Introducing Microsoft OneDrive for Business

By Anthony Lee, Consultant

Anthony started his SharePoint journey back in 2007 and is proficient across everything from InfoPath forms, PowerShell scripting, complex SharePoint migrations and SharePoint administration, and backs his experience up with a string of Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 certifications.

The backup and storage of files is an ever resounding feature requirement in IT systems for business users in any industry. People need a user-friendly software application with optimal functionality to store their intellectual property. 

A software application that provides file storage and backup drives the likelihood of users following company policy for the way in which documents are stored and where. 

Business users that are frequently on the road or working remotely are in need of a simple solution to easily work offline and sync their work up to an online system. This typically affects those in the hospitality, construction, sales, retail and superannuation industries. The most important factor to include is to ensure files are backed up in the cloud, in addition to the files being stored on the user’s local PC. Users also need to remain in an environment that they’re both familiar and comfortable with, increasing user adoption.  

Often we get asked, why OneDrive for Business? Why not just map a network drive to SharePoint? Both questions are answered based on the business’ technical requirements.  

OneDrive for Business provides an excellent all round solution to the increasing business technical need seen in companies, particularly Australian organisations that require a way to work offline, and backup files in the cloud. 

WHAT IS MICROSOFT ONEDRIVE FOR BUSINESS? 

OneDrive for Business is an integral part of Office 365 or SharePoint Server, and provides a place in the cloud where you can store, share, and sync your work files. You can update and share your files from any device with OneDrive for Business. You can even work on Office documents with others at the same time.

Vision for Microsoft OneDrive for Business

Microsoft has made significant updates to OneDrive for Business lately, making big announcements at Ignite 2016. OneDrive and SharePoint work together to make storing and accessing all your files simple and powerful. Microsoft recently outlined a vision for file management in Office 365 that included a set of new features, such as:

  • simplified file sharing (both inside and outside your organization)
  • the ability to copy files directly from OneDrive to SharePoint
  • mobile access to all your Office 365 files on iOS
  • the innovative Discover view that uses Microsoft Graph to suggest relevant and trending files

The streamlined user experience between OneDrive and SharePoint via the new modern experience is the direction Microsoft is heading when it comes to aiding increased user adoption in all of their services and software tools.

Where should i Save my files? OneDrive for Business or a Sharepoint team site?

End users often ask, should I be saving my files to OneDrive for Business or a SharePoint Team Site? The difference is, a SharePoint Team Site can contain not only a document library, but also a place to collaborate, such as through tasks, calendars and workflows. OneDrive for Business on the other hand is merely a place where you can store files from your computer into the cloud, and access them from any device, or share them with others. The commonalities between a team site and OneDrive for Business is that your files are stored in the cloud, and you can sync either OneDrive for Business or SharePoint to your computer.

When to save documents to OneDrive for Business

You don't plan to share them

Documents you place in OneDrive for Business are private by default, unless you place them in the Shared with Everyone folder. This makes OneDrive for Business your best option for draft documents or personal documents that no one else needs to see.

You plan to share files individually and with a limited scope or lifecycle.

For example, you’re writing a blog post that may not be associated with a project, and you’d like a few colleagues to review it before you post it. In this case, you expect people to use the document once without needing additional storage or context information. All they need is a link to the document and editing permission.

You can't identify an existing team site 

If you can't fit the document into a team site and it doesn't warrant creating a new one, save it to OneDrive.

When to save documents to a team site library

  • You want team members to recognise the document as being relevant to an ongoing project
  • You want to spread ownership and permissions across a wider collection of people. If a document is important to the success of a project, its a good idea for there to be people other than yourself controlling what happens on the site. 
  • You want permissions to be granted on a  site basis, instead of on individual documents. If people have access to the team site, then they have access to documents stored in the site. 
  • Other project-related documents are already saved to the team site library, and others expect to find it there 
  • You want to create a check-in workflow that assigns the document to someone else
  • You want to create a workflow that runs on creation or change of documents. This can then send an email notification to user(s) to notify them of changes made, and can copy the document to another library.

Advantages of OneDrive for Business

Cloud Accessible Storage

Implementing OneDrive for Business enables the IT department to provide the ability for users to access files within the boundaries of the organization. When combined with technologies like Azure Rights Management and Windows InTune, IT can implement policies that can govern content while allowing the user to choose their own device.

Backup Storage

Store files in the cloud using OneDrive for Business instead of just storing files on the local PC or a network drive. 

