SharePoint administrators have faced numerous challenges when it comes to juggling files stored in different cloud storage services and within on-premises intranets. Platforms like Box, OneDrive and Dropbox have become popular with enterprise users -- sometimes regardless of IT approval or knowledge. As a result, organizations of all sizes are finding enterprise content on these off-site platforms.
Unfortunately for SharePoint administrators, this meant there was some missing functionality that made users seek alternatives to support their day-to-day needs for file access. Despite the capabilities that SharePoint natively supported for file management and offline access, users simply saw the convenience of using cloud storage to keep files in sync across multiple devices, and the convenience of these applications was too great to ignore.
As a result, Microsoft is taking advantage of the tight integration between SharePoint and OneDrive to attempt to set itself apart from the rest of the enterprise content management market. As adoption of OneDrive for Business grows, with more than 250 billion files located on the cloud storage platform, Microsoft continues to make enhancements. So how does OneDrive for Business deliver more capabilities to SharePoint? The following five areas are key:
- Tight integration with SharePoint out of the gate: It would be almost impossible to find a mention of SharePoint without OneDrive for Business in some of the marketing and support documentation available from Microsoft. In fact, SharePoint Online relies on the OneDrive for Business sync agent to support offline access to its document libraries. This tight integration streamlines the process for end users to access specific enterprise content while on the go and offline, to interact, to make changes to the data and to synchronize their changes back to SharePoint for others to see. OneDrive also enables end users to bypass the intranet web interface to directly interact with the data from within their desktop, mobile device or tablet using the OneDrive app or the operating system file explorer.
- Data governance across both SharePoint and OneDrive: When Microsoft first began to roll out advanced security features and compliance as part of its online services, like Exchange and SharePoint, many SharePoint administrators were eager to see when those new security capabilities would transfer over to OneDrive. Security features such as eDiscovery, on hold, advanced retention policies, data loss prevention and information rights management are all part of the enterprise security capabilities made available in OneDrive for Business in order to meet the same compliance and security standards that existed in SharePoint. Administrators of both SharePoint and OneDrive can apply the same policies.
- New Windows 10 features to bring tighter integration with OneDrive: The OneDrive team announced native support for offline and online access to data at this year's Microsoft Ignite. The new feature will enable users to browse files locally, even those actually stored within Office 365 and OneDrive. Users will have a small icon on the file thumbnail to indicate where it resides. This new feature will make it less complicated for end users dealing with files across different storage locations and bringing much of the SharePoint data closer to the end users without the complex management of syncing. The new Windows 10 file explorer features will be released in the upcoming months.
- Enhanced access to storage: Users can save email attachments directly in OneDrive. In addition, the native OneDrive apps allow the use of Windows Explorer or macOS finder to save files back into SharePoint or OneDrive.
- Availability of automation and workflows for OneDrive files: Another set of capabilities available for OneDrive that make it valuable to SharePoint is its ability to leverage the automation and workflows available in Microsoft Flow. Since Microsoft introduced its new automation engine, many SharePoint administrators are leveraging the online automation platform to create efficiencies. An example is processing incoming files into OneDrive that are extracted from third-party platforms or emails, and then placing the data in SharePoint and OneDrive lists.