What is OneDrive?

If you use any Microsoft products, you’ve probably come across the name OneDrive. It’s a cloud-based service that Microsoft recently launched to give users the option to store and share their documents.

Whether you use it as a work tool or for storing personal documents, OneDrive is a convenient option for accessing your files on-the-go or sharing content with co-workers. Let’s go over the differences between Personal OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, and also look at the different features of OneDrive.

Personal OneDrive

This is the OneDrive that you see when you open up Windows 10 on your computer: You’re set up for it when you log in with your Microsoft Account, and you’ll find the storage available in File Explorer. In Microsoft computers, it’s the default option for saving documents or files, which can help save space on your storage drive. Like many cloud storage services, you get several GB for free. In fact, you get up to 5GB with the free OneDrive Plan, but you’ll have to pay to get more storage in 200GB increments.

You can get 1TB of OneDrive space for free with most Microsoft 365 Home or Personal plans, which means OneDrive also makes it easy to sync and share information and documents between your Windows devices. In 2019, Microsoft also added Personal Vault to OneDrive, enabling two-factor verification for extra security for three special files you really want to protect (365 users get unlimited Personal Vault space).

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive is the overarching data management system for Microsoft 365 (previously Office 365) and the glue that holds all Microsoft Office services together. It allows employees to share documents, track projects, automatically input data, collaborate online, secure their data, and a whole lot more. If you’re looking at Microsoft 365 features for your business, the data in those features is almost certainly funneled through OneDrive.

Since OneDrive is involved in so many Microsoft services, it is frequently updated by Microsoft, about every couple of weeks. Notice that there is a version of OneDrive for Windows and a version for MacOS, and they are updated separately. For example, one recent update added easier sensitivity labels that admins can use to apply extra encryption or practices for sensitive business data. As you can imagine, security is a key part of what Microsoft works on for the business version of OneDrive. Now, let’s take a closer look at how OneDrive is connected to Microsoft’s ecosystem.

OneDrive to rule them all

Microsoft wants you to use OneDrive to store and sync all your data across devices. That’s why it’s pushing out OneDrive apps to all platforms and giving you 1TB of online storage per machine with an Office 365 subscription. The Office 365 Home subscription provides 1TB of OneDrive storage for up to five machines, which at $100 a year or $10 a month, is an attractive proposition.

Microsoft knows you won’t ever be able to fill that space with documents alone. But you can basically store anything on OneDrive and its seamless integration with Windows 10 and various applications ensures your files are automatically backed up, synced, and easily accessible.

Why would you want to use OneDrive?

Up until now, cloud storage was merely a means to share files with others or transfer them from one device to the other. As storage space becomes more affordable, however, cloud storage is becoming an increasingly attractive backup solution, provided you don’t mind that someone else is managing your data. OneDrive’s major benefit is that it syncs across platforms and integrates with the services and applications you already use, including Windows, Office, Outlook, and more.

While it’s attractive, OneDrive shouldn’t be your only backup solution. For example, what happens if one copy gets corrupted and you lose access to the other, because your drive dies, your OneDrive account gets hacked, or your internet connection is down? To be safe, you should always manage your backups following the so-called “3, 2, 1” backup plan: At least three copies, on two types of media, with one copy offsite. Cloud storage can be your offsite copy, but you still need a local backup.

Using the OneDrive app in Windows 10

Microsoft has also provided a OneDrive app in Windows 10 that has the same functionality, and roughly the same experience, as the web interface and you can use it to save, delete, manage, and share files. To share files with the OneDrive app, just right-click on a file or folder and select Share from the context menu. You can invite people via a link or email, and view people that are sharing files and folders. You also can see all of your shared files by clicking the icon of the people in the left sidebar of the app.

OneDrive integrates with Cortana and Windows Search

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, has long been available in Windows 10. Not only can she answer questions, but when you select Search my stuff, she can search your files — including the ones stored on OneDrive and not synced with your device. You can then access those files from the search results. Thankfully, Cortana also responds to both voice control and keyboard inputs entered into the Windows search bar. You also can use Windows Search to find OneDrive content too, just search for what you want and click the Documents tab.

Using the Photos app in Windows 10

Do you have a large photo collection spread across multiple devices? Microsoft came up with a solution for that, too. The Photos app in Windows 10 utilizes OneDrive to aggregate images from all of your devices. It can remove duplicates or similar images from its collection, automatically enhance your photos, and create albums based on place, time, or people. You can find your OneDrive photos in the Photos app by clicking the Folders tab on the top and looking for Pictures. You’ll see the OneDrive icon to let you know that your photos are coming from OneDrive.  There’s even a search bar to let you search through your OneDrive photos.

These on-by-default features can be adjusted or turned off by opening Photos and selecting Settings from the application menu. Once the app has worked its magic, you can easily show your photos and share them with friends from any of your devices. This will work in both Android and iOS, provided you install the OneDrive app and use it to sync your photos.

OneDrive and Office collaboration

OneDrive is also designed to enable remote work and collaboration with others on the same documents, including Office documents, if you have Microsoft 365. Store Word, Excel, or PowerPoint (among others) files in your OneDrive and can share them with teammates using the Share button located on your taskbar. Anyone who opens the link will automatically open the document in the Office web app on their browser. Then, multiple people can work on the same document, even if they don’t have OneDrive, and you can easily check on updates.

If you need a document directly from someone else’s OneDrive for your work, you can also send a request link directly from the folder in OneDrive where you want someone to upload the document. Just select Request Files to get started.

This makes OneDrive handy for managing remote work situations, team projects at school, and so on.

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