OneDrive for Business… is Back in Business!

OneDrive for Business… is Back in Business!

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Technology has made our personal lives easier and more efficient, and we’ve come to expect the same types of advantages in our work lives. Unfortunately, a lot of IT departments can’t or won’t provide these advantages. This results in users finding other ways to work the way they want to work. Often that means finding support outside of the company walls.

“Why can I easily share documents with my friends and my family, but at work I can’t share anything- or I have to send e-mail attachments?”

The rise of Cloud services has provided an easy solution for users. They can open a Dropbox account and start sharing documents internally and externally in minutes. Personally, I don’t have a problem with file sharing services like Dropbox, but an uncontrolled use within a company is downright irresponsible and dangerous.

You have no, I repeat, no control over what’s shared and with whom. Recently, I talked with an IT manager who said that due to the lack of internal file sharing tools, people were sharing files using Dropbox.

Meaning he has no idea what’s being shared, and with whom. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize the danger of this situation. This could result in documents containing sensitive data being up for grabs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it: You need to provide your employees with the tools they need to get their job done. This is where the Modern Workplace empowered by Office 365 comes in.

That said, one tool has been a major letdown for a long time and is basically the main reason for the rise of file sharing apps like Dropbox. The tool formerly known as SkyDrive for Business, now known as OneDrive for Business. You should know by now that I am not referring to OneDrive, the free offering with Outlook.com.

The problem was mainly caused by the sync engine. Sync with OneDrive for Business was unstable, unpredictable and generally unreliable. Multiple customers lost documents and refused to keep working with OneDrive for Business. Losing user files is a battle you can’t really recover from, because people lost faith in the tool.

I was even at a point where I told all my colleagues that they shouldn’t recommend and implement OneDrive for Business until Microsoft fixed the sync engine. This was really a shame because the browser experience was very decent and promising!

The sync engine finally received a new version as announced at Ignite 2016. Overdue for sure, but in my eyes a turning point in the future of OneDrive for Business.

Your Personal Workplace

We, at InSpark, work with business scenarios related to Office 365 tools. We don’t believe in using technology just because we can. A customer needs to get real business value from using a technology such as Office 365. Our business scenario for OneDrive for Business is as follows:

Your personal workplace, anywhere & anytime.

OneDrive for Business offers a series of benefits:

  1. One version of a document
  2. Work anywhere, anytime on any device with your files
  3. Share documents with colleagues and external users
  4. Integration with SharePoint

Are you still there? Good! Follow along as we dive in a bit deeper into the benefits.

  1. One Version of a Document

    Are you fed up with sending attachments? No idea which is the latest version of your documents? Are you the poor soul who must combine multiple Office documents into one new version? Please stop!

    OneDrive for Business offers one version for all your documents. It allows you to send a link to a document (more about this later) and not the document itself. It’ll stay safe and sound in OneDrive for Business. Versioning is automatically enabled for every document and you can restore a previous version any time:

    Version history in OneDrive for Business

    Tip: By clicking on the date, the document opens in Office. You are now able to compare versions.

  2. Work Anywhere, Anytime on any Device with Your Files

    You’re always able to access your documents, whether online or offline. The offline experience finally works as expected. My compliments to the Microsoft OneDrive for Business team for releasing a reliable and stable sync experience.

    Why is this so important? Because most users prefer to work locally instead of with a browser. The sync with Windows Explorer fulfils this requirement.

    Recently, I held a training with a famous fast food chain. A lot of the users are on the road and need access to their files. OneDrive suits this scenario perfectly. This is where the sync experience steps up:

    Sync files offline with OneDrive for Business

    All your documents are available within Windows Explorer, comparable to a personal file share. Even without an Internet connection you can keep changing your documents, and you can even add new Office documents. After reestablishing the Internet connection, the new documents or changes are synchronized with OneDrive for Business.

    I often tell people I am not Yoda. I know a lot about Office 365, but not everything. Recently, a customer asked what happens when you delete a document from Windows Explorer. I immediately tried it and the document is transferred to the recycle bin from Windows Explorer and from within OneDrive for Business. This also applies for mobile apps. Good to know!

    Speaking of the mobile app, it’s awesome.

