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SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro Explained (Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013)

Ok lets get something straight right off the bat …

SkyDrive Pro is not limited to Office 365. I’ve heard this stated now several times (from both laypersons and SharePoint professionals both) and it is simply not true. If you have a User Profile Service in SharePoint 2013 with My Sites enabled then you get the same SkyDrive Pro features to someone running Office 365 tenants!

Ok, so first off this (https://skydrive.live.com) has absolutely NOTHING to do with “SkyDrive Pro” or SharePoint …
SkyDrive is a free cloud-based storage service that Microsoft have been offering for many many years now. It is part of the Outlook.com family (aka “Hotmail” | “Windows Live” | “Microsoft Account”) and is basically a competing service for the likes of DropBox / iCloud / Google Drive.  By default you get a shared folder allowing you to share files with “the public” but you can also modify the permissions of any folder to either make it available for specific people or for “everyone” if you choose.
It offers a web based interface (as well as apps for Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS and Android) which allows you to store your documents and files, as well as free lightweight browser versions of Word / Excel / PowerPoint / OneNote.
There is also a desktop application (SkyDrive for Windows, which is the successor to the popular “Live Mesh”) which allows you to synchronise chosen SkyDrive folders to any folder on your computer (Drop-Box style) and this allows two-way synchronisation with that folder to “the cloud” where you files will be backed up and securely stored. The default location for this folder is in your main profile folder (e.g. “C:\Users\martin.hatch\SkyDrive”) but you can select any folder location when the application first runs.
The SkyDrive folder when you have SkyDrive for Windows installed
SkyDrive is also one of the default save locations for Microsoft Office 2013 and also has close integration points with Windows 8 (with baked-in SkyDrive apps) and Windows Phone (auto-upload photos to SkyDrive, and it creates a SkyDrive folder to store twitter / facebook photos when you “share” them).
The default flavour gives you 7GB of storage (the largest amount for any of the leading “free” packages) and allows you to expand this through paid-for storage adding up to 100GB extra content (for a total of 107 GB).
Early adopters of SkyDrive were also rewarded with a “free” storage allowance of 25GB instead of 7GB.
SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro in SharePoint 2013 (aka “My Site Documents”)
In the eternal fail which is Microsoft marketing naming conventions, there is also a “SkyDrive” link in the “suite links” bar at the top of each page in SharePoint 2013 (this is identical for both Office 365 and On Premise).
SkyDrive appears as a link in the “Suite Bar Links” in SharePoint 2013
This is actually just a link to the “Documents” library in what we used to call your “My Site”. By default this is an empty document library with a folder called “Shared with Everyone”.
To add confusion to this, the top level title and descriptive text when you navigate to this library clearly calls it “Sky Drive Pro” ..
The “SkyDrive Pro” library.. which you get to by clicking the “SkyDrive” link
Why they called the link “SkyDrive” I don’t really know … perhaps “SkyDrive Pro” would have been a better name (keep reading to find out why !)
SkyDrive Pro 2013 – the Windows Application
Now this is where things get really confusing .. if you install Office 2013 Professional Plus then you also get a new application on your computer called “SkyDrive Pro 2013”
The SkyDrive Pro 2013 tile on my Windows 8 Start Screen
This is an application that runs in the desktop system tray and allows you basic access to “sync a library” with your computer. This can be ANY SharePoint 2013 document library (and I have also used it quite successfully with a number of SharePoint 2010 document libraries as well).
SkyDrive Pro is an application that runs in the System Tray
You can do this in one of two ways:
  • Run the “Sync a new Library” from the system tray, and type in the URL of the document library (you can also type in the URL of a site, and it will list the document libraries for you to select)
  • From the SharePoint 2013 interface click the “Sync” button when viewing a library
The “SYNC” link in SharePoint 2013 will launch the SkyDrive Pro 2013 application

Once you sync a library you get a new “SharePoint” folder which appears in your main profile folder alongside My Documents, My Pictures, etc .. (e.g. “C:\Users\martin.hatch\SharePoint”).

