Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 5, Managing SkyDrive

SkyDriveYou can really tell Windows 8.1 was designed with tablet users in mind, since it offers a lot of new features specifically for people using Windows on these types of devices.

One of the more intrusive features is the SkyDrive integration. SkyDrive allows users to store their files and settings in the Microsoft cloud and enables the ‘tablet in the fishtank’ scenario, as shown by Jon DeVaan during the second TechEd Europe 2013 keynote (74m16).

Admins in organizations running Windows 8 could prevent the use of SkyDrive in several ways, through blocking traffic to the SkyDrive urls and blocking access to the SkyDrive desktop application (installer) through AppLocker.

In Windows 8.1, SkyDrive is installed by default and configured as the default storage location for settings and, more importantly, files created by users, when they’re signed in with a Microsoft account (formerly known as a Windows Live ID). This enables their files and settings to be synchronized automatically from the local device to the cloud.

In a large networking environment, you might not want to have SkyDrive synchronize files out of this monitored and locked environment. Unfortunately, colleagues are going to configure Connected Accounts so they can access the Windows Store and pick up work at home where they left it at work.

 

Managing Synchronization of files and settings

The solution here is to manage the synchronization of settings and files. Synchronization of settings in Windows 8.1 is managed in the same way as in Windows 8. Managing the synchronization of files, however, is new to Windows 8.1.

Managing SkyDrive through Group Policy

The upside of SkyDrive integration in Windows is that you can now manage it through Group Policy. Microsoft gives you three Group Policy settings to this purpose:

Save documents and pictures to the local PC by default

If you enable the Save documents and pictures to the local PC by default policy setting, the local storage of the device will be used as the default location to store documents. No longer will apps default to the documents folder in SkyDrive. Instead, the documents folder in the local profile will be presented.

Note:
This policy does not prevent colleagues from saving files to SkyDrive. The SkyDrive is still accessible through the File Explorer, File Picker and the SkyDrive app.

Prevent the usage of SkyDrive for file storage

The Prevent the usage of SkyDrive for file storage policy setting lets admins prevent apps and features from working with files on SkyDrive. If you enable this setting, colleagues can’t access SkyDrive from the SkyDrive app, the File Picker and through File Explorer, Windows Store apps can’t access SkyDrive using the APIs, SkyDrive doesn’t appear in the navigation pane in File Explorer and SkyDrive files aren’t kept in sync with the cloud. Also, colleagues with a device with a camera won’t be able to automatically upload photos and videos from the camera roll folder.

Prevent SkyDrive files from syncing over metered connections

The third setting, Prevent SkyDrive files from syncing over metered connections, governs the behavior of the built-in SkyDrive synchronization on metered networks. After you enable this setting, you can choose between Block syncing on metered connections and Block syncing on metered connections only when roaming.

 

All three Group Policy settings can be found in Computer ConfigurationAdministrative Templates \ Windows Components \ SkyDrive.

 

Managing SkyDrive through the Registry

The Group Policy settings refer to three Registry values, so you can also implement these changes manually, through a registry file (*.reg) and your favorite 3rd party client management solution:

  • HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\SkyDrive\DisableFileSync
  • HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\SkyDrive\DisableLibrariesDefaultSaveToSkyDrive
  • HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\SkyDrive\DisableMeteredNetworkFileSync

These are all REG_DWORD values and seem pretty self-explanatory:

Registry keys for managing SkyDrive integration in Windows 8.1 (click for original screenshot)

The only tricky setting is the DisableMeteredNetworkFileSync value. When the value is not present, SkyDrive synchronization occurs over metered networks, regardless. If the value is present, but its data is set to 0, SkyDrive will not sync over metered networks. If the data is set to 1, as in the screenshot above, SkyDrive synchronization is only blocked over metered networks when roaming.

 

Managing SkyDrive through the Windows Interface

Of course, Microsoft has also built in a way for your colleagues to turn on or off SkyDrive usage and SkyDrive synchronization. These settings can be found when you go the the new Control Panel (by opening the Charms Panel with Win + C or swiping in from the right side of the screen, choosing Settings and then clicking Change PC settings). In the left pane, SkyDrive is present.

When you open the SkyDrive settings,the first option File storage in the left pane allows you to see statistics on the SkyDrive usage. An option is presented to acquire additional storage:

SkyDrive Storage in the Windows 8 Control Panel app (click for original screenshot)

Underneath is the option to turn off automatically synchronizing documents to SkyDrive.

Note:
When you’ve enabled the Save documents and pictures to the local PC by default policy setting, this toggle becomes greyed out and the text Some settings are managed by your systems administrator is shown at the top of the main pane in red.

The Camera roll settings are governed by the Prevent the usage of SkyDrive for file storage policy setting, as do the Metered connections settings.

The Sync settings settings, however, are managed through the same Group Policy settings as in Windows 8. These can be found in the Managing Connected Accounts section of my blogpost on connected accounts.

 

Concluding

SkyDrive integration in Windows 8.1 is a great feature. For the first time, SkyDrive can also be managed through Group Policy. This blogpost explains how.

Related blogposts

New features in AD DS in Windows Server 2012, Part 9 – Connected Accounts
Five must-have Group Policy settings to create an uniform look for your Windows 8 clients

Further reading

Microsoft Explains SkyDrive Integration in Windows 8.1
Hands-On with Windows 8.1: SkyDrive Integration
Deep integration of SkyDrive in Windows 8.1
SkyDrive in Windows 8.1: Placeholder files, offline access, and file picker integration
Windows 8.1 & Improved SkyDrive Integration
Deeper SkyDrive Integration with Windows 8.1

Series Navigation

<< Is your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 4, Automatic App UpdatesIs your organization ready for Windows 8.1? Part 6, Start Screen Layout Management >>

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