In the past, giving your users remote access to company content was fraught with difficulty. Typically, you’d have to set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network), and that would involve sending an IT person to the user’s home to set up their desktop. If the employee wasn’t very tech savvy, you could look forward to inevitable and endless help desk calls when things went wrong. So, now that businesses can instantly set up Office 365 remote access for employees, and save on all the effort of configuring VPNs and the like, the potential is huge.

Giving your employees Office 365 remote access will make it incredibly easy to facilitate remote working, cut a lot of hassle for your IT teams and end users, and allow distance workers to be productive without fear that their unreliable VPN would fail. However, as fantastic as Office 365 remote access is on so many levels, it still has its limitations—especially around OneDrive for Business. Let’s look at why.

Working wherever users want

Syncing content from OneDrive for Business begins in the browser. Once a user has signed in via the application launcher, selecting the sync button in the user interface (either classic or modern) will prompt the user to install the sync client if it’s not installed—or to confirm or change the save location on the desktop if it is. Once this set-up is complete, any given user will have a favourites shortcut added to their “C:\Users” folder, and any file that’s added to this directory will get uploaded to the cloud. You can pick specific folders that you want to sync or select everything; specific icons on each file indicate whether this file has synced up or not:

  • A green check mark indicates a successful sync
  • Two circular arrows indicate that the file is awaiting sync
  • A red X indicates a file hasn’t been (or cannot be) synced

The benefits of this should be clear: mull over for a second the benefits that are gleaned from changes made in one device being pushed to other devices on the same account. You can take voice recordings and short videos whilst at seminars or workshops. You can edit notes and documents, PowerPoint decks and financial statements from anywhere with an internet connection. This sort of power and accessibility can be very potent across any number of industries.

Office 365 remote access isn’t quite that simple

There are naturally, a few pain points when trying to set up OneDrive for Business. As users gain experience in the technology, they’ll almost certainly know the pain and frustration of seeing a red X icon indicating a file hasn’t properly synced up: knowing they will have to spend time figuring out the problem and attempting to resolve it. We’ve already discussed some of these errors in-depth in a post from last year but let’s see if any of these items sound familiar:

  1. Odd file types are blocked
  2. You’ve come up against one of the OneDrive internal limits (such as item count, file size, etc.)
  3. An illegal character in your file name
  4. You’ve got the item currently open or it is linking to broken content

Some of these issues are addressed or certainly improved via the new OneDrive for Business sync client Microsoft released in January this year. Rather negatively though, you’ll need to be using the OneDrive for Business modern user interface for this to be a viable answer. Not everyone will be in such a scenario.

An Easier alternative

What if you came at this from another angle, though? At Digilink, we’ve spent the last few years looking at ways we can resolve these Office 365 remote access problems, and that’s how we came to design Easier365.

Easier365 integrates seamlessly with Office 365, but provides an alternative interface to OneDrive for Business. It introduces additional functionalities like individual file sync with TeamSites, synchronisation without imposed file limits and more to make Office 365 and SharePoint work better together. Easier365 also works with older iterations of SharePoint—namely 2007 and 2010—that the new OneDrive for Business is not compatible with.

Office 365 remote access has been a priority of forward-thinking businesses for the past few years, yet its full capabilities may still be out of reach. When it comes to file synchronisation, the basics must be there before users can begin to take their work onto a mobile platform. If mobile working is implemented poorly, you risk neglecting (and losing) users who still hold a preference for desktop working. Making the leap to mobile productivity should only be done when the solution as a whole can be trusted, and not a moment before.