OneDrive is really two drives

OneDrive is really two drives

Summary: The consumer version of OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are different in many ways. Microsoft needs to figure out a way to deal with the inevitable problems this will cause.

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TOPICS: Cloud, Storage
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Yes, the future of Microsoft is in the cloud, and so far their products are pretty good. Mary Jo Foley argues, reasonably, I think, that Microsoft's cloud bet is mostly designed to drive the business side of the cloud. The theory is that people will love Microsoft's consumer cloud services and want to use them at their business.

Their implementation for one of the key parts of this picture — OneDrive — is a bit of a hack. The basic issue is that the consumer OneDrive is a conventional file storage service, like Dropbox, Google Drive and (now, finally) Apple's iCloud. Superficially, OneDrive for Business also looks like a file storage service, but it isn't. It's a completely different animal. I see this as a hole in Microsoft's strategy, although not a huge one.

I also have experience with both as I am both a paid SkyDrive – whoops, make that OneDrive – customer and an Office 365 customer. OneDrive for Business is a repurposing of Microsoft's SharePoint Workspace, which itself is what became of Groove, a very cool product back in its day, which was ten years ago or more. SharePoint has many of the characteristics of a file system, but it's way, way more. And it's way different from consumer OneDrive.

The fact that the two have different software client programs should be a clue that there's a difference. They have different clients because the programming interfaces for them are completely different, with the result that software written to the consumer OneDrive APIs won't work with OneDrive for Business and software written for OneDrive for Business won't work with consumer OneDrive.

Here's another interesting point that shocks many people when they figure it out: As Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recently wrote for us, OneDrive for Business sometimes modifies files when you upload them to the service. I've only noticed it with HTML files, and it may very well be limited to HTML files, but it adds clauses to the HTML tag and a bunch of tags to the HEAD section, and it does all this with no notice to the user.

Specifically, it turns this:

<HTML>
    <BODY>
      simple HTML page
    </BODY>
</HTML>

into this:

<HTML xmlns:mso="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" xmlns:msdt="uuid:C2F41010-65B3-11d1-A29F-00AA00C14882">
    <head>
      <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <mso:CustomDocumentProperties> <mso:IsMyDocuments msdt:dt="string">1</mso:IsMyDocuments> </mso:CustomDocumentProperties> </xml><![endif]-->
    </head> <BODY>
      simple HTML page
    </BODY>
</HTML>

This is not really surprising since it's not a simple storage service, but SharePoint, and SharePoint has certain basic characteristics it wants all its HTML pages to have. The changes are probably benign 99 percent-or-more of the time, but I bet there are cases where it would silently screw things up.

Microsoft has also been putting consumer-oriented features into OneDrive that aren't in OneDrive for Business, whereas OneDrive for Business has a simple, boring and not-flashy UI.

Finally, OneDrive for Business does not have an OS X client program. This is completely out of synch with their consumer strategy and even their enteprise strategy, since Office 365 comes with OS X installation rights.

Why did Microsoft do it this way? I'm just guessing here, but I assume that part of the reason is that Office 365 already had SharePoint Workspace working and integrated with their directory and authentication system. OneDrive consumer uses the Microsoft account (formerly live.com/Hotmail, formerly Passport) authentication system. These two databases are completely incompatible and not integrated. I've personally experienced problems from this, when I moved my email address from being my live.com address to my Office 365 address. Tech support had to escalate the request before they figured it out.

So the bottom line for me is if I'm a user who has come to like the consumer OneDrive and I get Office 365, partly so that I can use OneDrive for business, I'm going to be confused and/or disappointed.

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Topics: Cloud, Storage

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40 comments
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  • A number of cases of this

    This goes along with "Windows RT" being a completely incompatible platform compared to every other Windows. There's also the confusing versions with Windows 8. First we got Windows 8, and then 8.1 which was and update to 8 and now we have 8.1 update 1. Marketing isn't my field, but I can't imagine how confusing naming makes sense to anyone.
    Buster Friendly
    • Not that bad

      I agree with your sentiment, but it's really not that difference. If you count upgrades, OSX has many more version than Win8/8.1. Every product has version numbers (Photoshop 3, 4, 5, 6, CC, etc., Office 2000, XP, 2003, 2007, etc., iTunes 7, 8, 9.x, 10.x, etc.) Windows 7, 8, 8.1., etc., is no different. RT can be confusing to some and I've never supported that path, but if you understand the differences (one is full Windows and one is an app-limited version to compete with Android and iOS) then it makes more sense. If you understand the technical limitations, it also makes more sense: legacy/windows-full applications were written for Intel processing. The low-power, efficient and cheap ARM processors used in phones and tablets will not run legacy applications. As such and to compete with those devices, MS had to create a product to run on those processors and RT was the decision. Inevitably, full WIn8.x will become (and has become in some options) nearly as inexpensive as RT, so there isn't a real need for it IMO.
      tech_e
      • Great Article

