Monday, February 06, 2017

OneDrive to Rule them all ... or perhaps not.

Microsoft OneDrive is great! It's easy to use too and has some really great integration into Office 2016 - which means that when you go to save or open files, instead of displaying a file dialog, it renders the folder names right into the panel. Sadly the sharepoint integration in Office 2016 is still dialog-based. 

On the surface, it looks like a great files storage solution but as it turns out, just like Tolkien's OneRing, beneath that shiny surface, OneDrive is mostly evil. 

At work, we're still using an old file server which allows people in the company to save files into public, personal or restricted access areas.

It's a great browsable structure with the main drawbacks being that it's on a local file server (which means ageing infrastructure and semi-manual backup procedures) and security because it needs a VPN to get to our internal systems. Many of our users still find a VPN too complex to set up and it's hard to get a VPN that runs on all flavours of devices (various versions of iOs, Windows, Android and Linux) without compromising security.

The file server also has shadowing, which is a great feature -- and sadly, something that Windows finally "copied" from the old Novell Netwoare 3.12  (1991) - after more than a decade of broken promises. Shadowing is awesome and adds a layer of recovery to your systems, especially when it comes to attacks like Cryptolocker.

Having seen OneDrive personal in action, I was keen to get OneDrive for Business. It seemed obvious to me that this was the solution - A cloud version of the file server that was tighty integrated into Office 365.

As it turns out, it's not. 

OneDrive For Business is Still Personal!

OneDrive for Business is basically OneDrive personal with some more space.

  • Neither sharing or rights management works properly on it.
  • All files on all versions of OneDrive are owned by a single owner, rather than the business.
  • It's not easy to copy files to OneDrive from a server, so I tried copying them locally, letting them synch and then removing the local copies. It doesn't do anything immediately but after a little while, it replicates the removal of those files over to OneDrive (yes, it deletes your files).

    I think there's a way to stop synching before doing this but I didn't bother giving it a try because it was pretty obvious that for all its beauty, OneDrive doesn't work.  


I talked to Microsoft about the problem and they made it very clear.

"Do not use OneDrive if the intention is to Share Files"

There's a very good blog post that explains this -- and it includes a flowchart too!
https://en.share-gate.com/blog/you-should-not-be-migrating-to-onedrive-for-business

Apparently Sharepoint - team sites is the tool for this.

SharePoint is not the Answer 

I looked at SharePoint and ran some tests to see how easily I could migrate our many years and many gigabytes of files shares.

Not easily at all.


  • We had to change the default settings on Sharepoint 365 just to allow us to upload more files. The default restrictions are all wrong (and the settings changes are buried quite deeply).
  • The file structure isn't properly browsable and it simply doesn't give us what we wanted.
  • The integration with Office 2016 is terrible compared to OneDrive.
  • There's a copy feature in OneDrive that allows you to copy OneDrive data to a team site. It's a copy though, so you still have to delete the files off OneDrive later.  It worked very well for small numbers of small files but whenever I tried to do anything useful with it, it failed. 


Looking for Answers Elsewhere

With reluctance, we began looking elsewhere and stumbled upon Citrix Sharefile.

We've had a demonstration and thus far, this looks like it's the right answer. I'll post my findings once I've had a proper chance to play.

In the meantime, there's some great videos for Sharefile on YouTube and it looks like OneDrive is reduced to being an option for HOME drives only. For data that the company doesn't mind losing.

I'm very concerned that Microsoft doesn't seem to have an answer to the file sharing problem. Particularly when people will be expecting to move from On-Prem Microsoft file servers to their Office 365 cloud.

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