Cloud versus local

I had an odd dialogue coming with Microsoft Word this morning. The document I wanted to open, it said, had an issue synching, and the Skydrive and local copies of the document were different. I needed to choose which to retain.

I was not, it must be said, very happy about this, but chose local as I assumed that on the half dozen occasions I hit save last night, it saved locally first.

This turned out to be a mistake. The most recent local version was saved 3 hours before I finished work.

I was doing a lot of messing with dropping image files into that document last night so it was regularly saved. It was also saved when I shut up shop yesterday evening but none of those saves appeared to get written to local disc.

This is a huge problem for me. I have an always on connection so connectivity isn’t generally an issue. I’m the only person accessing the Skydrive, and I do it from two computers, both of which only I use. MS’s dialog told me another user had updated the document last night. That other user was me, on the same computer as I am using now.

I’m not going to complain bitterly about the problems this is causing me, suffice to say my day has suddenly become a whole lot worse than it was before I discovered this. But I do have to say this.

  • the dialog box, on telling me another user has updated the file, needs to tell me who that user is. I know in this case it was me, but in Skydrive’s case, that’s not always going to be true. With shared documents, it’s almost guaranteed not to me.
  • The dialog box, on telling me there’s an issue, needs at least to tell me which file is older. This really should be obvious to anyone.

I ran a completely unscientific straw poll this morning. On balance, more people expected the local copy to be more recent than the cloud copy with some comments about exceptions around documents stored in a browser. So I have to say, the assumption that the local file was the most recent was not particularly inane – it’s what most people expect.

I’m not sure what the problem is but the evidence I have right now is that it’s tied to something Microsoft have done between SkyDrive and Office. I only know this because the folder concerned included other no MS application based files which did get saved locally and did get synchronised correctly.

Right now, I’m faced with replicating a whole pile of work which is not ideal. It’s only three hours and it’s write up and it’s possible it will take me significantly less time to do it as I have most of the output, or can get it very easily as I have the scripts generating it (and some of that will have to be done unfortunately).

The take away message from this is:

  • most people expect local versions of files to be updated before cloud versions, particularly if they are editing in locally installed software
  • if you’re telling them that their files are out of sync because another user has updated, you must tell them who that user is and you must give them the time stamps of both versions

I find it hard to believe that this occurred to no one working on this in Microsoft.

I could live with the cloud version being the more recent version if I was told that it was. Instead, the utterly useless dialog box I got didn’t tell me this. I know the other user involved in this case was me, on the same computer, and I can’t see why MS’s dialog can’t communicate this.