Smart Files is Microsoft’s answer to the public’s growing need for data storage.
Without Smart Files, you have to download your files from the Skydrive cloud and then open them locally. This unwittingly creates two new problems: wasted bandwidth and wasted local disk space. Smart Files sidestep these annoyances by creating bucket files that serve as placeholders for the full file. In other words, Microsoft makes a temporary, local representation of the actual SkyDrive files and only downloads the complete files when you access them.
Smart Files look just like ordinary files. All the traditional rules apply: copy and paste, rename and move – the major difference is that they often take up less than 80% of your disk storage.
According to Mona Akmal, Group Program Manager for SkyDrive Apps, the benefits are endless. She gives the following example:
[Y]ou might have taken a photo 6 months ago of the menu of your favorite restaurant, but can’t remember where it’s buried in your Camera Roll and want to remember the dish you had. You can simply type in the restaurant name on your desktop and Bing Smart Search will search text of your Camera Roll photos and pull up the picture of the menu with the restaurant name printed on it. With the power of smart files, this will work even if your Camera Roll is marked for online-only access. The moment you open the photo, it will be instantaneously pulled from the cloud for you to view the full version.
With the countdown to Windows 8.1 just two days away, I think Smart Files is good reason to anticipate the Windows 8.1 update. Skydrive has already received an overhaul and is now tightly knit into the fabric of the operating system. As such, the lines between cloud storage and local storage are become increasingly nebulous.
According to Akmal, consumer storage requirements is growing 25% annually but data files requirements are burgeoning at around 50% annually. Thus, in order to accommodate rising demand, cloud storage will soon become an imperative asset and will no longer be optional. I’m happy to see that Microsoft is taking strides to make cloud storage more palatable to its customers.