Comparing My Sites to OneDrive For Business

Sitting in a session at the SharePoint Connect 2014 conference in Amsterdam this week, my good friend and fellow Office365 MVOP Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny) shared a great example of the rate of change within the music retail space which I thought was a great analogy for the change happening with the SharePoint space, and certainly around the way that we use social tools. Naomi talked about how Tower Records, founded in 1960 in California, built up one of the strongest retail brands in music, with stores around the US and Europe. They made it through various changes in format, from vinyl to 8-track to cassette to CD, but in 2009 they went out of business. Now, I remember this acutely as I was (am) a huge music collector, and spent many a day in Tower Records at the Sunrise Mall in Fair Oaks, California, spending too much of my money. But Tower did not survive the MP3 music revolution, which saw the rise of alternate marketplaces through eBay, Amazon, and Apple. Even now, the marketplace continues to shift and grow, moving toward cloud services like Beats (acquired by Apple) and Spotify.

My point in mentioning this story is how the rate of change within SharePoint (mostly visible through the changes happening to SharePoint Online, available through the Office 365 platform) is a story of adaptation and refinement. Organizations interested in becoming more social are at the forefront of this adaptation. With so much change happening so quickly, many customers of the SharePoint on premises platform are asking the question "Should we be using the social features available today, including My Sites, or should we be planning for and moving toward Yammer and a hybrid environment?"

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question, which falls under the classic SharePoint category of "it depends." My session yesterday here in Amsterdam, Hybrid SharePoint Solutions for the Business Decision-Maker, discusses some of the options and considerations when thinking about making the transition toward the cloud. My response is always that companies should enter these decisions with eyes wide open, with clarity around their business requirements and legal and regulatory constraints that will help determine which solutions can and should be deployed. In short, there is no quick answer.

Instead, what we can do is review the differences between what is available on prem and online. To some extent, OneDrive for Business has been sold as a replacement to My Sites, and so I thought I’d put together a quick comparison to help inform your decision on whether to move toward the cloud in part or in whole.

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My Sites have seen a lot of improvements to saving, sharing, and moving of content in SharePoint 2013. Users can now post to the newsfeed; either publicly or to the newsfeed on team sites, and share information, who they are following, etc. with colleagues. Tags are now very much a part of SharePoint, just like you would tag in, say, Twitter, you can use these as key words to help people find your posts. We also have mentions, like you have on Facebook, allowing users to reference people within the organization if they think it will be interesting to them. The site section is where your list of sites that you’re following are contained, along with suggestions for sites to follow, these may be your colleagues sites, or just sites which are followed by a lot of people. You will see an update in your newsfeed if someone else follows the site (not if they just updated what they are having for dinner) creating a social collaboration platform for users to communicate and share, both personal and business information.

OneDrive for Business is your own personal document library. Yes, it is SharePoint, and yes, to some extent it displaces My Sites. You store your files and only you can see them, unless you want to share them with colleagues. The user sets up permissions for viewing or editing the document or folder and sends an email to inform people that it has been shared with them. Of course, you are probably wondering what the difference is between OneDrive for consumers and OneDrive for Business. Here’s a quick difference for you from Microsoft:

  • OneDrive is free online storage that provides users with a personal library where they can upload and access files from any of their devices. Download one of the OneDrive apps and you can easily save documents, photos, and other files in this library, share them with friends, and even collaborate on content.
  • OneDrive for Business is also online storage that provides a personal library where you can upload and access documents, photos, and other files on your computer. But the OneDrive for Business library is managed by the organization and is available with either Office 365 or SharePoint. This means users can share content in the library only with colleagues in the organization, and with invited guests outside of the organization if they’re logged into Office 365.

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So the library is protected from public viewing unless the users with access to OneDrive share a folder or document. This means it’s a great place for confidential documents, or minor versions of documents you want to store.

However, the issue you may face is getting the user to effectively use it — why would a user go through the process of managing permissions to a document when they can just email the finished version to the relative people? Well, this is where you need to be strategic in its use, and to change the culture of sharing in your organization.

For example, you might create a folder which is shared and a folder which is private, then the user only needs to move the documents to the relevant folder to share, or store it. They can use the private folder to modify documents, work on the minor versions, and then just move across the major version for sharing. This way it is simple to use, effective in its operation, and will fully utilize the collaborative set up of 2013, while still maintaining the security.

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Hopefully these descriptions help you to understand the differences between My Sites and the OneDrive for Business capabilities, and can help you and your organization figure out the right path forward as you start to make your transition toward the cloud.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.