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Microsoft To Offer OneDrive for Business as Standalone Service

Microsoft will release its OneDrive for Business product, formerly named SkyDrive Pro, as a standalone service in April.

Based on SharePoint Online technology, OneDrive for business is Microsoft's file storage, synchronization and sharing service. Typically, it's bundled into Office 365 plans that organizations purchase to get the Office ProPlus productivity suite, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online or Lync Online services. However, starting on April 1, OneDrive for Business will also be available as single service that can purchased without buying other Office 365 services, Microsoft announced on Monday.

OneDrive for Business differs from the free consumer OneDrive offering in that OneDrive for Business comes with administrative controls for IT pros, along with compliance and content management capabilities. It's also offered with service level agreements, typically "three nines" (99.9 percent) uptime per month.

New Features
The new standalone service will include Office Online, which is Microsoft's renamed Office Web Apps productivity suite of applications that run in a browser. Users of the standalone OneDrive for Business service offering will have access to 25 GB of storage capacity per user, with the option to purchase more.

OneDrive for Business now has an updated user interface. Common tasks are located in a menu at the top. Users get a new "site folders" view that shows the libraries containing the documents they follow. The search box has been improved, allowing users to share as they search. Customized URLs make it easier for users to find OneDrive for Business (Microsoft's example is "http://contoso.onedrive.com").

Coming this year will be new capabilities added to OneDrive for Business. Microsoft is planning to add auditing and reporting enhancements. It's also planning to add data loss prevention security for documents, as well as "encryption at rest," meaning that data are encrypted when stored on the server. It may even bump up the individual user storage limits, according to the announcement.

Microsoft is also preparing OneDrive for Business apps for use on various mobile operating system platforms. "Native" OneDrive for Business apps are being prepared for the Windows and iOS platforms, with Microsoft planning to ship the Apple iOS one first. Details about when these apps are going to appear weren't disclosed by Microsoft.

Cloud Stepping Stones?
Supposedly, organizations applying Service Pack 1 for SharePoint Server 2013 will have an easier way to use OneDrive for Business. That point hasn't been explained too well by Microsoft so far, but it seems to depend on an organization also using Forms-Based Authentication or Windows NT LAN Manager protocols with the server in order to use OneDrive for Business as an in-house app. Presumably, an organization could also leverage Office Web Apps Server, which is a premises-based way of running Office Online apps.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed this week that Office Web Apps Server will get renamed, since Office Web Apps got renamed to Office Online. "The Office Web Apps Server will be renamed to align with the new Office Online naming in the next release," the spokesperson explained via e-mail.

Some organizations may have restrictions on using cloud-based communications. However, Microsoft appears to be positioning its OneDrive for Business service and its Yammer enterprise social networking service as first steps to the cloud.

"With SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1, you can connect your on-premises SharePoint 2013 servers to the cloud and to turn on OneDrive for Business or Yammer as the first workloads in the cloud and run those alongside existing SharePoint investments," stated Jeff Teper, corporate vice president of the Office Service and Servers group, in a blog post Monday.

Existing Office 365 subscribers will get the new OneDrive for Business upgrades automatically and at no extra cost. Microsoft is offering promo pricing in April through September for those buying the standalone One Drive for Business service.

The promo pricing for OneDrive for Business will be $2.50 per user per month, which is half off the regular cost. The promo price will be $1.50 per user per month for organizations with "Office with SA [Software Assurance] or Office 365 ProPlus," according to Microsoft's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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