If you have synced some libraries using SkyDrive Pro 2013, you get this folder on your PC

For each library that you sync it will create a new subfolder and will basically keep a two-way sync between the two of them (you add, edit or delete a file here and it gets replicated in SharePoint, and vice versa).

Each new folder will get the name “<Site Title> – <Library Title>” although it seems to trim the library title if it is too long.

The contents of my “SharePoint” folder .. having synced a bunch of libraries from SharePoint

The SkyDrive Pro Folder – (also using the Office 2013 Desktop Application)

Just to confuse things even further, there is also another “special” extra that they threw into the mix.

If you sync the “SkyDrive Pro” library in your My Site (i.e. the one you get to if you click the “SkyDrive” link in the page header) then it doesn’t sync to the SharePoint Folder!

Instead it creates a special folder called “SkyDrive Pro” which has the same icon as the main “SkyDrive” icon (if you have SkyDrive for Windows installed as well!). This is also installed in your profile folder (e.g. “C:\Users\martin.hatch\SkyDrive Pro”).
You can of course run both SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro side-by-side, which is what I have shown below.
SkyDrive Pro folder uses the same icon as the SkyDrive folder ..

This then contains the contents of that actually library, but other than that it works the same way as other synchronised folders.

One thing to note is that if you sync multiple SkyDrive Pro libraryes (say from different My Sites or different Office 365 tenants) then it will create multiple SkyDrive Pro folders.

Syncing more than one SkyDrive Pro folder creates awesome folder names ..

I have read elsewhere that you can rename these folders but when I tried to do this I started getting sync errors!

Trying to “Sync” a SharePoint 2013 folder without “SkyDrive Pro 2013” installed
This is another one which I have heard said before which is that trying to “Sync” a SharePoint 2013 library when you don’t have Office 2013 installed (more specifically the SkyDrive Pro 2013 bit) will automatically install it on the fly… ?? … erm … no it doesn’t.
I tried this on my development VM (which doesn’t have office installed) and I got two weird prompts in a row ..
First I got a weird IE10 “do you want to allow this website to open an app on your computer?” question .. which immediately got alarm bells ringing ..
This could be installing an app on the fly .. couldn’t it?
But then you get a generic “No apps are installed to open this type of link (grvopen)” error .. So basically it was trying to open a file which I don’t have apps supported for.
So it would seem that, no, you can’t sync libraries without SkyDrive Pro 2013 installed.
Fail and Error .. although interesting “Groove” reference
My final parting shot on this is the interesting app type (grvopen) which is clearly a reference to “Groove Open” .. for those who don’t know way back the old SharePoint synchronisation tool was an application called “Groove”. This eventually got replaced with “SharePoint Workspace” which has now been replaced in the latest build with “SkyDrive Pro 2013”.
I honestly don’t know if you can “Sync” with SharePoint Workspace or not, would love to hear if you can!
So, that outlines the rough difference between Sky Drive and SkyDrive Pro J
  • SkyDrive is a free service from Microsoft, and has nothing to do with Office or SharePoint
  • SkyDrive for Windows is a free desktop application which you can use to sync your SkyDrive folders with your computer
  • SkyDrive Pro is the personal library in your My Site, and you get to it from a “SkyDrive” link in the SharePoint 2013 header
  • SkyDrive Pro 2013 is an Office 2013 desktop application which you can use to sync SharePoint libraries to your computer (including your personal “SkyDrive Pro” library)

Memory Leak in SharePoint 2013 (Preview) Search

Any of you who has setup their own SharePoint 2013 box (and cried at the Hardware requirements) will be aware of a process which is chewing up your RAM like nothing else


There will be four of these running (you can see them in Task Manager) and these basically represent the four major topology services for the FAST Search engine which now powers SharePoint 2013 search services.

The problem is the current implementation (the Preview aka “Beta” build) has a memory leak! This was confirmed by a TechNet blog post (https://blogs.technet.com/b/mpriem/archive/2012/09/05/sharepoint-2013-preview-hungry-search-service.aspx) who also described two potential workarounds to alleviate the stress that noderunner.exe puts on your system:

Jose Vigenor from MS beta support pointed to two options to contain these processes:

  1. Use Set-SPEnterpriseSearchService -PerformanceLevel Reduced to reduce the CPU impact the search service has on your test environment.
  2. Modify the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office Servers\15.0\Search\Runtime\1.0\noderunner.exe.config so that it can only consume X amount of RAM.
    Change the value at <nodeRunnerSettings memoryLimitMegabytes=”0″ /> to any amount of RAM you like to contain the memory leak.

