Note: We are in the process of updating this page, which was last updated on June 30th, 2016.
OneDrive is cloud file storage similar to Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. While Dropbox and Box have been around longer and are better known, OneDrive is starting to gain traction, mostly due to its tight integration with Microsoft Office 365.
Here is what you need to know about OneDrive.
Getting Started with OneDrive
OneDrive is the personal online storage of your files in the cloud. One of the main advantages of using cloud file storage is making file retrieval more simple and convenient.
There is a good chance OneDrive is already on your computer. Windows 8 and 10 come with the OneDrive app already installed and activated if you sign in with your Microsoft account. If you have a Microsoft email address with Outlook or Hotmail, you already have a Microsoft account to access OneDrive.
To save a document on OneDrive, simply select a OneDrive folder from the list of save locations. To move files to OneDrive, just open File Explorer (or Finder in Mac) and drag them into a OneDrive folder. Files you store in OneDrive will automatically sync to the cloud. Microsoft has useful training videos on pretty much everything you ever wanted to know.
Besides its main job of storing files, OneDrive has a number of additional features.
You can use, share, and collaborate on Word documents stored in OneDrive through the desktop app or through Office Online. With the online interface, Office Online, people who don’t have a copy of Microsoft Office can use a link you send them to edit the document in Word online so long as you give them the appropriate permissions.
In addition to standard Office programs, OneDrive is also the only way to sync and access the wonders of OneNote from multiple Windows, Mac, and mobile devices. A version of OneNote is provided as part of OneDrive or Office Online and enables users to edit notes right on your web browser.
Even if you have not yet saved a file on your hard drive into OneDrive, you may be able to access it remotely from any computer with Fetch. As long as the OneDrive desktop app for Windows is installed on a PC, Fetch enables users to access files that have not been saved to OneDrive so long as the PC you want to access is on and running OneDrive with Fetch enabled. One caveat: you can only fetch files from a computer running Windows. It doesn’t work on a Mac.
Pricing, Extra Storage, and Business Plans
Currently, OneDrive gives users 5 GB for free. If you need more space, you can get 50 GB for $1.99 per month. For plans with 1 TB or more, Microsoft bundles OneDrive into packages with Office 365. These plans start with 1 TB of OneDrive Storage with an Office 365 subscription for $6.99 per month for one user or $9.99 per month for up to five users, five tablets, five phones, and five PCs or Macs for personal use.
Microsoft also bundles OneDrive for Business into packages with Office 365. OneDrive for Business offers more security options than the consumer-grade OneDrive service plus each user gets 1 TB of storage space. If you intend to use OneDrive for business purposes, you are required to use the Business version. In addition to basic OneDrive features, you also get auditing and reporting, advanced sync settings, and access to other add-ons.
At $5.00 per user per month, the most affordable OneDrive for Business plan is Office 365 Business Essentials. Business Essentials includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage along with access to Office Online with email and video conferencing, which would be well-suited for users who have already purchased Microsoft Office or who plan to use the web interface rather than a desktop version of Office. This does, however, limit your ability to work offline. OneDrive storage along with full Office on PC or Mac and mobile apps starts at $8.25 per month for each user with Office 365 Business. Other mix-and-match varieties of features can be found through Microsoft’s Enterprise plans.
Sharing and Collaboration
You can generate a link with permissions so anyone with the URL can access the file anonymously if you grant them access or share the documents with an email address. With OneDrive, you can share a particular file or an entire folder. A collaborator will need to have either a Microsoft account or Microsoft Office to collaborate.
While regular OneDrive is a place for you to store your files in the cloud, OneDrive for Business users can choose to use SharePoint, which has a whole raft of additional features, including custom permissions.
A number of add-ons and third-party apps use OneDrive for sync. If you spend much of your time in Outlook, Microsoft’s newly updated Outlook for iOS app now has support for Skype and OneDrive for Business. Microsoft also released a new update for the OneDrive mobile app with the ability to scan documents and annotate PDFs. Adobe’s new Document Cloud storage integration with OneDrive makes it easier for users to open PDF documents stored in OneDrive from within any of the iOS or Android apps for Acrobat Document Cloud or Acrobat Reader.
Clio’s new integration with OneDrive for Business also enables you to upload, access and edit documents and files through Clio.
Microsoft recently released updates to simplify e-discovery. Machine learning, text analytics, and predictive coding enables users to train the system to distinguish automatically between relevant and non-relevant files in large, unstructured datasets.
The updated Office 365 Security & Compliance Center now features a case management option in the eDiscovery page which enables users to work on cases without exiting the software. The Security & Compliance Center includes a hold feature for preserving data or applying a retention policy to content in mailboxes, public folders, and SharePoint and OneDrive for Business sites. Users can apply a hold to themes, folders, conversations, or individual messages—making it easy for lawyers to comply with a variety of record-keeping requirements or a litigation hold.
All OneDrive accounts come with the option of two-factor authentication. Microsoft also asks for additional information if you log in from a device it does not recognize. The ABA recommends use of multi-factor authentication when it is available.
Office 365 Advanced Security Management provides enhanced control for implementing more detailed security policies and threat detection for identifying abnormal usage. It also shows authorized users what third-party apps are connected, who is using them, what permissions they have, and which Office 365 data their third-party applications may access. It is also able to flag risky behavior and automatically suspend accounts.
Advanced Security Management is included as part of the top-tier Office 365 package and also available as an add-on to all other Office 365 plans for $3 per user per month. The threat detection and activity policy creation features are available now, while the remainder is anticipated to ship later in 2016.
Terms of Service
Microsoft uses automatic technology called PhotoDNA to scan OneDrive accounts and detect “abusive behavior” such as nude photos. When investigating these matters, Microsoft or its agents may review content to resolve the issue.
Since most operations are automated, it is for humans to access your content. However, Microsoft spells out that ability in addition to other uses described in the Microsoft Services Agreement and Privacy Statement.
One way around giving unfettered access to Microsoft engineers is Customer Lockbox, which gives customers ultimate approval rights in the instances when a Microsoft engineer requests access to the service.
Although these types of scans have proven useful for catching child pornographers, it becomes a stickier situation when those same photos are exhibit B in a lawyer’s file. Microsoft’s Code of Conduct no longer explicitly extends the ban to “nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga” and expressions of “obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, or gratuitous violence.” However, the vagueness of the Code of Conduct leaves it unclear what is permissible. In light of documented cases of users being locked out of their accounts—even in cases of professional photographers whose work involves partial nudity—it may be a smarter choice to use an alternate cloud storage provider if any of your stored images could run afoul of the policy.
Who Should Use OneDrive
If you are already a Windows user, OneDrive is typically pre-installed and is a convenient way to access, create, share, and collaborate on Office documents. As new features are added, OneDrive is becoming increasingly attractive for users on other devices as well.