OneDrive for Business Roadmap

OneDrive for Business logoI thought we’d have the Swedish logo for this post.  We like a bit of international flavour.  Did you know that Excel FlashFill in Danish is Hurtigudfyld?

Back in the real world, we get a lot of questions around OneDrive for Business (ODfB), the perceived reliability of the synchronisation engine and feature requests such as being able to select individual folders for synchronisation as you can do with plain old OneDrive (and just to clarify, this is not something that ODfB can do at the moment).

Back in the Mists of Time (well, 8 years)

A little bit of background often helps people to understand the situation we’re in at the moment.  SharePoint 2001 and 2003 were the early versions of the collaborations and portal tools we know in Office 365 and on-premises today.  They were good at document management and collaboration but had limitations for people that frequently worked offline.  To fill that gap, Microsoft bought a product called Groove in 2005 which allowed sites to be used both offline and between internal and external users.  When I used to demo Groove I asked people what they’d do if they needed to transfer a 50Mb file to a customer in another country; too big to email so it would be a case of posting it or setting up an FTP site.  We all think Dropbox or OneDrive now but they simply didn’t exist back then.

Groove was renamed to SharePoint Workspace before being discontinued and replaced with ODfB.  ODfB doesn’t have all the functionality of SharePoint Workspace 2010 but it does allow for offline synchronisation and sharing with external users.  Don’t get me started on Windows Live Mesh; I loved that but it was in turn replaced by OneDrive.

The reason I’m reaching back into the dim mists of time is that ODfB continues to use the Groove synchronisation engine (Groove.exe) to keep your online and offline files up to date and this is all about to change.

Cloud ODfB vs On-premises ODfB

Before I go into the OneDrive roadmap, let’s also consider for one paragraph, the difference between ODfB in Office 365 and the on-premises SharePoint ODfB.  Although these are called the same the gap in functionality will widen as Microsoft have stated in their “cloud-first engineering model”.  The cloud version of ODfB is already more advanced with features such as shared-with-me, responsive pages, integration with Delve, quick command bars, context menus and drag/drop support.  While many of these changes should be included in the next on-premises release, many will not.  Specifically those related to unique cloud technologies such as Delve.  Also, because Microsoft are running the cloud ODfB, they are able to keep up with market demands for features such as unlimited storage, easy mobile access without puncturing your firewalls, external guest sharing, etc..  These are unique values to a cloud offering and on-premises deployments will never be able to compare.

Big Changes in the New ODfB

The first big change is already available in the mobile clients.  At present on the pc there are two sync applications; OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.  Confusing and it leads to terrible jokes like OneDrive is really TwoDrive.  Ha ha, ahem.  The mobile sync application is a unified app which lets users connect to both OneDrive and ODfB.  This will be coming for rich clients too.  The back-end services will not be merged however: OneDrive will remain consumer and ODfB will remain enterprise-led with service level agreements and so on.  Think Hotmail vs Exchange online; one is consumer and the other is an enterprise service but I can connect to both using a unified client.

The next generation sync client will be in preview sometime after July 2015 for the pc and Mac and should go on to general release in October-December.  There will also be a unified web client.  We’ve already blogged that the storage limit of 1TB is being increased to unlimited storage over this year and the 20,000 file limit is also removed for general release of the next generation sync app along with support for files larger than the current 2GB restriction although this is likely to remain limited at 10GB per file.

Additional features are being rolled out now and existing Office 365 tenants will start to see these soon.  Too many to mention in a single blog post but you can keep up to date via the Office 365 roadmap.  There are some great compliance features being surfaced in an Office 365 admin centre area called the compliance center (sic) so keep an eye out for that in your tenant.  These include:

Auditing and reporting – the ability to view what users are doing in ODfB within a certain date range
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and eDiscovery – notification and control if certain data is uploaded, e.g. files with credit card numbers.
Mobile Device Management (MDM) – tighter integration with Intune
Information Rights Management (IRM) – protection for ODfB files and libraries
Sync controls – being able to block certain pcs from being able to sync files offline
Data retention policies – for example, auto delete or archive files that haven’t been modified for 6 months
Encryption at rest – data store in ODfB will be encrypted
Compliance – ISO, EU Model and other compliances; a key differentiator between OneDrive and ODfB

The compliance center screen is shown below.

Office365 Compliance Centre

 

Microsoft wants customers to be confident about the importance of ODfB and the effort they’re putting into getting it right.  We all swear (a lot) at ODfB synchronisation right now and sometimes it’s embarrassing to discuss this with customers but the roadmap is exciting and the future looks bright.

If you’d like to learn about SharePoint and ODfB in more technical depth, have a look at our courses.  We use the best trainers so not only do you learn the course material but we can provide the most up-to-date information about the technologies.