OneDrive for Business: Command and Control Your Files (with SharePoint)

Dr No Control Room-smaller

 

In previous posts I’ve described some of the challenges you might face deploying OneDrive for Business (ODB).

This time, let’s focus on a few of the attractive features made available by the fact the application’s storage backend is SharePoint Online (which, somewhat ironically, is also the reason you might face the deployment challenges mentioned before).

In addition to the data loss prevention and auditing capacities important to systems engineers and architects (not to mention security and legal teams) the OneDrive for business web interface provides end-users with a fairly rich subset of SharePoint controls.

Synchronized files (from your desktop, if you have the Windows SharePoint sync client) are duplicated at the user’s Office 365 tenant hosted OneDrive for Business site collection which takes the form of:

https://your-tenant-domain-name-my.sharepoint.com/personal/user_name/

Consider, for example, the default view of my test ODB site:

OneDrive-view-no-ribbon

This is the standard interface which shows files and folders.

If however, you click the gear icon and choose “Show Ribbon

OneDrive-show-ribbon

 

An entirely richer interface becomes available:

OneDrive-File-Tab-with-file-selected

 

Notice the appearance in the upper-right-hand corner of three new tabs, Browse, Files and Library:

OneDrive new options after ribbon is turned on

 

These options unlock the SharePoint control and workflow elements of the ODB site collection to the user.

For example, from the Files tab context, look at what’s possible when I select a folder or file:

OneDrive-File-Tab-with-file-selected

 

OneDrive-Alert-option

Now I can configure files to be part of workflows, alerts, RSS feeds (reporting on changes to a file) and other dynamic things in addition to sharing.

This only scratches the surface of what’s possible.  The key thing to keep in mind is that OneDrive for Business, because of its mating with SharePoint Online, provides you with the ability to manipulate your files in a variety of powerful ways.

 

 

 

OneDrive for Business: Au Revoir Logic

chaplin-modern-times-behind-the-scenes

The last time we gathered here, I discussed – at least conceptually – some of the challenges I’ve faced deploying OneDrive for Business to a large enterprise.

This time I’ll describe the most commonly seen issues and, where possible, their resolution (or if not resolution, at least an explanation of why things are the way they are).  We’ll also indulge in a bit of techno-philosophy.

Let’s start with deployment.

Installation Problems

As I mentioned in my previous post, users whose machines have MS Office or any of its apps installed via MSI will most likely encounter the following error while trying to setup the OneDrive for Business client:

click to run error

As the error states, there is a conflict, or incompatibility between Click to Run and classic Windows Installer based programs running on the same computer.

And although you may Google-find references to a stand alone OneDrive for Business installer, these are only stubs to Click to Run setup routines.

The only real solution is creating a redistributable installation package (which is compatible with Windows Installer); a process described in detail at the excellent Kloud blog.

Permissions Problems

If you’ve leapt the installation hurdle, another possible obstacle is trouble syncing.

Consider this error, for example:

one-drive-fo-business-sync-error

Typically, this is  a very complicated problem to solve since it involves many moving parts including (obviously) the client on a user’s computer, the configuration of their OneDrive for Business SharePoint site and the interaction between the two.

Here’s Microsoft’s guide to solving sync-related issues.

That’s certainly helpful but doesn’t cover all the possible scenarios.

A review of the troubles others have had, gleaned from the Office 365 Community forums reveals that in some cases, an as-yet undocumented issue – resolved only by Microsoft engineers behind the scenes – is responsible.

Ideally, Microsoft would openly describe the PowerShell script logic used to solve this problem. Their reluctance thus far to do this suggests there’s an architectural bug that pops up from time to time, requiring structural adjustment at the tenant level.

Missing Guest Links

According to this guide, it’s possible to share documents or folders from your OneDrive for Business share using links you can send to external recipients.

