This isn’t going to be a happy or positive post, which is too bad, because I see a lot of promise in the individual product I’m about to criticize and the overall service of which it is a part. For context, you can consider this an update to my earlier post about Office 365, and if I wished to follow that naming scheme, I might go with, “OneDrive for Business: The Bad.”
My Uh-Oh Moment
I was finally burned by OneDrive for Business (OD4B) this week. It’s been giving a couple of my coworkers fits for a few weeks, but I know each of them has thousands and thousands of files and figured that may have contributed to their issues in some way. I’ve used OD4B exclusively for almost two months without a single hiccup, until it just stopped working this week. I saved a tiny change to a tiny Excel file that I’d been working on for a few days, and noticed the dreaded red X on the OD4B blue cloud icon. I tried pausing and starting the sync, but it didn’t work. Recalling the issues my coworkers had, and especially that one of them said he’d lost data as a result of them, I made a quick copy of my entire OD4B folder structure – barely 3GB worth of data – to my desktop.
An Hour of My Work Day Gone
What followed was nearly an hour of frustrating trial and error to try to get OD4B working again. I rebooted, because you know – Windows. No luck. I uninstalled OD4B, which at first meant modifying my Office 2013 installation, as it was installed as part of Office. Rebooted. Added the feature back via Office 2013. No luck. Uninstalled again, rebooted, then install OD4B separately from Microsoft’s website. At first that didn’t even work because I run the 32-bit version of Office and tried to install the 64-bit version of OD4B. No dice, so I went with the 32-bit version. No syncing. Figured to heck with it, I’d just delete my OD4B folder and put it back, and try to sync everything back up. Windows refused to let me delete the folder. Uninstalled OD4B again and tried to delete the folder. No luck. At this point I frankly went into a bit of a red haze and forget exactly what I did to make Windows let me delete the stupid folder, but by golly, I finally deleted it. Re-installed OD4B, added my library’s (remember, OD4B is really just SharePoint) URL, and thought surely, surely, I was done. Wrong.
I was close to giving up, so I turned to Google. After crafting a couple of searches, I came across this helpful article by University of Iowa IT department. The gist of that article is:
- Rename OD4B folder (or make a copy as I had done)
- Kill OD4B processes (Groove – blast from the past)
- Delete OD4B-related stuff in APPDATA
- Let everything sync back down from the cloud
Thankfully, this worked, and since I had lost an hour of productivity to this, I put it out of my mind and focused on getting some actual work done.
We Can’t Recommend This for Our Users
Later that day, though, I got this sick feeling in my stomach. I’d lost an hour of my day to this problem. How much collective productivity might our users lose, if we deploy OneDrive for Business more widely than we already have, and these issues keep occurring? Our university has only just recently enabled OneDrive for Business, and only this past week officially announced it to the campus. The HelpDesk doesn’t have any documentation for it yet, and describes their support level for it as “best effort.” I can beat on OD4B for an hour to try to make it work, but my users can’t.
What really disappoints and confuses me about this is that this sort of utility should just work. I’ve used Dropbox since before it even launched publicly. Do you know how many hours I’ve lost having to uninstall it, or kill its processes, or wipe its preferences or whatever out of APPDATA on my PC’s or out of the Library folder on my Macs? Zero hours. Dropbox just works. I used Citrix ShareFile for quite a while on a selection of PC’s and Mac’s. It just worked. Even OneDrive (Personal) has been relatively problem free. But OneDrive for Business – in addition to all of its SharePoint oddities, seems to be half-baked.
For the time being, I’m switching back to OneDrive (Personal). For one reason or another, I have 58GB of space, and even though it looks like 40GB of that is for being an “enthusiast” and will expire in early 2015, I only have 3GB of files to sync, so I have plenty of room. My hope is that OneDrive for Business will mature and stabilize enough and remain that way so that we can recommend it to our users, but until it does, OneDrive (Personal) or even Dropbox are better, more reliable options.