Accessing your files in the cloud while offline

All of your files are in the cloud. It works really well. You can get them from any device with an Internet browser and a connection. Awesome.

But what happens when you don't have that Internet connection? Maybe you're on a plane. Maybe you're on the road and found one of those mobile network black spots (we have a few in New Zealand). Or maybe for some reason there's just no Internet connection where you are.

What do you do? How can you work? What happened to the dream?

Easy.

Thankfully there are a few tools in Microsoft's kitbag to help us out. And if you don't like these there are also some third party tools.

 

Email

We've actually had offline access to email for a while now. All you need is Outlook. Outlook will keep a cache of all your mail. By definition, when you're offline you can't send or receive email. But you can look at all the email you have received and you can create responses. When sent these responses sit in your Outbox patiently waiting for you to get connected again and be sent.

It's the same with your contact and task lists plus your calendar items.

And coming up in the next version of Office 365 you'll be able to access the web version of Outlook (Outlook Web App) while offline.

 

Documents

This one is a little newer. To have a synchronised copy of your documents ready to access you'll need a tool like SharePoint Workspaces. This comes with Office Professional Plus and it allows users to sync with selected document libraries.

What does this mean? Well, using an interface a little like Windows Explorer you can work on your documents while offline. When you're back online the changes are synchronised back to SharePoint.

There are some gotchas to watch out for. If you've got lots of documents you probably don't want to synchronise them all, that just wouldn't make sense. You may need to plan a little to ensure that the documents that are most important to you are synchronised. And SharePoint Workspaces also has some limitations. It can only synchronise 10,000 files at a time. I would hope that you don't have 10,000 urgent files to work on though.

 

And the point is?

The point is simple really. Many people believe that having your data in the cloud means you must have an internet connection at all times to access it. This can be a concern and even a reason for not making the move. Actually, it shouldn't hinder you at all (unless you will never have Internet access).

Want to know more? Send me an email and I can talk with you about operating in the cloud while offline.