Of course, you can share folders and documents, just not in exactly the way described. The article mentions the creation of guest links but when you go to your own OneDrive for Business site and try to duplicate what’s shown, you notice the “Get a Link” option is missing.

It’s missing, because despite the documentation’s assurances, it’s not an option, as confirmed here and here.

Needless to say, you can anticipate fielding many questions from savvier users about this mysteriously missing option.

 

Give us a moment to set things up…

OneDrive for Business Give Us a Moment

Yet another issue I’ve seen is trouble with the provision process.

When a client first connects to a OneDrive for Business SharePoint site (yourdomain-my.sharepoint.com/user_name) there’s an initial provisioning process which connects the application to and syncs it with the user’s SharePoint site.

For an as-yet undocumented reason (at least, I’ve been unable to find a direct answer) sometimes, this process gets stuck for hours or even days, requiring the intervention of Microsoft engineers on the back-end of your tenant (for example, see this Office 365 Community thread).

 

A Preliminary Thought…

Although not a complete disaster by any means, it’s clear that OneDrive for Business is a not quite polished product. In just a few short weeks, it has consumed a good amount of my time and generated much confusion among users.

The design assumption seemed to be that everyone had Office 2013 and a yet to be released version of Windows (and, therefore, all the necessary components for a relatively trouble free experience).

It is, in a way, a forced march into Microsoft’s vision of their cloud based infrastructure, as these growing pains show.

And as the days and weeks move on, I’ll continue to document its idiosyncrasies.

 

 

OneDrive for Business: Prepare Yourself for Mayhem

chaplin-modern-times

In the 21st century, everyone expects to access the information that’s important to them from anywhere.

This is why services such as DropBox and OneDrive have become quite popular.

The challenge for enterprises is providing this type of service, while maintaining (or establishing) command and control over elements such as data loss prevention and auditing.

If you’re an Office 365 customer, Microsoft’s answer to this challenge is OneDrive for Business.

Unlike Dropbox, or Microsoft’s own consumer-grade OneDrive product (to name only two examples), which store your information in abstracted storage over which you have zero control except the option to add more capacity for more money, OneDrive for Business is married to SharePoint.

In fact, it is more correctly described as a SharePoint sync tool.

This mating of the OneDrive Client to a SharePoint site makes it possible for Office 365 admins to employ the data loss prevention tools Microsoft has built into the platform to OneDrive SharePoint sites.

The SharePoint site for each Office 365 OneDrive for Business user is found at:

https://your-domain-name-my.sharepoint.com/personal/user_name

Office 365 users with E4 licenses can browse to their my.sharePoint site and directly interact with it as they would any other SharePoint 2013 site collection they have rights to (with the difference being that folders for storage are the focus).

So far, so good.

But the title of this post includes the phrase, “prepare yourself for mayhem“.

What’s that about?

A few things:

1. Brand confusion

Because “OneDrive“, the consumer product, preceded OneDrive for Business, which isn’t related at all to OneDrive but is actually a SharePoint sync tool, there will be initial confusion amongst both decision makers and end users regarding what product is being deployed.

2.) Deployment headaches.

Googling “OneDrive for Business” returns many results, not all of them helpful. There are two primary client deployment methods – a.) using the Click to Run package available from here or, b.) by building a redistributable package as described here.

I’ll go into greater detail in a future post but for now, I’ll just say that OneDrive for Business’ Click to Run setup is not compatible with the .MSI infrastructure of some previously installed Office products and how they were configured on individual Windows instances.

3.) Confusion regarding usage and limitations

Here’s an excellent overview from Microsoft on the best uses for OneDrive for Business.  I suggest getting acquainted with this because as your deployment proceeds and users begin testing the limits of OneDrive for Business, many questions will be asked about sharing, synchronization, and the rules governing the program’s behavior.

I’ll devote more time to a discussion of each of these areas in my next post.

 

In the meantime, here’s a good visual overview of OneDrive for Business’  architecture:

OneDrive for Business Architecture