Synchronisation 

OneDrive for Business allows users to easily save documents to a synchronized folder and access them as they would any file. The synchronized folder is then automatically backed up with their OneDrive folder. This also allows for easy access to content when offline.

Organisation & File Support

OneDrive for Business supports all sorts of content including pictures, video, audio, and all supported Office document formats.

Sharing

Simple and familiar controls allow users to easily share documents and other files with co-workers in and outside of the organization.

Machine Learning

Microsoft has been developing additional tools to help information workers focus on things that are important and “filter” some of the vast amounts of information that we deal with on a daily basis. Technologies like Delve, Sway, and Clutter are dependent on the user storing content in OneDrive in order to fully benefit from the features.

Integration with Office Tools

OneDrive for Business integrates seamlessly with other Office tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

OneDrive for Business App

Easily access OneDrive for Business on the go with the modern and user-friendly mobile app.

Simplicity

It can act like a mapped network drive, only with additional features such as the ability to work offline. The user experience is very similar, which increases user adoption.

Disadvantages of OneDrive for Business

Improper use as Document/Content Management

OneDrive for Business is intended as a personal repository for documents and files, but occasionally people will attempt to use it to share many items or to facilitate team or project collaboration. It is important to train users on the purpose of OneDrive and how to use SharePoint and/or Office 365 Groups for team and/or project collaboration.

Improper use as Records Management

OneDrive for Business is not intended as a records repository and users must be trained to store important documents in the appropriate place. Since OneDrive for Business can be configured to sync and be accessed from many devices, users must be cautious about what they store and who may have access. Integration with tools like Azure Rights Management, eDiscovery, and Windows InTune can help to mitigate this risk.

Privacy Concerns - Be aware of what you are storing

Microsoft maintains the right to scan these repositories for “objectionable” or copyrighted content. Users must be trained on what type of content is appropriate to be stored in OneDrive for Business. This is similar to other cloud storage vendor’s policies.

External Sharing

OneDrive for Business has the built-in functionality of sharing documents, folders, and other content with users in and outside of the organization. This can raise security concerns. A decision must be made whether to allow sharing outside of the organization and with whom. If sharing is enabled, regular audits of the external users should be conducted.

Synchronisation

You can only select which folders to sync, which means you can only sync all files that are in a folder or not in a folder. You cannot choose specific individual files in or outside of a folder that you want to sync.

Key Features to Use in OneDrive for Business

  • OneDrive for Business mobile app. View files on the go, and stay informed with notifications.

  • Annotate PDFs from Your Smartphone. Draw, highlight, and add comments to PDFs.
  • Advanced Sharing outside Your Organization. Set expiry dates on a shared link, and add permissions to who that link can be shared with.
  • External Sharing Governance. IT teams will be able to audit external sharing invitations, limit external sharing for specific users, and manage external sharing domains.
  • Selective Sync. Avoid filling your local disk up by choosing which files and folders get synced to that specific device.

  • Use Delve. Delve takes signals from OneDrive for Business, and surfaces relevant content in the Delve area within Office 365. The more you use Delve, the more precise it becomes.
  • Save Email Attachments Straight to OneDrive for Business. Simply right click on an email attachment in the Outlook Web App, and save it straight into your chosen folder.
  • Find out How Much Storage You Have Left. Sign into Office 365 as an admin and look at the storage metrics page.
  • Stay up to Date with Version Controls. Configure versioning to monitor who has made changes, when, and what they did.
  • Write and Host an Excel Survey. Create a survey with Excel Online, and save the live results into your OneDrive for Business library.

Alternatives to OneDrive for Business

The alternative solution to OneDrive for Business is a mapped network drive. When mapping a network drive to a document library either in a user’s personal SharePoint my site or a SharePoint team site, users are able to work with documents stored in the cloud directly through the drive, without having to save the files to their local PC to make changes and re-upload them to the cloud. This solution works well only if there is no requirement to work offline.

How to Access OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business is included in SharePoint Online and can also be purchased as a standalone plan. The OneDrive for Business standalone option includes Office Online. OneDrive for Business is available in the following Office 365 plans:

  • Office 365 Business
  • Office 365 Business Essentials
  • Office 365 Business Premium
  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 Education
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Government E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Government E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E4
  • Office 365 Government E4
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5
  • Office 365 E5 Education

For information on how to install the OneDrive for Business sync client, refer to this article: http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/2903984

For more information on OneDrive for Business, refer to this article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/What-is-OneDrive-for-Business-187f90af-056f-47c0-9656-cc0ddca7fdc2?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US