Microsoft tries to puff up the cloud with improvements to OneDrive for Business

At SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled a variety of enhancements to OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) to make it easier for any business to use.


OneDrive for Business

Most Microsoft users are familiar with SkyDrive, which is Microsoft’s cloud storage solution. Microsoft also offers a business-oriented sibling called SkyDrive Pro. However, due to a trademark issue, Microsoft had to rebrand its cloud offers: SkyDrive is now OneDrive, and SkyDrive Pro is now OneDrive for Business. 

OneDrive is a great tool for consumers. It's integral to the Windows, Windows Phone, and Office 365 experience, so you can easily and safely store data in the cloud, where it can be accessed from just about anywhere and from just about any device. Unfortunately, OneDrive, isn't a great option for businesses, and individual users should not be allowed to use personal OneDrive accounts for business data. OneDrive for Business is recommended in these cases.

The primary difference between the two cloud offerings is that OneDrive for Business puts control in the hands of the IT admin. Rather than having a bunch of sensitive company data being stored on random personal cloud accounts out of sight and out of reach of the company, OneDrive for Business provides an enterprise-grade content management platform and administrative functions that enable organizations to meet compliance requirements and maintain control of their data.

Last week, at SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled a number of improvements for OneDrive for Business that could make it the cloud storage option of choice for many businesses. Microsoft has made the most common controls easily accessible as a menu bar at the top of the list of files. You can create new files, upload, sync, edit, manage, and share with a simple click.

The new OneDrive for Business also has a significantly better search function. The type-ahead feature automatically predicts what you might be looking for, based on the files stored in your OneDrive for Business. You can quickly find files that have been shared with you or that you've stored in some obscure folder three levels deep, and you can share files with others directly from the search results.

For IT admins, OneDrive for Business makes it easier to integrate with an existing on-premise SharePoint deployment. Organizations using SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) can set up OneDrive for Business access with a few clicks and familiar SharePoint controls. 

Microsoft also revealed that there are other improvements in the pipeline that will be introduced throughout 2014. There will be encryption for data at rest, data loss prevention (DLP) features, advanced auditing and reporting capabilities, higher storage limits, and more.

OneDrive for Business (and SkyDrive Pro) is included in most Office 365 and SharePoint Online plans. Existing or new Office 365 and SharePoint Online customers will automatically gain all of the new features and capabilities of OneDrive for Business. However, beginning April 1, 2014, users will also be able to purchase OneDrive for Business as a standalone cloud storage service, separate from Office 365. The cost for the standalone service will be $5 per user, per month. Microsoft is also offering a 50% promotional discount through September of 2014.

Does your organization use OneDrive for Business? What new features and improvements are you most excited about? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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By Tony Bradley

Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He...