OneDrive Updates Coming: Single Sync Engine for Consumer and Business, Shared Folder Sync, Selective Sync Everywhere, Mac Client for OneDrive for Business

OneDrive For Business
OneDrive For Business

Microsoft, in a post on the OneDrive blog, has made a bunch of roadmap related announcements for OneDrive (and OneDrive for Business). This is refreshing because until about a year ago, this kind of information was almost impossible to get unless you relied on insider information and rumors.

The background for this honest and direct blog post could be several reasons:

  • Enthusiasts who loved Windows 8.1’s OneDrive behavior with the placeholder files who are disappointed that Windows 10 Technical Preview does away with it.
  • OneDrive for Business users who have no choice but to sync their entire collection or nothing.
  • OneDrive customers who have been clamoring for a shared folder sync a la Dropbox.
  • Overall, OneDrive customers who see slight differences in how files sync across the variety of platforms OneDrive is on, which is pretty much every platform today.

So here are the changes coming to OneDrive, and timelines wherever Microsoft has provided:

  • Single sync engine across all platforms. This will be built based on the current Windows 7 and Windows 8 sync engines, which means users have to select which folders they want to sync at the time of setting up OneDrive app. Of course, this can be changed later, but this is in contrast to Windows 8.1’s sync engine which takes the entire OneDrive and creates placeholder files whenever the cloud-based file is not available locally.
  • Unified OneDrive app for consumer and business users on iOS (this is already available on the Windows Phone and Android apps). This is coming later in January.
  • Preview of Mac client for OneDrive for Business, coming later in January.
  • Sync shared folders, coming “by summer”.
  • Shared folders and support for consumer and business in a single client on Windows 10, coming in the first Windows 10 release.
  • Reliable and comprehensible replacements to the placeholder feature will come to Windows 10 later in the calendar year.

I like this post because it makes clear that Microsoft is aware of the customer pain points and are not only working on the features to reduce the pain, but also know when approximately they will make those features available to the customers.

If you want to provide feedback on OneDrive, you can conveniently go to their UserVoice site.

OneDrive Storage Goes Unlimited For Office 365 Subscribers

Remember when OneDrive bumped up their free storage tier and made the storage included with Office 365 1TB from the 25GB that it used to be? Well, that was only a few months ago. Now, as they announced on the OneDrive blog on October 27, Microsoft is making the OneDrive storage unlimited for Office 365 Home, Personal and University subscribers.

The upgrade to unlimited storage rolls out today and there is a priority list for those who would like to see it early. I was one of those, and I got an email later in the day that while the upgrade to unlimited is in progress, the storage in my Office 365 Home account is bumped to 10TB, ten times the current allocation of 1TB.

So now, a customer can potentially get the full desktop Office suite for a PC/Mac, unlock editing features for tablet (iPad), get 60 minutes of Skype world calling to over 60 countries, use Office Online and Office Mobile on smartphones and unlimited storage for only $6.99 per month.

The above deal becomes even sweeter when there is a need for more than one user to be on the subscription. In such a case, a customer can get Office 365 Home which provides the same features for 5 users for $8.33 per month.

This is another move in the trend for cloud storage to become virtually free, tied closely to other services that companies like Microsoft, Google and to some extent, Apple provide. Here’s what Microsoft’s blog post said:

While unlimited storage is another important milestone for OneDrive we believe the true value of cloud storage is only realized when it is tightly integrated with the tools people use to communicate, create, and collaborate, both personally and professionally. That is why unlimited storage is just one small part of our broader promise to deliver a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share, and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organizations.

While Microsoft and Google have been really aggressive with their pricing, Apple has been a little reserved in how aggressive they get with the storage pricing. However, the biggest impact of such pricing moves are the likes of Box and Dropbox. For these companies, storage is a key factor but for platform makers like Microsoft, Google and Apple, adding storage inexpensively is not a big deal. How will Box and Dropbox combat this move? Your guess is as good as mine.

Attach and Share Files in Outlook Directly From OneDrive (Business and Consumer)

In two separate posts on the Office Blogs on October 8, Microsoft announced ways to easily share files in Outlook Web App and Outlook.com directly from OneDrive for Business and OneDrive respectively.

Advantages of sharing links vs attaching files

The advantages of attaching links as opposed to actually sending the files are:

  • Large files don’t have to move in email necessarily, thereby reducing the chances of emails bouncing off email servers which don’t accept attachments above a certain size.
  • If this is a file which can be edited online (for example, Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint which can be co-edited in Office Online), it does not have multiple versions floating across multiple people’s emails.
  • Permissions can be revoked at any time by the person sharing the file. This way, if a project is done and one does not want the rest of the team to have access to that file anymore, they can go to OneDrive for Business or OneDrive and remove that person’s email address from the list.

