So What's It Like Pushing All Your Data Into OneDrive?

So What's It Like Pushing All Your Data Into OneDrive?

It slow. That's what it's like

With Microsoft offering unlimited OneDrive cloud storage to Office 365 subscribers, the tantalizing possibility of having a single place for all your data emerges. To test whether reality lives up to that theory, I've begun uploading some of my data to OneDrive, and I've started with some large videos that I know will push the limits of what's possible. So what's possible?

It's already pretty clear there are limits.

Not limits to the actual storage. I have to assume that Microsoft's promise of unlimited storage is real. The issue is whether you can actually use that storage. And the first step, of course, is to upload some data.

I already have a ton of stuff in OneDrive, but it's mostly recent stuff. In December 2012, I started putting all of my SuperSite-related writing into OneDrive, and I switched to a date-based organizational scheme around that time as well. (Previously, I organized by topic—Windows, Windows Phone, Office, etc.—instead.) I also have most of my books in OneDrive, though the Windows 8.1 Field Guide is actually in OneDrive for Business for various reasons. So I have about two years of work data in there.

I also have all of my smart phone-based photos and videos, dating back to mid-2010, in OneDrive, which means I basically have all of my recent photos in there: For the past few years, I've been using high-end Lumias semi-exclusively for all of my photo taking.

But this is a very tiny percentage of my actual data. On my home server, I still have several terabytes of data—work data dating back to the mid-1990s, all of my books, all of my family's photos and home videos, ripped DVDs, all kinds of stuff. It's backed up locally and to cloud backup. But as I've written in the past I'm interested in simplifying. And when I moved to OneDrive for my day-to-day work stuff, that was a step down that path.

So. Is it possible to get that data from the home server into OneDrive and, over time, just retire the home server? Would that even make sense? And how would this experience translate for someone with a more typical set up, perhaps a PC with a ton of data on an internal or external hard drive? How can we turn Microsoft's promise of unlimited storage into a reality of actually using that storage?

The first step, I think, is to test what it's like to upload a big chuck of data. For this experiment, I chose a few folders of videos, which include some of the Rifftrax movies I've purchased legally (and recommend, they're hilarious), and a season of Rick Steves videos and a concert video I ripped from purchased and owned DVDs. This is about 50 GB of data in all, and I figured the large file sizes would make for an interesting test.

It went slowly. My OneDrive folder is on the hard drive in my desktop PC, as opposed to the smaller SSD. The videos happened to be on the same drive, so a normal drag and drop from the original location to the new (a Videos folder I created in the root of OneDrive) resulted in a move as opposed to a copy. That's fine.

There's a multi-step process that occurs when you move or copy data into the OneDrive folder in Windows 8+, but the net result is that it has to sync to the cloud. And that's what took, well, several hours in this case, partially because of my upload bandwidth, I'm sure, but also because of OneDrive throttling. It also resulted in an unexpected error when one of the videos—a 1080p recording of a live Rifftrax event ("Night of the Living Dead," if you're curious)—proved to be too big to even use with OneDrive: It's 13 GB and the file-size limit on OneDrive is 10 GB. Oops.

Eventually, everything was moved over and synced with the cloud. These are all H.264 videos, though they have a mix of file name extensions for some reason (.mp4v and .mp4). I don't really expect to stream any of them from the web per se, but I did visit OneDrive on the web to see what that looked like. First, the files with mp4 extensions display with thumbnails while the mp4v files do not. Lovely.

The presence of thumbnails with a Play icon suggests playback capabilities, so what the heck. The thing is, none of these videos will actually play in the browser. When you trigger playback, it looks like it's going to start, and you can even select within the scrubber. But then the video just craps out.

UPDATE: Actually, this web player does work, at least with the MP4 files. Not sure why this happened, but in IE on my desktop I couldn't get the videos to play as described. But in Chrome on the desktop PC and laptop, it worked fine. --Paul

OK, that's no big deal, not really. But of course the goal with data in the cloud is to access it from anywhere. I couldn't play these videos from my Windows Phone either, and of course downloading a video is slow, even with a fast connection. On my desktop PC, downloading a 1.3 GB video file using the web browser took about 10 minutes. Which is also fine since I'm thinking about this more as cold storage, if that makes sense.

UPDATE: I should have added that you can play back these videos--regardless of file extension--from the version of OneDrive that's integrated with the file system in Windows 8.1 and 10 (at least). That does work, in that you don't have to download the video first and it will just stream. --Paul

I'm going to block upload a big chunk of real data from my work archives next and this will consist of more and smaller files. But there are real logistical issues around how someone with a normal setup—a laptop with limited SSD storage, or whatever—would even get data into OneDrive. I'll examine that, and some related topics, soon.

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