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Microsoft Bringing OneDrive for Business Improvements This Year

Microsoft offered a progress report this week on its OneDrive for Business improvements, sharing mobile, browser, synchronization and IT enhancements.

OneDrive for Business is Microsoft's cloud-based storage service, offered through various Office 365 subscription plans. The aim of the new improvements to come is to make OneDrive for Business a "window to all files in Office 365," according to Reuben Krippner, director of product management for OneDrive, in a video. Most of the new capabilities will be arriving in "the coming weeks," he explained, although some are at the preview stage today. Microsoft listed the improvements in this announcement. Most of the details were new, with some overlap with Microsoft's April progress report.

Clearly, OneDrive for Business, based on the former "Groove" product, has been a bumpy ride for organizations to adopt. In particular, there have been synchronization issues to troubleshoot, including attempts to fix sign-in troubles. Microsoft, for its part, has had lots of moving parts to address.

Sync Client Preview
The ability to use the new sync client with SharePoint Online document libraries is just at the preview stage right now, and Microsoft hasn't said yet exactly when it'll be commercially released. Microsoft recommends using the old Groove client in the meantime, according to this support article.

Currently, it's possible to sync SharePoint Online document libraries to OneDrive folders, a capability that's at the preview stage. That capability will let individuals specify SharePoint folders for viewing offline. It also works across Office 365 files, too. Microsoft plans to accelerate access to this feature via an easy upgrade from the old Groove sync client, according to the announcement:

Now you have one simple way to take any of your Office 365 files offline. And we'll make it even easier, with a seamless upgrade from the legacy sync client (groove.exe).

The sync client preview currently has a "shared folder sync" capability. It will let users take a folder that was shared with them and make it available for viewing offline.

In addition, the sync client preview also has a new "activity center." The activity center will show "synchronization and file activity at a glance," per the announcement. It's kind of like a properties view.

IT Pro Perks
Microsoft is adding management controls over OneDrive for Business, but the rollout phase is a bit longer. The developments are either available "now" or available at "the end of 2016," according to the announcement. The management controls that are available now are just at the "First Release" test stage.

There's a First Release of an "Office 365 User Management console" to carry out "per-user controls" when managing OneDrive for Business. With this capability, IT pros can set storage quotas for individual users. They can restrict external sharing permissions for users. It's possible to remotely sign out a OneDrive for Business user when a device is lost. IT pros also can access and move the files of terminated employees.

The Office 365 Admin Center will be getting a "dedicated administration console" for OneDrive for Business. It's expected to appear "before the end of 2016." It will have graphical controls, supplementing the ones that currently require PowerShell, Microsoft promised.

Microsoft this week also pointed to some coming SharePoint and OneDrive for Business security controls. There will be "granular conditional access policies" based on the state of a managed device, which will be available by the end of this year. By "granular," Microsoft means IT pros can control access levels, including end user abilities to view, print or sync files.

Microsoft is also promising to deliver the ability for organizations to have control over SharePoint and OneDrive encryption keys, a capability expected by year's end.

Also coming by year's end will be the ability to label SharePoint sites with a classification. The classification labels, such as "Confidential" or "General Purpose," will appear at the top of the site or group. This capability will be at the First Release preview stage in October.

Lastly, organizations running SharePoint Server 2016 on premises will get a so-called "unified auditing" capability when Microsoft rolls out Feature Pack 1 in November. It will allow access to SharePoint and Office 365 audit logs via the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center.

Mobile Improvements
The mobile OneDrive for Business improvements are all available today. Users of iOS devices can see how many times people "discovered and viewed" files stored in OneDrive. That capability will be coming to Android and Windows devices, too, Microsoft promised.

Microsoft also added notifications for end users when their files get shared. This feature is available today for Android and iOS devices. It'll be coming to Windows devices later.

Android devices running the OneDrive app can now access SharePoint Online files. Lastly, Android users of the OneDrive app can now create "multi-page scan enhancements."

Browser Improvements
The browser improvements will be coming before year's end.

It'll be possible then to "access and edit all your files in OneDrive and SharePoint Online" when using a browser, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft also is promising the ability to view "rich thumbnails" of 20 file types. It'll open up thumbnail views of hefty Adobe, video and photo files, such as Illustrator and Photoshop files, streaming video files, and RAW camera format files.

Lastly, Microsoft is promising the ability to use the browser to download multiple OneDrive for Business files in the .ZIP compressed format.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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