        I have often wondered why things do not always work the same. I use SkyDrive a lot and have found some things confusing. Now I know what the problem is.
        MichaelInMA
    • Could you show me

      Could you show me the add where they advertise it as windows 8.1 or 8.1 update 1? I have yet to hear them call it anything other than windows 8. I cant recall them ever calling It anything other than windows 8. But I think theme of what you saying is very true of Microsoft. but beyond RT and windows 8(8.1, 8.1 update 1) there isn't much confusion....but then again I am not the average user and I guess working in IT you tend keep up with what happening in enterprise
      Meansman
  • SpyDrive

    Maybe we'll start catching more criminals since it's so easy for the government to peer into your SpyDrive account.
    Stilbe
    • Anyone who trusts Microsoft with their data is:

      1. A moron
      2. Has a vested interest
      3. Doesn't care about privacy
      4. Trusts a company that collaborated with the NSA to hand over mass amounts of data
      5. Trusts a company that puts a back door/kill switch in Windows 8
      Stilbe
      • Understandable, but what's the option?

        Do you think Google Docs, from the company who's income is based on selling information to advertisers, is any safer? How about Apple or the others who have all been found to give government access to their data? I haven't seen box or dropbox in the NSA reports, but I doubt they're excluded from government snooping.
        tech_e
        • What I'm Suggesting,

          is for people to switch to Dropbox, as Condoleezza Rice is making sure your files are safe from prying eyes.
          Stilbe
          • Oh the punch line is great! :))

            You win -- great punch line; really funny :))
            mytake4this
      • Hmmmm personal insults

        1. could you not make blanket insults
        2. .... so if you use Microsoft products and services you have a vested interest...does that apply to all cloud providers? Could you define vested interest in the context of cloud service providers and how the use of OneDrive equates a vested interest?
        3. So if I am to understand using cloud storage from MS automatically means you don't care about privacy, what if what's being stored isn't private data that you don't care if someone if looking through it; after all don't you make a choice of what you want to store in the cloud.
        4. While I understand your apprehension to use a company that is will to provide data to governments when requested, but at the end of the day companies are there is a legal framework that companies must abide by. Companies are bond by the laws of whatever country they operate in. It isn't the job of the companies to fight government; it is the obligation of the citizens to elect someone who will vote and act in accordance with your views. I am against for-profit companies deciding when to follow the law; as incompetent as government can seem it beats hell out of profit driven entities
        5. Could you provide proof to claims that there are backdoors in windows
        Meansman
        • A Hired

          MS shill doing damage control.. or a person with nothing else to do & who cannot spell.
          Stilbe
          • So I am A hired shill

            I wish I got paid to post positive comments about a company; that would be a great job. As someone who spends time dealing with enterprise users I would gladly trade this for that. but in the end I don't think you care much about what I do for a living. anyway you seem to not be able to counter anything I said or answer any questions I asked(I apologize for the grammar)
            Meansman
        • Can you tie your shoes?

          A Kill switch is a backdoor, go look on google. I don't need to provide you proof. Are you unable to do a search using a search engine?
          Stilbe
          • @Stilbe: I have no problems with ABMers...

            But making false generalizations and insulting its user-base?

            Wow...
            ForeverCookie
          • Hmmmmmm

            I am not the one making claims without providing anything substantiate them. You post and if someone doesn't reply; you reply to yourself with own 5 reasons. When people do reply you attack them as paid shills and never try to provide anything that would support your argument. You don't seem to be able to make a well thought out reasonable argument. Its a shame that electricity and bandwidth are being wasted on you
            Meansman
        • Played out argument

          ...by Stilbe, and a rabid ABMer at that. This is indicated by the fact that he is mostly having a conversation with himself here, aside from a couple of troll feeders. But hey, thanks for the entertainment. Off to do real work now.
          djmik
        • He's a rube -

          His mother raised his rent on the basement so he's just mad
          ScanBack
      • proof DBAG

        Everytime you post this you never provide proof.

        If you put this in about scroogle then you wouldn't be lying.
        hoppmang
  • Two OneDrives?

    Really? You mean that Outlook and Outlook Express were different? Or "Office 365" and "Windows Live"? Or something?
    jquinnjr
  • They do have different use cases

    Part of the difference is that consumer services and business services are not the same thing. IT has far more stringent requirements for audit, security, reliability, and etc. The other part is as you mentioned one of timing and I expect to see a melding of the API set and an easier path from one to the other over time.

    The hardest part of the new One Microsoft, is aligning all the factions. And that doesn't happen quickly or easily or (unfortunately) pain free.
    Skippy99