Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What can OneDrive, Synch and SharePoint File Libraries offer Business?


I do a lot of reading on the Microsoft tech boards and I find the information that Microsoft provides around OneDrive to be both confusing and lacking in detail. I wrote this post as a means of clearing up some of the confusion.  

So, here's my interpretation and opinions on what OneDrive and File Libraries in SharePoint (via a proper Office 365 E3 or E5 subscription) can offer;

The Sync Client isn't all that Important

SharePoint file libraries can replace all of your networked drive needs and these facilities have come a long way in the last few years.

In fact, for the most part, SharePoint has finally eclipsed the need for the OneDrive Sync client. 

There's a few minor exceptions to this rule.

  • You still can't easily "link" files, so if you have an excel file which updates its data from other excel files, it a real pain to add and install those connections -- and it's much easier if you have a local synced connection.
  • Saving files in Office applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc now works very well with pure SharePoint  (finally... after the July 2018 updates). Unfortunately, the same ease of use does not apply with non-Microsoft products, such as NitroPDF, PhotoShop, or any of the other programs that use the old style windows dialog boxes. You'll need local sync if you plan to use these too.
  • If you're often travelling and will need to work in places without an internet connection, then you're going to need your file available locally. For that you'll need OneDrive Sync.
  • My personal favourite reason for using the OneDrive sync application is to sync only the corporate templates folders (and point your local Word's Workplace Templates folder to the synced folder)
If, on the other hand, all of your work is in Office and/or the web browser and if you're only working in places where there's an internet connection then you can safely forget OneDrive file sync.


It's All About SharePoint

Having your files stored in SharePoint will allow you to access them via any PC, Mac, tablet or phone anywhere in the world without the need for dedicated security infrastructure such as a VPN.

Having your files there will also ensure that they are version controlled. This means that you can restore old versions of them if you overwrite or delete them -- up to about 90 days.  If you need longer, you'll have to invest in backup solution like Veem, StorageCraft or Veritas.

Internal and External sharing and Security can be achieved by storing your files in different SharePoint "sites" or in separate File libraries in a single SharePoint site, depending on how you set things up.

Essentially SharePoint's file library replaces all of your old-style network drives.

The OneDrive Sync Application

The OneDrive Sync Application will allow you to synchronise data between SharePoint File libraries and your computer.  This is important if you need to access and modify files on the go without an internet connection.  It's also a useful thing if you want to do local backups. 

Changes made to local OneDrive files will sync to the relevant SharePoint sites and to all other synched versions of the site (ie: to other people's synched copies on their own computers).  Deletes are also synched meaning that if someone deletes their synched files their own computer, it will delete them off the network and off all other computers. 

This makes the OneDrive sync application a bit of a liability -- and increases the importance of locking users out of the system once they leave employment. 

You can still restore files but prevention is better than a cure.

Until very recently (late July 2018), you really needed to sync your files because saving directly from Word to SharePoint was ridiculously difficult.  It's now changed and it's very easy, so the need for local OneDrive sync is drastically reduced.

Saving to SharePoint in Excel - Finding libraries has never been easier.

In my opinion, it's recommended that you don't sync if you can help it as sync provides malware (and accidents) with an easier path to data on your server.

The OneDrive Folder 

Not to be confused with the similarly named sync application, the OneDrive folder is actually for personal storage. If you have a home account like hotmail or outlook.com, you'll already have a personal OneDrive that you can use. 

If you're in a business with an Office 365 account, you'll also have a business-personal OneDrive. In the business, this is like your home drive on a network.  Nobody else can see it and it's a great place to store things that you're working on but aren't ready to release yet,

You can randomly share things out to other people from your home drive, so you have more flexibility than the old home drive concept.  Depending upon your organisation's settings, you can also share files and folders outside of your business making the security on your personal OneDrive much more flexible than a SharePoint document library.

Of course, just because you can, it doesn't mean that you should. Don't be tempted to use your OneDrive in place of your main business folders. SharePoint is a much better bet. 


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