Current Rants

What is OneDrive, exactly?

So, what actually is this thing? A storage repository? A smart collaboration environment? A sync tool? Depending on who you ask, it can be everything… or nothing.

OneDrive is… it’s not that easy. Cloud storage, some say. Intelligent implementation of storage in SharePoint Online with synchronization to various devices, with the ability to access the stored data on-  and offline, to share this data with others and to work together on documents. Say the others. And both are right.

In the underlying technology, Microsoft has described a completely new development. They were able to fall back on the limited synchronization tool, “Groove,” which was introduced with Ray Ozzie in 2010 in the Office Suite. SharePoint Workspace had more features in the old days than we need today. Many customers, who still use SharePoint On-Premises, are unfortunately forced to deal intensively with the limitations and errors. Or use SharePoint Server 2019 in the fall, because with this version it will be possible for the first time to use synchronization with On-premise with the Next Generation Sync Client == OneDrive.exe. Sounds good and is easy to write, but there’s a migration in between, even if a previous version of On-Premises is already used. This will give many companies a lot of work, which then needs the right migration tools.

In understanding, it would have been much easier if Microsoft’s marketing did not always speak of OneDrive. From the brand OneDrive. Not a word about the differences between OneDrive Personal (Consumer Version) and OneDrive for Business. No word about branding, idea, implementation. Just OneDrive. And even if this article is not to make a comparison: Dropbox, Box and Co. did not sleep either. And the many comparative articles often only describe the hard facts: disk space, size of the maximum file, etc. But not the vision and integration.

The user is a human and, in turn, a creature of habit. Microsoft has recognized this and has integrated OneDrive in Windows 10 deeply into the operating system with NTFS. Thus, concepts that have been there before, but have not always worked properly, could be re-integrated (Smart Files). A shutdown and later reordering with files on demand has given the Windows 10 users the ability to see terabytes of data in the Explorer, without physically storing the data on the sometimes small hard drives. This concept is still not complete. The automatic tidying up is still coming soon. And as it will be implemented in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update (Build 1809), it’s a farce. This version is not yet on the market, but in the age of AI, I expect more than timed tidying up. The implementation was handed over to the Windows Team and implemented there. Implemented as in the days of Windows 95. Today computers wait very fast for the user, who usually processes a document and wants to save it. And if the location is a library that synchronizes with the cloud, then a cleanup mechanism should be initiated that cleans up intelligently. And I also sent a flowchart directly to Microsoft.

On the other hand, OneDrive is no longer just a synchronization client. The Client also transports rights from the cloud to various devices and with the same interface. You remember? Previously you had to go to the website and upload a file. There the file could then be shared with others. Today, this is done by the Office application, with which I created the file after saving, I do not even have to leave the application. Or from Windows Explorer. Or from the Android or iOS device. Everything leads to the same result. I enter some information and the link goes traveling. And not the file.

For some, OneDrive is just a simple location. And Microsoft publishes one feature after another. I’m happy to finally be able to specify OneDrive for Business as the location for my photos in my iPhone. For many companies, photos are business fundamentals. And, have not be saved in OneDrive Personal.

My ideas go even further. I am often asked: Why should I still use the browser? The answer is simple: The search on the desktop is limited to filenames, the search via the web goes much deeper. Into the documents. And here I start: Why the search cannot also be extended to the document libraries in SharePoint? Do not just search locally – no. Enter a question in a window and specify. As with the rights, the Next Generation Sync Client can pass the question to the various document libraries and display the results in a window. Direct inside Word or Excel. Or in Windows Explorer. One click and the document is synchronized to your device and loaded into the application.

It was a tough journey from Groove to today’s OneDrive. We are not there yet. The Next Generation Sync Client has to work just as well for the individual home user as it does for the many users in small, medium and enterprise companies. In which the administration gets opportunities to influence certain functions. The users themselves also have to adapt their way of working in order to reach the goal faster together. OneDrive is just beginning. But it is the link between SharePoint and the respective device. I am looking forward to the upcoming functions.

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