OneDrive for Business with cloud logoOneDrive for Business has received a large update for people who are willing to experiment with a preview version.

New Features

There are a few huge improvements:

  • There is no more 5,000 item limit. 5,000 might sound like plenty, but at least twice I’ve run up against it and had to take some other measures for how to get around it, like zipping a bunch of files together so it only counted as 1 against the limit… but then it’s harder to open if you need those files, and you can only do that zip before you upload.
  • Selective folder sync means you don’t have to sync the entire library, much like is available for OneDrive consumer and OneDrive for Business.
  • On a related point, if you press sync on the web from within a folder, it defaults to only selecting that folder to sync, so you’re less likely to accidentally sync half a terabyte.
  • Sync can be paused for 4 hrs, 8 hrs, or 24 hrs. They explained that this was because people usually just wanted to pause for a bit due to something like a bad Internet connection, but then spent hours working with tech support before realizing they forgot to unpause.
  • The folder name limit is gone, or at least a lot longer. It got very confusing in some of my use cases with the same long site name that used up 2/3 of the limit, then the rest of the limit was used up with the libraries starting with similar names, too, e.g. “My Favourite Site’s Member Portal – Podcasts (Unedited)” and “My Favourite Site’s Member Portal – Podcasts (Edited)” would be cut off to be identical except that it would add a 1 to the end of whichever was added later.

You can check out a lot of details from the Ignite conference below:

Bugs

So far I have installed on my work laptop and tried to synchronize 5 different libraries. 4 of those 5 worked, albeit after causing OneDrive to crash and then quickly restart itself. The fifth didn’t give any indication for why it didn’t work, but there does seem to be a common thread: the other 4 utilized the selective folder sync while this one was attempting to sync an entire library.

On my desktop, I’ve tried a few libraries, consisting mostly of larger video and audio files, and have run into a significant problem a few times: it fails to merge files added on the device and proceeds to create lots of copies with the name of my device tagged on the end. It will do this to the point that the file names are too long to be deleted by Windows and I have to use Bash on Ubuntu on Windows to delete from a Linux shell. Yeah, a bug in a Microsoft technology does something to Windows that I needed Linux to fix.

One person I saw on Twitter commented it just wouldn’t even start to sync for him.

Update: As I’ve continued to use it for some larger libraries, I cannot recommend this anymore for anything beyond experimental testing. About 70% of the large video files I have stored in SharePoint have become corrupted, not just on the desktop but in SharePoint as well. Then after doing that, it just fails to sign in to that account at all, so it’s not even syncing my OneDrive for Business folder anymore.

Room for Improvement

There are also a few smaller things that definitely could be better:

  • It doesn’t allow you to change the folder location on your machine. It does at least know to look in your documents folder, so if you’ve assigned your documents to a different drive than the default C:/Users, it’s probably good enough, but sometimes you might want more freedom than that.
  • I’m sure they put a lot of research into those pause options, but one scenario for me would benefit from a longer option, or a custom setting. Sometimes I want to avoid syncing large files until the beginning of the next month if I don’t need them right now. Why? Internet download limitations. If I know I’m pushing it, I would love to be able to say to continue in 4 days when the limit resets. This only happens about one month a year for me, but it is a consideration.
  • The folder names created on your machine aren’t always helpful. If it’s a folder rather than a full library, it uses <Site Name> – <Folder Name> which can sometimes leave out a very important detail, the Library Name. If you sync a library, without the character limit, it’s a pretty reasonable result of <Site Name> – <Library Name>. I would like to see the ability to manually override this, though.
  • A migration tool would be very helpful. To try to limit having to download about 500GB of data again, I copied from the old client’s folder to the new one. First problem: I got a lot of duplicates that it couldn’t recognize was the same as the file on the server. Second problem: cleaning up those duplicates wiped out the metadata on all those files. It would have been great if I could hit a button to say “move all these synced locations from the old client to the new one” and it did it, without these errors.