Be careful when you implement this though, Paul Hunt (aka @cimares) has his own blog post (which is where I found the link above by the way!) where he encountered some “Out of Memory” exceptions when this is configured a little too tightly!

SharePoint 2013 (Preview) PowerShell bug .. sort of ..

This threw me when I got my first few SharePoint 2013 farms up and running. It looked like PowerShell had failed but actually everything was working fine.

When you start up the SharePoint 2013 Management Shell (aka PowerShell) then you get an error:

could not create a CmdletConfiguration for CmdletName Start-BulkOperation, CmldetClass, CmdletHelpFile C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\15\CONFIG\PowerShell\Help\Microsoft.Office.Education.Institution.dll-Help.xml. Cannot process argument because the value of argument “implementingType” is null. Change the value of argument “implementingType” to a non-null value.

This all looks kinda scary, but its actually just a bug in the SharePoint 2013 PowerShell scripts (don’t forget .. we are talking about a beta build here!)

In fact .. you should find all your PowerShell stuff works just fine

My experience of installing SharePoint 2013 Preview

I finally got some downtime and used it to get my new SharePoint play-pen up and running. I’ve been running an Office 365 Preview (aka SharePoint 2013 Online) account for a while to get my SharePoint vNext goodness .. but thought it was time to get myself up and running with a full server build (and flex those good old IT Pro skills while I was at it).

The good news .. it was damned similar to SharePoint 2010!

I was also kind of pleased to hear (from Spencer Harbar) that if you are installing the (sometimes painful) User Profile Service then there is “absolutely no difference whatsoever” between SharePoint 2013 (preview) and SharePoint 2010 (https://www.harbar.net/archive/2012/07/24/348.aspx).

This was slightly disappointing (because it can be a pain in the backside to get started for first timers) although good because I know most of the ins and outs of that particular FIM-based product and can typically get it running first time every time these days.

Hardware requirements ..

This has been quite a contentious topic with various furious discussion on twitter and blogs. This has mostly stemmed from official Microsoft documentation which suggests that you need a minimum of 24 GB of RAM to run a SharePoint 2013 dev box (including all of the pieces like VS and SQL).

The main reasons for this are 2 key pieces in the new infrastructure:

  1. App Fabric is now used extensively to boost performance. You will see DistributedCacheService.exe chewing a lot of RAM (typically between 500MB and 1GB on my machine) but this also means you get cross-server caching and blistering performance.
  2. FAST Search is also now baked in. The good part is you get a massive load of new search features out of the box. The bad news is that the FAST “noderunner.exe” processes (4 of them) will be running and probably chew between 1GB and 2GB of RAM on their own (without even doing very much!)

There have been people on the web (mentioning no names) who have bordered on the offensive mocking others for “ignoring Microsoft advice” and insisting that you are being foolish for running with less than “best practice” kit.

Then there are others (who to be honest I respect a lot more) who have been running on the TAP program and happily say that you can get it working on 6GB but ideally 8-12GB is needed for it to run smoothly (reports of FAST crashing if you have under 8GB have been heard!)

My personal rig is a single virtual machine which runs with 12GB RAM and 4 virtual cores. I am running full Search, User Profile Sync, most of the core services and have 3 web apps up and running. I have AD, SQL and SharePoint all on the same box with Visual Studio 2012 and so far it has been fine! I can imagine putting a lot of test data and running some hefty development scenarios might make it creak a bit at the seams, but so far no real problems.

Personally I liken this a lot to SharePoint 2010 scenarios. If you want to run EVERYTHING on a single box (Office Web Apps, FAST Search, BI services) then you are going to need a LOT of hardware. But for the average single user demo / developer rig you can get away with a lot less (I’ve run SharePoint 2010 farms on 4GB RAM before now .. and once they have “warmed up” they are quite happy for single-user demos).

