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OneDrive - Understanding What It Is and How To Use It

Microsoft One Drive - What It Is And How To Use ItCentral to the entire Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem are the two cloud storage platforms: OneDrive for Business (OFB) and SharePoint Online.

The goal for your organization is to have all shared files stored in one of these two applications. The two applications are variations of the same theme, and we will cover SharePoint in great detail in future posts. At this point let me distinguish the two applications by saying that OneDrive is where you would store all of the files that you do not typically share with others, either inside or outside your organization. On the other hand, SharePoint is the place where you should store all the files that you share with others. You have a lot of control over how you organize your SharePoint storage to control who can access which files. 

How To Use Microsoft One Drive

The cloud storage value proposition

Before we get into a review of the specific features of One Drive for Business, I would like to talk briefly about the benefits to your organization for leveraging cloud storage services in general.

Benefits of Cloud Storage

·Access your files from anywhere, at any time, from any device. By the very nature of the cloud storage technology, you can access files via your browser and therefore from any device. This means you are always able to access your files when you are on the go.

·Outsourced storage server infrastructure. It is essential to understand the value of not having to deploy, secure and administer an on-premise file server to store your files. Your IT staff should be focusing their time on more important business operations.

·Peace of mind data backup. A core service provided by the cloud storage providers is to maintain redundant backups of all your data. Think about the effort that is involved in making sure your on-premise servers are backed up accurately and consistently.

·World class data security and disaster recovery protection. Cloud storage systems utilize world-class data centers to house and protect the server infrastructure. This means you will have the best physical and cybersecurity controls available to protect your data - controls that are far superior to what most small and mid-size businesses can afford to deploy.  It is important to point out that not all cloud storage services are equal, so you do have to perform your due diligence evaluation of individual service providers.

·Scalability. One of the key benefits of  all forms of cloud computing applications is the scalability of the service. If you need more storage space, it is usually a matter of merely a few clicks of the mouse to increase your storage allotment. Of course, this will increase your storage fees. This method is much simpler than having to purchase an additional disk drive and install it in your on-premise server, or having to buy a new server altogether.

OneDrive vs. OneDrive for Business (OFB)

There are two separate OneDrive offerings from Microsoft. The OneDrive consumer version is designed primarily for your personal storage. It is relatively low priced and has direct integration with Microsoft Office applications so that you can store and retrieve your files directly. OneDrive for Business (OFB) is an application within the Office 365 ecosystem. Each subscription/user receives an allocation of 1 terabyte of cloud storage. More importantly, it provides direct integration with all of the Office 365 apps: desktop, cloud, and mobile.

OneDrive for Business Features

·1 TB of storage allocation per user

·Permission based file sharing, internally and externally

·Selectively synchronize files to your local PC for offline access

·Save Outlook email attachments directly to OFB

·Maintains a history of all versions of a file over its entire lifecycle

·Enables simultaneous editing of Office documents, such as an Excel workbook

The OneDrive for Business Interface

The screenshot below is my OFB interface in the Office 365 portal at the time of this posting. One thing that is important to understand is that Office 365 is somewhat of a moving target. Microsoft is continually improving the functionality and enhancing the design of all the applications. So don't be surprised if your OFB interface looks a little different than this screenshot.

Microsoft One Drive

Let’s take a tour of the interface.tarting with the blue horizontal bar along the top. That is the standard Office 365 portal bar. You can access the other apps in the upper left corner and your account login information and Office 365 settings in the upper right-hand corner. The navigation panel along the left side provides access to different categories of files. "Shared" will list files that you have shared with others, as well as files that others have shared with you. "Discover" will display files that your colleagues are working on that have also been previously shared with you. "Recycle" provides access to previously deleted files for 30 days. The names below that are Office 365 Team sites that you can access.

The OFB menu bar across the top is relatively self-explanatory. "Flow" is a feature that lets you set up a sequence of automated tasks for processing your OneDrive files. "Sync" will activate the functionality that allows you to synchronize select folders in OneDrive to your local PC for offline file access. There are many additional features available when you select a folder.

Microsoft One Drive Files

Share - Lets you share access to the file with internal or external users. You can designate it as a read-only share or a full editing share file. An email message will be sent to the person(s) you are sharing access with, and you can compose a custom message to go along with the link.

Copy Link - Works similar to share. The difference is the hyperlink will be copied to the clipboard, and you can paste it into your email message.

Move, Copy, Rename - These are self-explanatory. Realize that you can move and copy files within OneDrive as well as across OneDrive into your SharePoint document libraries.

Microsoft One Drive Files

When you select a file, some additional options appear in the menu bar.

Open - This will open the file in the native Office application. In the screenshot above the Annual Report file will be opened in either Word Online (browser version), or the full-featured Word desktop application for editing.

Delete - Transfers the file to the Recycle bin for 30 days, after which it will be permanently deleted from your Office 365 account.

Version History - This feature allows access to all of the unique copies of a file that are created and stored every time it is edited. This feature facilitates multiple people collaborating and editing the same file and can significantly reduce the number of files that are emailed back and forth among your colleagues.


This article should give you a good sense of what OFB is all about and how to use the basic functionality. Once you master the features of OneDrive, you will quickly discover that knowledge carries over to SharePoint, which we will introduce in a future blog post. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about OneDrive you may want to attend one of these two-hour webinars:

OneDrive Cloud Storage - What It Is and How To Use It and OneDrive - File Sharing and Collaboration in the Cloud



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