The perils of a weak link in an ecosystem chain: How OneDrive’s changes are pushing me out of the windows ecosystem.

For a moment there, between 2012 and 2015, there was a glorious time where it all came together for me. I took to windows 8.1 immediately – it’s the first operating system I’ve ever bought outside of a new computer. I had it on my home computer, my work computer, and my phone. Settings and programs were synchronized between them all, and embedded throughout the operating system was OneDrive keeping my life in order. For the first time in my career, data, documents, personal photos, music… were all just there and secure. I didn’t have to dig out three 1TB hard drives and plug them in in sequence to find what I was looking for. I had a folder structure that worked perfectly and let me find what I needed in just a few clicks. I bought office 365 purely for the unlimited storage, and I used it to store my 2.5TB digital work and home lives.

Placeholders – The OS.

I was one of the seemingly few that took to Windows 8.1, and OneDrive placeholders were one of those features that really made it work for me. When the Windows 10 insider previews dropped placeholders, my heart sank. There were rumblings that they would come back, but we all know the story there. And so, for the most part, I kept my computers (my surface pro 3, my desktop, and my two work computers) on Windows 8.1. I buckled recently and installed Win10 on my work laptop, and generally it’s a mixed bag. While I’m not a massive fan, I am starting to feel left behind in Windows 8.1, particularly on my Surface when it comes to all the new UWP apps (the new mail and calendar apps in particular). But! The surface only really comes into its own with placeholders – I have access to all of my data and ongoing work, as well as all my music and work/personal photos. When travelling, I pre-sync what I’ll need. I’m currently testing odrive on my Windows 10 laptop, which brings placeholders back – to an extent – but it’s not quite as seamless as native OneDrive.

And so, most of my computers remain on Windows 8.1 (and I’m having to go to greater and greater lengths to stay ahead of Microsoft’s big push with optional/recommended updates).

Storage limits – Photos, music, and windows mobile.

Combined with the loss of placeholders, OneDrive recently took away that unlimited storage offer. It was something I signed up for, and paid for, purely for that reason – I get office through work, so don’t need that. However, now that OneDrive has reduced ‘unlimited’ to 1TB, and as I have 2.5TB in total, something has to go. I’m having to find an alternative cloud storage solution… perhaps amazon, perhaps openDrive, both of whom offer unlimited storage at reasonable prices. If I’m getting unlimited storage elsewhere, it seems silly to pay for a large amount with OneDrive too. So that leaves me dropping down to the free 30Gb (if I get my arse in gear and click the ‘yes I want my old free storage’ link).

I have about 80 Gb of photos, including both work photos taken in the field and at museums, and personal photos from the past 10-15 years or so (with more coming as I get scanning old images). One of those nice new UWP apps that I’d really like to use is the photos app – strides ahead of the Win 8.1 version. But to use it, I either need all my photos on my local hard drive (not possible on my 128GB surface), which of course means manually syncing everything all the time, or in OneDrive (not possible with the free tier). I could alternatively put my photos into Flikr or Google photos, but guess what – they don’t have good apps for windows mobile (or windows 10 for that matter).

It’s a similar story with music: to use it with Groove music I need it all in onedrive, taking up a big chunk of that free space.

So I’m left with my music and photos elsewhere, and if I go down this route, all of a sudden my phone isn’t connected to my music and photos, meaning that in all likelihood I’ll be finding an android phone when it’s time to renew.

What’s frustrating is that I would happily pay for more storage to stay in this ecosystem, but that option isn’t available from OneDrive – it’s a hard 1TB cap.

So here we are; OneDrive’s decisions last year have ultimately meant that I’m holding back OS upgrades, I’m actively looking to move my data to a different storage provider. That means that my music, photos, and data will be held elsewhere, and in all likelihood there won’t be native apps available for Windows phone (or Windows 10 desktop). To get the experience I have had, I’ll need a new phone and new services that aren’t Microsoft.

When placeholders were removed, and when the storage changes were announced, I went through the same stages as everyone else – outrage, indignation, knee-jerk responses (all the things any denizen of the internet feels when something displeases them). But I’ve had time to think about it since then, and while I totally understand the moves OneDrive and Microsoft are making, I can only feel that in order to retain the productivity I had, I’m going to have to leave them behind and move to other services. And in all likelihood struggle to get back to that wonderful peak in productivity I saw.

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2 thoughts on “The perils of a weak link in an ecosystem chain: How OneDrive’s changes are pushing me out of the windows ecosystem.

    1. I know that’s the best course of action, but when adapting costs money and time (that could otherwise be spent on research), it really is tempting to just lie down and go extinct, or at least move on and do something different.

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