As a member of the MyITpros service team, I’ve spent more than four years using OneDrive both professionally and personally, and I would say I have a love-hate relationship with it. Although it’s generally great for my personal projects, it deleted files without warning when I used it with clients during a restore, requiring us to go to backups. As with any software, it has pros and cons. Here’s my take.
OneDrive for Business, which is built into most Office 365 subscriptions, is designed to function as a Box or Dropbox replacement that integrates with other Office 365 offerings. It has sharing capabilities as well as web and mobile apps—just about everything you could ask for if you’re on Office365, use multiple devices and want to keep your data synced. Moreover, it’s an ever-evolving product that frequently incorporates new features to improve performance and functionality.
Despite Microsoft’s regular updates, OneDrive for Business is built off antiquated SharePoint code, which results in persistent issues. A further complication is that OneDrive for Business is a completely different product from the regular OneDrive, which comes preinstalled in Windows 10. As I mentioned, I’ve used OneDrive for personal and business projects for years, yet I still occasionally get confused when I go to look for files. That said, Microsoft is slowly getting rid of the antiquated code, and a coming-soon update will permit some previously forbidden characters to be used in file names (such as % and &). Once in place, this update will allow for a smoother transition from the traditional My Documents to OneDrive for Business.
Last year, Microsoft introduced the Next GenSync Client to solve the majority of the syncing issues mentioned in the previous paragraph. To my surprise, this seems to have actually worked—the old client was notoriously bad, but I have not had any issues syncing files with the new one. Microsoft also introduced a built-in functionality to sync SharePoint site data, which requires a bit of technical know-how to implement but seems to work well once in place.
Although OneDrive for Business functions well as a way to sync documents between multiple devices, it should not be used as a full replacement for traditional file shares in companies with existing infrastructure. While it does have a cloud presence and file versioning, it is not backed up, meaning if Microsoft loses the data and you aren’t using a third-party tool to back it up, it will be gone. Thankfully, the file deletion horror story I mentioned earlier shouldn’t happen again now that the new sync client has come out.
What’s more, Microsoft has continued to refine and change how OneDrive for Business handles file-sharing. Nowadays, you can easily share from webmail, and if you right-click on a file from Windows, a browser will open to facilitate sharing. You can also share from the OneDrive web portal itself, customize settings that allow everyone in your organization to view or edit the files as needed, and even set a time for the link to expire. Although these are all great options, each has a different sharing UI and different menus, which quickly becomes confusing—and if you want to edit the sharing, things only get more complicated. This framework is changing for the better, but alterations are made often enough that it is hard to become proficient.
What’s the verdict?
Sharing within OneDrive for Business can be powerful, but you’ll need time to fully understand all the nuances and put appropriate company policies in place. Microsoft has introduced a OneDrive for Business admin center to provide assistance using the software, but is still underdeveloped. Even if you have an Office 365 subscription, it’s worth reviewing all the options—including Box, Dropbox and Sharefile—as you work to determine if OneDrive for Business is right for you.