How it works: Outlook Web App

The way it works on Outlook Web App is as follows: start an email as always, and under the file attachment area, use the “attachments or OneDrive files” option. After a file is selected from OneDrive for Business, it creates a link to the file in the email as well as applies the appropriate permissions to everyone in the To and CC list. By default, everyone on To and CC get permissions to edit the file, but each file’s access can be edited after attaching, so certain people can be limited to read-only vs edit.

Insert attachments from OneDrive
Insert attachments from OneDrive

 

Insert files from OneDrive for Business
Insert files from OneDrive for Business

 

Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice
Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice

 

If one chooses a file on the local PC instead of from OneDrive for Business, the file is first uploaded to OneDrive for Business and then a link is generated to the file as above.

 

Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
OneDrive attachment manage permissions
OneDrive attachment manage permissions

 

In addition, this functionality is also available on the OWA apps on iPhone, iPad and Android.

 

Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPhone
Outlook Web App for iPhone

 

Co-authoring

Another feature to note here is that when someone gets an attachment in this way, and they open the file, it opens the file in co-author mode. This way, multiple people can edit the documents at the same time, keeping a single version of the file.

 

Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view

 

How it works: Outlook.com

Much like how it works with Outlook Web App, when you insert an attachment from OneDrive in the Outlook.com web app, it will send the file as a link. In both Outlook Web App and Outlook.com, the recipients will see the attachments almost the same as how they see normal attachments. The recipients will see a cloud icon on the icon of the attachment, and text which says that the file is on OneDrive.

 

OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App


This is a neat idea and I do hope we move away from email attachment overload, it’s just that we are so used to physical attachments, it is going to be a hard change to see through. However, with more and more cloud storage being offered by the key players in the platforms space (Google, Apple and Microsoft), I do see a future where many of us will make cloud storage our primary document repository. If that happens, I am hoping the email attachment culture will reduce and we move to link-sharing.

How do you send large attachments? Let us know in the comments below!

OneDrive Apps Updated: Android App Merges Work and Play

The OneDrive team at Microsoft announced in a blog post on August 28, that among other updates across platforms, the OneDrive app for Android now lets users access OneDrive as well as OneDrive for Business accounts in the same app.

Android App Updates

The Android app update is the first across platforms where one can access work and personal documents and files in a single app. This means, within a single app, you have access to all your files and will be able to share them appropriately with friends and family or co-workers.

Additionally, the app will clearly show which account is active so there is no mistake in terms of auto-uploads of pictures or sharing of work files with people outside work.

Additionally, the Android app now allows setting up a 4-digit PIN to secure the app and its contents in addition to the phone’s main locking method.

There are speed and reliability improvements in terms of photo backup, as well as the ability to have other apps open the files from OneDrive.

OneDrive for Android Updates
OneDrive for Android Updates

 

iOS App Updates

The iOS update now includes a native search. Much like the iOS system-wide search, within the OneDrive app you can pull down to reveal the search box and the search will be conducted across the entire OneDrive.

The iOS update also introduces an All Photos view (which curiously includes videos too, which I don’t mind, but may seem misleading). The All Photos view is similar to the one on the web, and an important consideration here is that screenshots are automatically removed from this view. If one wants to see uploaded screenshots, they can always navigate to the Camera Roll folder within the OneDrive app and see the screenshots.

I think this screenshot elimination from the main view is a good move. I take a lot of random screenshots and while I like that they are automatically uploaded to OneDrive (unlike the native Windows Phone photo backup), I don’t necessarily want them to pollute my main photos view. So, props to the product manager who made this decision!

 

OneDrive for iOS - Search
OneDrive for iOS – Search
OneDrive for iOS - All Photos View
OneDrive for iOS – All Photos View

 

Windows Phone App Updates

The Windows Phone app update actually showed up a few days ago and besides bug fixes, it includes the ability to see the OneDrive Recycle Bin. This way, one can always go back and see deleted files and restore them if necessary.

 

OneDrive for Windows Phone - Recycle Bin
OneDrive for Windows Phone – Recycle Bin

 

Good to see updates across all the platforms, and looking forward to seeing the OneDrive for Business update show up on iOS and Windows Phone apps too.

OneDrive Increases Free Storage and Office 365 Gets 1TB Free

On June 23, Microsoft announced several updates related to its OneDrive consumer-oriented online storage service including bumping up the free storage tier, reducing costs for purchasing storage dramatically, and adding 1TB to Office 365’s non-business plans.

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

Free Storage

While OneDrive (then called SkyDrive) offered 25GB free long time ago, Microsoft changed the free tierto be a then reasonable 7GB around the time of Windows 8 launch. The reasoning then was 7GB was higher than the competition at the time. Of course, as cost of storage has gone down, and as cloud services become more essential for ecosystems, Google and even Apple, have announced very inexpensive plans for their respective online storage services. Now, Microsoft matches some of the recent competitive updates by making the free tier to be 15GB.