The other bits ..

I also decided to refresh my environment with the other tools that go side by side with a new platform refresh (also because these have all hit final RTM release through MSDN):

  1. Windows Server 2012
  2. SQL Server 2012
  3. Visual Studio 2012

To be honest the installers for these was very straightforward, and there is really nothing special to mention which is any different to a normal dev box install.

Windows Server 2012 obviously was a bit “different” due to the new “not called Metro anymore” interface but I’ve been running Windows 8 on my laptop for about 6 months now so I was quite used to it. All of the old settings and options are still there buried behind other menus so no massive surprises for people used to using Server 2008 R2 or before.

The only real point of any note is with the service accounts when configuring SQL Server 2012. I am used to creating dedicated service accounts to run the SQL service instances but with this new version the default is baked-in service accounts which it creates for you! This is great for dev boxes as it is a few less accounts for me to setup and maintain!

SharePoint 2013 Preview  ..

This was actually surprisingly straightforward. The “splash screen” installer is identical to SharePoint 2010 (not sure if this a sign of the “preview” build status .. they might get around to updating this for RTM by in my opinion “if it’s not broken” rules and this works quite well).

The Pre-Requisites took care of everything that was needed (after 2 reboots) and then I was good to go. The actual install of the binaries went smooth as a whistle and then it was on to PSConfig.exe ..

Yep .. that’s right .. PSCONFIG .. any of you using the Configuration Wizard shame on you! (I only ever use it to get the “State Service” running once my farm is fully configured!)

PSConfig.exe allows you to setup your initial farm, create the Config Database and Central Admin database. The main part is it allows you to specify the database names so you don’t get nasty GUIDs appearing in SQL Server.

This isn’t exactly necessary for a single-server dev box, but I like to keep the old muscle memory in practice and it is good to practice a “clean” environment at all times (so you don’t get into bad habits!)

The syntax is pretty straightforward:

PSCONFIG.EXE -create configdb -server localhost -database SP2013_ConfigDb -admincontentdatabase SP2013_Admin_Content -user MyDomain\SPFarm -password [SPFarmPassword]  -passphrase [FarmPassPhrase]

Just make sure that the farm account has DBCreator and SecurityAdmin permissions in SQL Server and it should run fine!

Once that has finished, run the SharePoint Products Configuration Wizard to setup your Central Administration web app (basically just choosing the Port Number .. which I go for https://localhost:2013/ to keep it simple!).

Setting up the core services ..

Once that has been completed you should be into Central Admin and its time to setup the core services. It should be smooth sailing from here but as a general rule I configure 4 Web Applications and get going with the basic services.

Web Apps:

  1. https://sp/ (Using “Team Site” as the site collection)
  2. https://my/ (Using “My Site Host” as the site collection)
  3. https://ctype/ (default Content Type Hub .. “blank site” with all features turned on)
  4. https://apps/ (the new SharePoint 2013 App hosting site! don’t provision anything)

Once that is sorted I go for the core services:

  1. Managed Metadata Service (using https://ctype/ as the syndication hub)
  2. User Profile Service (using https://my/ as the my site URL)
  3. Search Services

The setup for these I found identical to SharePoint 2010 so there shouldn’t be any surprises here.

Obviously search was slightly different (due to the FAST pieces) but nothing to write home about for  a simple “single server” rig. There is also simple “import only” option for User Profiles which is new to 2013 and you can find out more here: https://www.harbar.net/archive/2012/07/23/sp13adi.aspx

Now .. I don’t know a great deal about “apps” infrastructure yet so this is basic in the extreme! The only thing I know you need to do initially is create a blank web application, then use the “Manage App Catalog” option in Central Admin to provision the default “app catalog” site collection from which you can manage internal apps distribution and publishing.

Hopefully more to come on this (including developing some custom apps) but at the moment we’re all learning! 😉

That was pretty much it .. basic SharePoint 2013 farm up and running and ready to play!

I haven’t really been delving too much into the details yet, and plenty more still to learn and find out so watch this space, and hope you found this useful!

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