Microsoft dramatically improves OneDrive for Business

Mark Coppock

Microsoft has announced a number of important updates to their OneDrive for Business product today, firming up the business storage solution’s syncing, mobile apps, IT controls, and developer options. OneDrive for Business is an important part of Microsoft’s push to become “the productivity company,” and joins the recent release of Office 2016 as an example of just how serious the company is about offering industry-leading productivity solutions.
Here’s a quick overview of the changes being outlined today:

New Sync Client
First in line is a preview update to perhaps the most important aspect of any cloud storage solution, synchronization. Dubbed the Next Generation Sync Client (NGSC), the new sync experience is aimed at improving reliability and select sync options, along with allowing for more than 20,000 files and increasing file size from 2GB to 10GB (the current limits remain during the preview but will be removed when NGSC is officially launched). Interestingly, NGSC is actually based on the sync client in the consumer version of OneDrive, thus bringing both services in line.

Specific improvements include:

  • Selective sync: Once the new sync client is downloaded and installed, the ability to select the folders that will sync to local storage is enabled.
  • Improved IT control: The improved sync client has silent deployment options, sync blocking, and default sync folder capabilities that allow IT departments to control how users access and sync OneDrive for Business.

The OneDrive for Business sync client should be familiar to consumer users.
The OneDrive for Business sync client should be familiar to consumer users.

Microsoft is being careful in releasing the new sync capabilities, and so you can go here to put your organization in line for a spot. Check out more details on the sync experience, available on Windows and OS X, here.
Improved Web Experience
The consumer version of OneDrive enjoys an excellent Web client, and Microsoft received numerous requests to bring the same experience to OneDrive for Business. The company has listened, and business users can now benefit from the same Web experience as consumers have enjoyed.
OneDrive for Business Web client.
OneDrive for Business Web client.

Improvements include:

  • “Clean, intuitive, and beautiful” look and feel with easy-to-use navigation, quick access to frequently used functions, and enhanced keyboard and right-click commands
  • Tile and list views to make identifying documents faster and easier, with drag-and-drop support
  • New Command Bar for making common commands more accessible and contextual
  • A Details pane to provide more information on file and folder properties, including a rich preview
  • Enhanced sharing to offer more ways to collaborate on files and folders throughout an organization and with external entities

The improved Web experience is rolling out today to First Release customers, with all OneDrive for business users receiving the new client in the near future. Go here for more details on the new OneDrive for Business Web client.
Enhanced Mobile Client
Microsoft is also releasing new OneDrive for Business mobile clients, specifically on Android and iOS. These new clients are aimed at making file and folder access and management more powerful and easier to accomplish. Offline file access has been added to the Android client, while the iOS client now enables PDF annotations and press-hold access to file actions (share, move, delete and details).

OneDrive for Business Android client.
OneDrive for Business Android client.

OneDrive for Business iOS client.
OneDrive for Business iOS client.

Finally, OneDrive for business also offers developers a unified OneDrive API to enable apps that leverage OneDrive’s strengths.
Today’s OneDrive for Business announcement represents some significant updates to the important cloud storage solution, and should help both individuals and organizations use OneDrive given the alignment of the consumer and business versions. While some user concerns remain, such as the loss of the Windows 8.X client’s file placeholders, Microsoft should nevertheless be commended for generally listening to their customers and continuing to improve their productivity solutions.