    Let’s open it and view my OneDrive for Business files:

    OneDrive for Business files in mobile app

    I can view any Office document, or PDF, within the app. To edit the Office document, I need to use a corresponding Office app.

    View PDF in OneDrive for Business mobile app

    The app is also connected with SharePoint Team Sites:

    SharePoint Team sites in OneDrive for Business mobile app

    I can easily view the content of the document libraries:

    Document library view in OneDrive for Business mobile app

    Fantastic! Even on the go, without my desktop or laptop, I have access to my personal and team documents.

  3. Share Documents with Colleagues and External Users

    Sharing is incredibly easy. Just select a document and click on share:

    Sharing documents in OneDrive for Business

    Always enter a brief message before you click the Share button. The recipients will receive an e-mail with the link containing your message. Otherwise they may not understand why they’re receiving the document. The document is automatically shared with edited permissions. This can be changed by clicking on the blue link:

    Editing document permissions in OneDrive for Business

    There are a couple more options that need a short explanation.

    • Anyone with this link: Literally every person in the world who has the link can edit the document.
    • Only people in Contoso: Only your colleagues can edit the document.
    • Only people in the To line: Only people you directly sent the invite can edit the document.
    • Allow editing: Untick the box for “read-only” permissions on the document.
    • Link expires: Enter the number of days the link should be available.

    The fun starts when you and the recipients edit the document:

    Collaboration on documents in OneDrive for Business

    You can work together, in real-time, in the document. Talk about getting the job done quickly and efficiently! Every edit gets a color. To prevent chaos, there is a built-in chat window powered by Skype for Business:

    Chat powered by Skype for Business in OneDrive for Business

    I always love to see the integration of multiple Office 365 tools come together.

  4. SharePoint Integration

    OneDrive for Business is your personal workplace and SharePoint is a group collaboration workplace. These two tools are now integrated within the OneDrive for Business interface:

    SharePoint site listing in OneDrive for Business

    I can work with the files from my SharePoint Team sites directly within OneDrive! It saves a lot of valuable time.

    Microsoft also extended the “copy to” action to SharePoint, allowing me to start a document directly on my OneDrive for Business, ask a few colleagues for feedback, finalize the document and copy it in the SharePoint Team site. Don’t forget to delete afterwards from your OneDrive for Business!

    Moving forward, Microsoft is working hard on extending the “move to” action. Can’t wait!

Safety of Sharing and Storing Documents

We’re now able to work and share our documents with OneDrive for Business. No need for Dropbox or Box.com! But what about security? I briefly touched upon security in the introduction.

Although OneDrive for Business really stepped up its game around the user experience and sync, there are still security risks. In theory, users can still store and share sensitive data through OneDrive for Business. Thankfully, Microsoft provides a lot of tools to guarantee the security of these documents.

The following security & compliance tools are available:

  • Mobile Device Management: Control mobile devices connected with OneDrive for Business.
  • Auditing: View user activities such as who recently accessed, deleted or shared documents.
  • Data Loss Prevention: Apply policies to prevent storing and sharing of sensitive documents.
  • Retention: Preserve documents as long as you need.
  • eDiscovery: Identify, hold, search and export documents for legal cases.
  • Alerts: Get notified when users perform specific actions.

I highly recommend investing time in these tools. You don’t want to be in the news with security leaks you could have prevented by using these tools.

Back in Business

Microsoft doubled down on OneDrive and finally delivered. The sync engine works (even with SharePoint Document Libraries) and we said goodbye to Groove.exe. We can now easily share documents and collaborate in real-time.

All the changes are saved in one version, no more need to send attachments. The integration with SharePoint Team Sites allows a deeper integration between the two tools. The mobile apps allow me to view my documents anywhere. Finally, a series of security & compliance tools guard your sensitive documents. Shout it out with me:

OneDrive for Business is Back in Business!

Jasper Oosterveld
Jasper Oosterveld @jasoosterveld

Jasper Oosterveld is a frequently requested speaker, Microsoft MVP, blogger and a co-author of two SharePoint manuals. During the day Jasper is a Cloud Consultant at InSpark, he facilitates seamless implementations of SharePoint Online and Office 365.