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Microsoft Lights Up New OneDrive for Business Features

Commercial Office 365 subscribers can now begin to access new OneDrive for Business improvements, including file synchronization and management enhancements, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Newly available is a browser-accessible OneDrive Admin Center management portal. The link to the portal is available here when it's activated for a specific Office 365 tenants (the rollout times vary for subscribers). This management portal is also accessible from within the Office 365 Admin Center portal. Previously, it was just available as a preview in December.

OneDrive for Business is Microsoft's storage and collaboration service for organizations that's sold through Office 365 subscriptions. There's also a free consumer OneDrive version, but Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday just pertained to the commercial version.

New Management Portal
The new OneDrive Admin Center portal has seven sections where IT pros can get an overall view of the service or set policies for end users.

The Home section of the portal is dashboard that shows overall product use. The Sharing section controls aspects such external sharing permissions, including limitations on specific domains. The Sync section lets IT pros block the syncing of various file types, plus they can restrict PCs that aren't domain joined. Storage is a section for setting OneDrive for Business storage-size limits, as well as how long documents get stored. The Device Access section has settings to block or allow access via personal devices "or specific networks," and it has Microsoft Intune policy connections for mobile devices. The Compliance section simply links to the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. There's also a new Notification section that controls Office 365 service notices.

When available, the new OneDrive for Business management portal will be available to "all tenant and SharePoint admins," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Synchronization Improvements
OneDrive for Business is available under many Office 365 subscription plans, but its synchronization capabilities have lagged over the years. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it's now possible to sync SharePoint Team Sites folders with OneDrive for Business, which allows people to access the contents of those folders when offline. This syncing capability works for both PCs and Macs.

OneDrive for Business shared folders also can now be synced, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft has also built a "standalone Mac client" for OneDrive for Business with built-in support for multiple languages. This client can be managed by IT pros from outside the Apple Store, which was a customer request, Microsoft's announcement indicated.

User Improvements
End users with Windows or Mac clients now have a new "activity center" view, which shows recent file sync activities. Microsoft also now provides more information to end users on the sharing experience. They'll be able to see "if the recipients are external to the organization," for instance. They can set expiration dates for the sharing of "anonymous guest links."

In addition, external users invited to share a file will experience a "much simplified account setup process," Microsoft's announcement promised.

Microsoft's OneDrive product team will be making itself available to answer questions early next month. They'll field questions for an hour, starting on Feb. 1 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time, in a so-called "Ask Microsoft Anything" online event.

About the Author

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