OneDrive for Business on Office 365

OneDrive for Business on Office 365

First things first, Microsoft has two products with the OneDrive title, there is OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

OneDrive is a consumer product.  It has no connection with SharePoint or with your work account.  It is the kind of place you might store family photos or documents that have nothing to do with work.

OneDrive for Business is something very different.  This is a personal storage area for your work files.


Why should we use it?

Because it gives you all of the power of SharePoint when working with your personal work documents, some examples of the advantages are: Versioning, Workflow, Recycle bin, Work with documents in the browser (something not possible Dropbox or G-Drive).  It also allows users to easily share documents both internally in an organisation and externally.


Where should we use it?

Anything that used to live if a file share should still be put in SharePoint.  Documents that relate to your team, department or project should still live in SharePoint.   Your OneDrive for Business is a place to store and share your personal work documents.

It is a good replacement for your “My Documents” folder on your local machine, and may be a good replacement if you have a mapped drive to a personal area on a file share.

From my experience everything works best with a smaller number of documents – you really shouldn’t have thousands of work related files that don’t live in a better place in SharePoint.


What exactly is it?

It is actually a number elements all combined under the name of OneDrive for Business:

My Site

Every user has a special SharePoint site called a MySite.  This is an area that you fully own.  OneDrive for Business adds the following to this site:

  • A document library with an eye watering 1 terabyte of storage
  • A Share button that allows you to share any of the files here both inside your organisation and also externally


Synchronisation application

OneDrive for Business allows you to synchronise your documents to your local machine so that you can work on them when you are not connected to SharePoint.  As part of the Office installation a little application is installed that takes care of keeping a local copy of the libraries you choose.


Ability to synchronise any SharePoint library

As well as your own MySite document library you can use the synchronisation application to keep a synchronised copy of any document library in SharePoint.  All you do is hit the “Synch” button and the application will do the rest.


Additions to Windows explorer

Windows explorer shows you all the documents you have synchronised using OneDrive for Business.  It adds two new areas to your explorer:

  • Your mySite document library shows up in explorer as “OneDrive for business”
  • Any other libraries you choose to synchronise, are under SharePoint in Windows Explorer and the folders are named “sitename – foldername”


The good

  • Installation of the client is easy and requires no configuration typically.
  • That is a lot of free storage
  • When planned, communicated well and used lightly it works extremely well
  • Working with your documents from anywhere on any device is very cool


The bad

  • There is a limit of 20,000 documents that can be synchronised in your mySite (this is much less than the amount of documents SharePoint can store in a library).  You are much better keeping the amount of documents as low as possible
  • There is a limit of 5,000 documents in any other SharePoint library, this will rule out synchronising large document libraries
  • You can only Synchronise at a Library level.  You can’t select a folder, a single document or whittle down the number of documents in any way.  This becomes a real problem with a lot of SharePoint libraries.
  • It’s not always easy to mass migrate – there are lots of illegal characters, blocked file types and a file size limit (10 GB but you really don’t want to be synchronising files that big anyway


The ugly

  • The application is happiest working with a small amount of documents, it can be wobbly and crash.  If it really breaks you need to run the fix utility or sometimes manually clear out the cache (likely to be a helpdesk call).
  • Sharing externally is either on or off, you can’t choose a list of companies you would like to enable sharing with
  • When you do share externally they can either read or edit documents but there is no download available
  • If you delete the synchronised files from your local machine – it happily removes all the files in SharePoint without any warning.  I have done this without thinking and I know lots of other people who have made the same mistake.  You need to break the synchronisation  but I guess most people learn that the hard way.


Final thoughts

OneDrive for business can be a useful tool but requires thought and planning. For a deeper dive I highly recommend the following Webinar by Benjamin Niaulin.


To get more information about OneDrive for Business or Office 365 support from us call us on 0845 680 8538 or email


Update from Microsoft..  Storage on OneDrive is soon to be unlimited!

“Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365. Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost. We’ve started rolling this out today to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers.” Microsoft Blog, 27 October 2014