How to set up and managing OneDrive for Business

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You'll be happy to know that you don't need Office 365 or SharePoint Online to get Microsoft's business cloud storage service. There's actually a standalone subscription that lets you buy cloud storage for your users, and it can be linked to your existing on-premise SharePoint 2013 setup. This allows the user to store files in the cloud for remote access, sync files between different machines and share those files with colleagues, customers and partners -- all without using a consumer service that you have no control over.

About OneDrive for Business

Despite its name and similar features (cloud storage, sync and sharing), OneDrive for Business isn't the same as Microsoft's OneDrive consumer cloud storage. Remember Groove's file-sharing tools? Well, that's where the sync tool in OneDrive for Business comes from, and the files are stored in SharePoint libraries. If you buy OneDrive for Business as part of Office 365 or as the standalone version, they're stored in the cloud. But if you're running SharePoint 2013 on-premise, users get a OneDrive for Business document library in their My Site, and that's what you can redirect to the cloud version.

It's also worth mentioning that users can have both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, just as they could have Dropbox and Google Drive on the same machine. However, having multiple sync services will affect performance and battery life, since they're all going to be making network connections and transfers. You may also want to set usage policies to determine what documents can be kept on which cloud services.

Another difference is that the OneDrive client is built into Windows 8 (including RT and the 8.1 updates), but you'll need to deploy the OneDrive for Business sync client to users. Or, you could provide instructions for downloading it, as they'll likely want it on devices (like iPads, Android phones and, eventually, Macs) that you probably aren't deploying apps to directly.

Currently, there are sync clients for Windows 7 and 8, and browsing clients for Windows RT and iOS (you can browse and open files, but you can't sync them, though RT will get sync and offline access at some point). The Android Office Mobile app can open files from OneDrive for Business, and both Android and Windows Phone versions of the OneDrive for Business browsing app are on the way. Additionally, a Mac OS X sync client is promised for this year.

SharePoint underneath

If you're buying the standalone OneDrive for Business SKU, it will cost you about $2.50 for 25GB per user, per month (more after the initial promotional pricing, less if you have Software Assurance). If you have SharePoint 2013 in house, you need Service Pack 1 (available here) to integrate it with OneDrive for Business. You will also need to reflect your on-premise Active Directory to Office 365 using Azure Active Directory and DirSync to make your existing user accounts work with OneDrive for Business -- follow the instructions here.

Only have a handful of users? You can simply set up and manage their accounts through the OneDrive for Business portal on Office 365. But keep in mind that they'll have different accounts online, and you can't have My Site redirect to OneDrive for Business for a personal document library.

Using DirSync means users keep the same account and password, and can see their cloud files through SharePoint when they click on Sites or OneDrive in the navigation bar, though they will need to log in when visiting the OneDrive for Business site. They'll also be authenticating against Azure Active Directory and Office 365, instead of against your own AD, which means you can't log and audit everything in the same place. And the cloud account password won't expire in line with your AD password expiry policies, unless you're using DirSync with Password sync.

If you want to keep passwords in sync and give users full single sign-on while authenticating against your on-premise AD, you'll need to use ADFS (see the whitepaper here for full details).

To set up SharePoint 2013 to work with OneDrive for Business, you'll need to be a farm administrator. First, make sure the User Profile service application is running and that users have the correct permissions. Open the Central Administration site for your SharePoint 2013 environment and look under Manage Service Applications > User Profile Service Application > Manage Profile Service. Under People, click Manage User Permissions and select the check-boxes for Create Personal Site, Follow People and Edit Profile.

Go to Office 365, and choose Admin > SharePoint on the navigation bar. Look in the list of site collections for the My Site URL (it ends in Copy the URL for the collection and go back to your Central Administration site and choose Office 365 > Configure OneDrive and Sites links (you'll only see it if you have Service Pack 1 installed). Paste the My Site URL in the section titled Redirect OneDrive for Business to Office 365. You can also choose who you'll redirect to Office 365 for Business (more on that below). There's a step by step guide to this here.