Office 365 Personal, Home and University plans join the 1TB party

Microsoft had already announced that Office 365’s business editions would be getting 1TB of included storage (although that would be under OneDrive for Business, which is not the same product as OneDrive). With this announcement, Office 365’s non-business editions, which is Personal, Home and University, also get 1TB of included storage.

This makes Office 365 a pretty fantastic deal if you have the need for desktop Office, or if you want to be able to edit Office documents on the iPad. Not only does Office 365 now come with 1TB of storage, it always included 60 minutes of free Skype worldwide calling and of course desktop version of the Office suite, as well as edit rights for iPad version of the Office apps. If you have more than one person who needs Office, then Office 365 Home is a killer deal @ $99 per year for 5 users.

Office 365 Consumer Plans
Office 365 Consumer Plans

Reduced prices for additional storage options

Of course, as storage costs have gone down, each of the online storage providers have kept cutting their prices. OneDrive will no longer have the 50GB option since the $100GB option is now at $1.99 per month, down from $7.49 per month. An additional 200GB will be $3.99 per month, down from $11.49 per month.

These are great updates to an already useful storage service. As a reminder, OneDrive has a presence on all platforms, making it a truly universal online storage service: Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac OS. The price changes were not completely unexpected because it is much easier for a larger company with scale, to keep lowering costs to meet the competition’s prices. I wonder what this means to the likes of Dropbox and Box, especially the former, since it has long been the darling of consumers for being so easy to use, sync and share. With OneDrive (and Google Drive and soon, iCloud) being so front-and-center in those various ecosystems, it will be interesting to see how many consumers will decide to switch away from the smaller companies. We shall see.

Edit: An earlier version of this article stated that OneDrive is perhaps the only service with apps across all platforms. Dropbox and Box also have apps across all platforms. Author meant to say, only one among the big ecosystem providers, but the sentence has been modified to refer to OneDrive by itself.

(Images courtesy OneDrive blog and Office Blogs)

OneDrive for Business Now Offers 1TB per User

OneDrive For Business
OneDrive For Business

On April 28, Microsoft announced some updates to OneDrive for Business, the service formerly known as SkyDrive Pro. According to the blog post on Office Blogs:

 

First, we will be increasing OneDrive for Business storage from 25GB to 1TB per user.

Second, all Office 365 ProPlus customers will get 1TB of OneDrive for Business storage per user as part of their Office 365 ProPlus subscription.

Third, we’ll help organizations migrate data from their existing solutions to OneDrive for Business

The first update is huge. Not too long ago, SkyDrive Pro was providing only 7GB per user. When Microsoft announced the standalone OneDrive for Business offering, they also bumped up the default storage to 25GB per user. Now perhaps based on pressure from competitors like Google, they have made the default to 1TB. As always when there is competition, we as customers ultimately win.

Office 365 ProPlus is a service that provides always-up-to-date Office software to customers on a subscription basis. Until today’s announcement, it was purely an Office subscription. Now, it also comes with a truckload of storage space and more importantly, a sync solution that ensures that files are always in sync across devices.

The third item was not detailed but I suspect Microsoft will have some utilities to help migrate data from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and others to OneDrive for Business. We shall see.

The blog post goes on to describe the benefits OneDrive for Business offers in addition to pure storage amount and sync:

Native integration with Office documents: Enables people to discover content and collaborate with others in real time with efficient synchronization of changes and real-time co-authoring using Office Online.

Connected to what you need, when you need it: As cloud services like Office 365 get smarter and more personalized with Office Graph, OneDrive for Business becomes part of a connected productivity solution where content is discoverable, sharable and personalized for individual users, helping to increase personal and organizational responsiveness.

A trusted service: OneDrive for Business provides enterprise content management, compliance and admin controls, financially backed by the industry-leading Office 365 Service Level Agreement. We’ve made investments in manageability, security, auditing and information protection including rights management, data loss prevention, auditing, eDiscovery, legal holds, etc. and more that can work for OneDrive for business but also across SharePoint and Exchange.

Deep investment in certifications and infrastructure: We’ve invested heavily already in areas that are important for doing business in major vertical industries and geographies, such as FISMA, the EU Model Clauses, CJIS and more, many of which are detailed on our Trust Center.  Microsoft has industry-leading, cloud reliability and security and has made a massive investment in physical datacenters around the world, enabling us to deliver high availability and robust disaster recovery capabilities.

Scale through partners: Our 400,000 partners around the world can help customers get up and running quickly with OneDrive for Business as a standalone solution or with Office 365.

As you can see, OneDrive for Business is not a “dumb storage” service but it is in fact the center of a collaborative solution that is protected by certifications and service level agreements. Along with the huge partner network, which enables building innovative solutions on top of the storage layer, OneDrive for Business is now a serious contender for businesses of any size to move their data into the cloud.