Is There An Alternative?

OneDrive For Business

Why There is no File Hosting Service Alternative to OneDrive for Business

Which file hosting service ticks all the right boxes? The file hosting service OneDrive for Business might not (yet) be quite such a household name as Dropbox or Google Drive, but it is the only product currently on the market that is truly mature enough for (secure) deployment in business environments.

What is OneDrive for Business?

The file hosting service OneDrive for Business stands for more storage space in Office 365 or on companies’ local SharePoint farms. OneDrive for Business lets users save files, share them with other people, synchronize files with connected computers, and make them available offline.

There are a number of apps around to synchronize and access files. These apps are used to save the files locally on computers or to access the contents on mobile devices. So essentially it works similarly to Dropbox, Box or Google Drive.

The file hosting service OneDrive for Business must not be confused with another Microsoft service called “OneDrive”, which is designed for private use. The services differ in terms of their underlying aspects and features.

Why Using the File Hosting Service OneDrive for Business?

Companies place the file hosting service OneDrive for Business at the disposal of their staff simply by subscribing to Office 365. At the moment, each user is allocated 1TB of storage space.

If the company has not rolled out Office 365 , it can still provide its employees with storage space in their SharePoint farm in the form of a personal My Site. In this case they retain full control over which documents can be saved and how much storage space is made available to each employee.

The storage space – whether on-premises or in Office 365 – is accessed via a web interface or the OneDrive client.

OneDrive for Business libraries are based on SharePoint technology, which is optimized for business scenarios. Among other things, this means that documents can be versioned, enriched with metadata, and transferred in an automatic process using SharePoint workflows and others.

Compared with Dropbox or Google Drive, companies have the significant benefit that the files remain under their control. For instance, they can block access to OneDrive for Business from a central location, check external shares or archive files in a central document management system.

The file hosting service OneDrive for Business can also replace the personal drive that many companies continue to use. This means that employees can be given an improved performance without placing a strain on the local infrastructure (apart from the network bandwidth of course), especially if one considers that Microsoft provides 1TB of storage space per user and enables mobile access to documents.

Various OneDrive Clients

There are currently two versions of the client used to synchronize files between computers – the standard client and the so-called “Next Generation Sync Client” (NGSC). NGSC is based on modern synchronization technology already applied in the private version of the file hosting service “OneDrive”.

This client is a standard feature of PCs using Windows 10 or on PCs running the full version of MS Office 2016, although it can of course be rolled out manually. Employees deploy this client to synchronize files from the company’s OneDrive for Business or a privateOneDrive account with their PCs or notebooks. These files are also available offline. New and edited documents can be saved in a local setting and are then synchronized as soon as a connection with the Internet or the company network is available.

Group Policies can be used to control the available client features. NGSC does not currently (as per September 2016) allow synchronization of normal SharePoint document libraries from the company’s SharePoint environment. But the old client (based on Groove) is still available to handle this task.

An overview of the possible synchronization options, source: Microsoft

Microsoft will provide additional updates for the NGSC over the course of the year, and will then enable the synchronization of SharePoint libraries.

The File Hosting Service OneDrive for Business Gives Employees What They Need

Until now, companies have used Dropbox or similar services to share files with other businesses. But these services have a key disadvantage from a corporate perspective. The files are stored on unknown servers in the USA.

The file hosting service OneDrive for Business offers its users the popular features (document shares, mobile access, offline synchronization), while providing companies with the control they need as a one-stop solution. No other service currently on the market can deliver an equivalently high degree of integration in SharePoint, Office and Windows.

How can an IT Service Provider Help?

Companies will of course need a plan if they want to provide the file hosting service OneDrive for Business – whether on-premises as My Sites or within Office 365.

Questions that Companies Need to Ask for a Roll-out Include:

  • How much storage space can be made available to the employees?
  • Which documents are employees entitled to save to their OneDrive?
  • How can the contents of personal drives be migrated?
  • Which options are available to share content?
  • Which OneDrive client does the company need?
  • Which contents can be accessed via mobile devices?

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Christoph Vollmann

Senior SharePoint Consultant

SharePoint consulting incl. requirements analysis, conceptual design and mapping of business processes

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