If you want, you can also change the Sites page in the SharePoint interface to work with Office 365 so that they go to OneDrive for Business. This will show recommendations for relevant users and files based on what's stored in OneDrive for Business, rather than in your on-premise SharePoint.

If you're using ADFS and single sign-on, you can choose what users see when they search by using a search vertical. As part of this, you'll need to set up an outbound topology to show search results from SharePoint Online (in this case, OneDrive for Business files from Office 365) next to the on-premise SharePoint results. If you want content from SharePoint to show up in user-searches made on the Office 365 site, you need a more complicated inbound topology with a reverse proxy. And, if you want all search results showing up wherever users search, you'll need a two-way hybrid topology with a reverse proxy and a VPN or DirectAccess.

Customize the Office 365 navigation bar to make sure it only includes services you have subscriptions for. Don't turn on the Sites or Newsfeed links unless you use SharePoint Online, as this would cause users to see an error. However, you can turn on Yammer and replace the Newsfeed link even if you don't have SharePoint Online.

You can pick your users

You don't have to give all your users OneDrive for Business. Employees who are not mobile, who don't create documents or don't need to share files with those outside of your organization may not need it. You might also consider starting with a pilot project to see how OneDrive for Business suits your organization.

Use the Audiences feature in the User Profile service to allocate OneDrive for Business. This can be based on whether they're in a distribution list or a security group, based on their location or other properties in their user profile. This way you can give OneDrive for Business accounts to everyone in the sales team group, or to everyone who reports directly to your CIO.

PowerShell can also help here. Add a policy trigger to handle new employees. This lets you say when a new user is added to your on-premise AD and assigned to a OneDrive-eligible group, they'll automatically get a OneDrive for Business account.

All users get 25GB of storage each, but you can buy extra and choose the amount for each user. You can use the OneDrive for Business admin portal on the Office 365 site to change these limits.

Moving files

Users can upload files to OneDrive for Business directly at the website, or set it up as a place to save files from Office 2013 applications. They can also place documents to upload into a folder they're syncing, which can be set up from the OneDrive for Business site or using the OneDrive for Business sync client on Windows.

Files can also be moved from SharePoint Server 2010 My Site libraries, or from the on-premise OneDrive for Business libraries in your on-premise SharePoint 2013 system. You can point users to the step-by-step guides on the Office 365 site (both here and here). These steps create new copies of their files; they'll lose metadata like who modified the file and when, and they'll need to re-share any files they had previously shared with specific people.

The beauty of this whole thing is that you don't need to do any ongoing management of OneDrive for Business. Once you have the redirection configured, all you need to monitor is the audience (to choose who gets access to the service) and whether you need to buy more storage.

[caption id="attachment_52962" align="aligncenter" width="717"] OneDrive for Business has a new interface that highlights ways to access documents from colleagues, as well as your own files.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_52963" align="aligncenter" width="596"] The Simple Controls toolbar will show up in SharePoint Online team site libraries, as well as in OneDrive for Business.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_52964" align="aligncenter" width="717"] The search box in OneDrive for business does a live letter by letter search as you type. Photo credit: Microsoft.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_52965" align="aligncenter" width="518"] The steps for integrating OneDrive for Business with your own SharePoint Server 2013. Photo credit: Microsoft.[/caption]

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Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe has been a technology journalist for over two decades, and she’s been the formal or informal IT admin for most of the offices she’s worked in along the way. She was delighted to see the back of Netware 3.11, witnessed the AOL meltdown first-hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and has been a freelance tech writer ever since. She's used every version of Windows (client and server) and Office released, and every smartphone too. Her favourite programming language is Prolog, giving her a soft spot for Desired State Configuration in PowerShell 4. And yes, she really does wear USB earrings. Find her on Twitter @marypcbuk.