regardless if I am on my Zenbook, Surface RT, or Nokia 920, I have access to all of this information. For business, I use SkyDrive Pro. This is where my PowerPoint presentations, Word docs, and other secure and business critical documents live and, like with SkyDrive, are accessible on all my devices. I can even choose which folders to sync with either service. If I am offline, nor worries, it has a local cache so I can always work and wait until I am reconnected to sync. Finally, SkyDrive pro is a secure, managed experience because you get to manage it locally or through SharePoint Online but with your permissions and security.
  • Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) – I invest a fair amount of time and effort customizing the Windows desktop, and the configuration of individual software applications. With UE-V, I can log on to a different system—physical or virtual—and enjoy a consistent Windows experience. The system configuration and application settings will be the same no matter what system I log on to. I can even resume work on another system in the event of a crash.
  • Settings Synchronization – One of the best things about Windows 8 is that you can sync settings, apps, and more across multiple computers and tablets. What can I sync? Backgrounds, Favorites, passwords, app settings, language preferences, browser history, Windows settings, and desktop personalization. Change any of these on one PC and all my other machines follow suit. Check out Paul Thurrott’s piece breaking down this feature for more details.
  • Microsoft Exchange Online – One of my biggest pet peeves of working with multiple systems was how to manage the .PST file, especially with a 5GB limit on my mailbox. Exchange Online to the rescue. No .PST file, access from anywhere, a great Outlook Web Access (OWA) client that solves my "no Outlook in RT" issue, and 20 GB of space—all of which enables me to keep all my emails inside my inbox and access my email from Windows 8 Mail, OWA, or Outlook on any computer.
  • Microsoft Office 365 – All the benefits of Office, but in the cloud. Office 365 is perfect for my users that I don’t want installing anything local.
  • Windows To Go – We talk a lot around Windows To Go and there’s a reason. In the past, I always carried a 128 GB Windows To Go portable hard drive in my bag in case my primary PC failed. With Sync Settings, SkyDrive, UE-V, and Exchange Online, I am up and running in a few minutes on any computer that anyone can lend me. I boot up, log on to SkyDrive, and there’s my work and my presentation that I need to give in 15 minutes.
  • File History – Backing up data sucks. I hate doing it and, moreover, I am bad at doing it. I also have data that is local and not in the cloud. File History to the rescue. The Windows 8 Engineering blog said it best, when they said, "Backing up your critical files is something we all know we should do. Even with everything in SkyDrive, it is still something we need to do. With Windows 8, we took a new look at the way backup can work and set out to solve the perennial problem of not just restoring all your files but restoring a previous version of a critical file you have been editing through the course of a day. To achieve this, we’re introducing a new feature in Windows 8, File History." Using the File History feature, anything that is stored locally is quietly backed up to my external 1 TB hard drive on my desk without me having to do anything except ensure that the drive is connected to my USB hub.

So, when I get a new Windows 8 computer, I plug it in, sign into Windows Live, join my domain, and I am ready to go. Nothing else is needed. If I want to share a photo, a document, or a password-secured presentation, I can do it from anywhere with an Internet connection (I am working from a Starbucks as we speak), and with my laptop, my Surface RT, or my phone. Lose a device and I am covered; I have redundancy.

Am I simplifying this a bit? Yes, but the important point is that it’s time to start thinking in a different way and planning differently. The cloud is the future and allows us levels of redundancy, options, and flexibility that were unheard of five years ago. Start to play with the tools above and see which ones fit best into your world or the world of your users. Are these the only solutions you should look at? No, but they are a great place to start. Welcome to the new computing paradigm. We have a table waiting.

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About the Author

Stephen Rose photoStephen Rose is the Worldwide IT Pro Community Manager for the Windows Commercial team at the Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, WA. Before joining Microsoft, Stephen spent 15 years running his own IT consulting company. In his current role, he drives the overall strategy and content for the Springboard Series for Windows on TechNet, oversees the Windows 7 and 8 IT Pro Forums, serves as editor for the Springboard Series Insider, writes for the Windows Team Blog, acts as moderator for Windows Virtual Roundtables, and leads Springboard Series Tours engaging IT pros worldwide.

You can follow the Springboard Series via Twitter @MSSpringboard  or follow Stephen directly @stephenlrose.

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