This article is an introduction to OneDrive for Business, a key component of the Office 365 suite of services which provides secure storage and backs a broad set of features such as Office Online.
The Technology behind OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business is a different product than the consumer-grade OneDrive. As it is built on top of the SharePoint Online technology, it benefits from the more advanced intranet-targeted features available in SharePoint.
Each file stored in OneDrive for Business is automatically under version control; whenever a user uploads a new version of the same file in the same location, the previous file is archived. Previous versions can be retrieved, and information about each version’s upload time and editor are available for review.
All files and folders stored in OneDrive for Business can be shared with any other University members using Rutgers Connect with various levels of permissions, including read-only, read/write, etc. Files and folders can also be shared with external users, such as students not using Office 365 or users completely external to the university, but these external shares must be read-only and the recipient will need to authenticate when accessing the shared data. Anonymous sharing is not permitted. If more extensive collaboration is required with users external to Rutgers Connect, responsible parties should consider creating guest accounts for the external collaborators.
OneDrive for Business is covered by the HIPAA Business Associate Agreement signed by Microsoft as well as all other legal frameworks covered in our software agreement. For more details about these legal frameworks, please see our previous articles on Security and Trust . Please note that while OneDrive for Business is HIPAA-compliant, users handling sensitive information should continue to use any dedicated systems already in place and approved for such use.
Each Rutgers Connect user is allocated 1 TB of OneDrive for Business storage space. This storage is subject to a number of limitations; for example, there are maximum file name lengths and certain characters and file type extensions are prohibited. Additional information regarding syncing restrictions can be found here.
Please note that at this time this 1 TB storage allocation cannot be expanded. If users need additional storage, they can contact their local IT support or the OIT Help Desk for alternate arrangements.
Ownership of OneDrive for Business storage segments is not limited to individuals. Office 365 Groups can also have a OneDrive for Business storage allocation, which defaults to 100 GB but can be extended as needed upon request. OneDrive for Business storage in Office 365 Groups behaves exactly like its equivalent user storage; it can be shared, edited, or accessed in the same ways. However, it is owned by the group rather than any one individual who might retire or change employment assignments or responsibilities.
Like all Rutgers Connect components, data stored in OneDrive for Business is doubly encrypted at rest, benefiting from both disk-level encryption and file-level encryption. For more information about the Office 365 encryption and security mechanisms, please see our article, Rutgers Connect Security and Trust Part One: The Office 365 Platform Security.
Using OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business can be accessed and used directly via the web interface of Rutgers Connect, which allows users to upload, delete, and update files or share OneDrive for Business stored information with other users. This is the recommended method of interaction for most users.
OneDrive for Business can also be made available directly on a user’s desktop or laptop like a network file system through the use of the OneDrive for Business synchronization client. Files synced in this manner are also available for offline use and will automatically re-sync to the Office 365 cloud services when connectivity is available. These files remain subject to the limitations mentioned earlier. Additionally, if a large number of files are synchronized, a significant amount of local storage may be used to cache the cloud-hosted data.
When using the latest versions of Microsoft Office associated with Rutgers Connect, collaborative editing of documents is also supported. In both desktop and web versions of the supported Office tools, users can collaboratively work on the same documents, see the changes being made as they happen, and chat with other editors currently accessing the file they are working on.
All OneDrive for Business data can also be accessed through the OneDrive mobile application available to all users enrolled in the Mobile Device Management component of Rutgers Connect. Rutgers Connect users may access their own data as well as data shared to them by other users on their mobile device; additionally, they may edit and modify this data if the mobile version of the appropriate software has been installed on their devices. For example, users may use the mobile version of Excel to edit a shared spreadsheet from anywhere in the world. Office applications for mobile devices are available to all faculty and staff users of Rutgers Connect as part of their Office 365 license.
OneDrive for Business Usage Recommendations
While the advanced features and generous storage allocation of OneDrive for Business might be attractive for all types of use, some particular aspects of its implementation make it not ideal for some uses.
Due to its double encryption and version control, OneDrive for Business is not suitable for storing data which is accessed or modified by other applications. For example, do not use OneDrive for Business to store email files that you plan to access live in Outlook or research data that is going to be directly accessed by statistical software. You can certainly store this type of data in OneDrive for Business for the purpose of backups, transfers, or archiving, but if you plan to use it in other applications you should first download it to local or network storage.
While it may be tempting to backup whole desktops or servers to OneDrive for Business, this use is also strongly discouraged due to the performance implications of encryption and version control. Additionally, while the number of files that can be stored is very large, full system backups may exceed those limits.
It is also advisable to use Office 365 Groups OneDrive for Business storage allocations for files or data that are used by multiple users or are business critical. Individual storage allocation is bound to the license of individual users and may become unavailable as users leave the university or change employment roles, whereas the storage allocations of Office 365 Groups can remain under the management of individual units or departments indefinitely.
Authors: Vladimir Gabrielescu, Elizabeth McMillion, Rae Clarke
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