You likely know the adage: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. The phrase dates back to the 19th century, referring to the practice in American bars of offering a ‘free lunch’ in order to entice drinking customers into their establishment. Microsoft tried a similar technique (if we replace food with data) in 2014, offering free unlimited personal OneDrive space if individuals or organisations started a paid Office 365 subscription.

But a year later, Microsoft ended the ‘unlimited’ storage plan, imposing a one terabyte (TB) limit on personal OneDrive space. They did something similar with free personal OneDrive accounts, reducing an initial 15GB of storage down to just 5GB.

Understandably, this didn’t go down well with the Windows and OneDrive community.

In response to the outcry, and to smooth the transitioning process, Microsoft promised to provide any user that was now over the new 5GB limit with 1TB of OneDrive storage for a year, along with a free 12-month subscription to Office 365.

Microsoft’s firefighting PR might have solved the short term problem, yet for businesses and end users, it’s ultimately resulted in a confusing mess. Business users who opted into the free storage space deals now have an odd mix of personal files connected, in various ways, to their work file storage. While their colleagues can’t see their personal files and pictures, it’s still created a messy and disorganised situation.

Let’s look at this problem in more detail and look at how it can be solved.

Mixing business with pleasure

Microsoft’s peace offering after reducing OneDrive’s storage capacity may have created more problems than it solved. The compromise has created splinter groups of OneDrive users—individuals who have used their drastically increased personal OneDrive space to store personal files in their work Office 365 environment. This has created a mixed environment, where users are storing their personal and business files in the same cloud environment.

This isn’t inherently bad; in fact, it can be useful to have both your personal and business content available to you at work. The problem is that you can’t  share files between OneDrive and OneDrive for Business in Office 365.

personal OneDrive space

The problems with an Office 365 mixed environment

Despite having almost the same name, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are very different pieces of software. If a user shares content with their colleagues, the shared file won’t appear in that user’s OneDrive for Business account, but their personal OneDrive space. For those that are primarily using OneDrive for Business or those that don’t have a OneDrive account, this issue can prevent them from keeping track of content (or seeing it at all).

Let’s run through an example:

You want to share project files with a company outside your organisation for collaborative purposes. But when you do so, the files don’t appear in the OneDrive for Business account of the recipient, but in their personal OneDrive space, mixed up with family pictures, music, and other personal content. If the organisation doesn’t allow employees to use their personal OneDrive space at work (which many do not), the employee won’t be able to work on the project.

This is a problem that was raised on the OneDrive UserVoice forum back in June 2016. Over a year later, and Microsoft still haven’t attended to the problem. Microsoft’s solution? Only save documents to OneDrive for Business if you don’t plan on sharing them. Otherwise, you should be using a SharePoint Team Site to store your business content. Despite the fact you have to create and maintain this Team Site yourself, you’re now dealing with content in your personal OneDrive space, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Team Sites. That doesn’t sound like much of a solution to me.

A lack of unity between your personal OneDrive space, your OneDrive for Business space, and your SharePoint Team Sites makes the searching and retrieval of content far more difficult. In a mixed environment, having to sift through personal and business content manually is going to slow workers down and present a level of risk. Users are going to be conscious of colleagues seeing their personal content, while security regulations concerning the safeguarding of sensitive information are going to loom large over the business.

Keep your personal OneDrive space, personal

Now that the free year-long subscriptions to Office 365 have run out, users are either paying for their content to be in the wrong place or have reverted to the free version of OneDrive with just 5GB free storage. So, what can you do?

Easier365 removes many of the complexities users encounter when working with OneDrive and OneDrive for Business by making things, well, easier:

  • A real user interface: Easier365 avoids the problems of a mixed environment thanks to its dedicated UI for total visibility over your files.
  • Metadata: tag your content so it’s easier to classify, categorise and access. Easier365 has powerful metadata features to create views similar to SharePoint, adding columns to create views and filters for search.
  • Selective sync: unlike OneDrive for Business, you can sync your content all the way down to the file level, giving you maximum control over which data gets synchronised.


For more information on how Easier365 can remove the stress from file synchronisation, get in touch with Digilink today.