Since SharePoint Online and Office 365 were first released in 2013, it’s clear Microsoft has made a commitment to the cloud, but in doing so the company hasn’t neglected businesses that still function through SharePoint on premises. So why isn’t this the case for on-premises file synchronisation of SharePoint files? There is a considerable divide between OneDrive for Business on premises and in the cloud… and it’s leaving on premises users behind.

Between Microsoft’s ‘mobile-first, cloud-first’ rebranding under CEO Satya Nadella and SharePoint 2016 being “a vision of a [SharePoint] server that was cloud-born and future-proof”, there were rumours that Microsoft’s drive to the cloud may leave SharePoint Server behind. Instead, SharePoint 2016 was dubbed the first ‘hybrid’ SharePoint, granting organisations cloud functionality without performing a full-scale cloud migration. And with the next SharePoint Server expected to arrive mid-2018, it seems Microsoft are continuing their commitment to hybrid SharePoint.

But Microsoft’s approach to on-premises file synchronisation of SharePoint content isn’t so balanced. OneDrive for Business on premises doesn’t support versions of SharePoint Server before 2013 (i.e. 2007 and 2010). This would be understandable if Microsoft were fully committing to moving businesses to the cloud, but hybrid versions of SharePoint suggest they want organisations to migrate ‘in their own time’. For those still using SharePoint Server, on-premises file synchronisation is extremely limited.

In this post, we’ll look at how OneDrive for Business on-premises is being left behind in favour of the cloud, and where that leaves organisations still using older versions of SharePoint from on-premises file synchronisation.

Why do I need on-premises file synchronisation?

Cloud-based and on-premises file synchronisation mostly concerns making sure the most up to date version of a document is available. Generally speaking, this will take place more in cloud-based environments as people can edit and share files from multiple different locations, meaning more edits get made and more documents are shared. But an overlooked element of file synchronisation platforms like OneDrive for Business is managed metadata.

Metadata concerns the searching and accessing of files, tagging documents with information ‘labels’ to help users find the content they need quicker. Standard metadata properties include things like file name, author, date of creation, etc. and by adding more metadata fields, users can make their search as specific as they wish. This is a practice equally useful when working with SharePoint on-premises or in the cloud, particularly when we consider the scale of organisations still working on-premises. They likely deal with large amounts of content and users—one of the core reasons behind a business’s hesitancy to migrate to the cloud.

Syncing SharePoint 2010 files to OneDrive for Business

Let’s assume your business is using SharePoint Server 2010 (the case for almost 30% of organisations using SharePoint as of 2017) and want to synchronise a document library with OneDrive for Business. This was somewhat possible with the first version of OneDrive for Business on-premises (2013), although the sync was unreliable and never fully supported. Microsoft’s solution for users wishing to sync SharePoint 2010 content was to use SharePoint Workspace 2010 (which has since been discontinued). So today, businesses using SharePoint 2010 have no way of synchronising their files other than the original OneDrive for Business, which is buggy and has draconian file sizes limits. And Microsoft seem content to let it remain that way. Neither of the latest OneDrive for Business iterations—Next generation sync and Files On Demand—allow for on-premises file synchronisation.

So, what about the most popular version of SharePoint on-premises, SharePoint 2013? Even though this iteration works with the original OneDrive for Business, enabling on-premises file synchronisation is a complex process that requires a myriad of services to be set-up and running. And file sync isn’t much easier in Office 365, either—although the latest versions of OneDrive for Business work in the Microsoft cloud, no version of OneDrive for Business, new or old, will accommodate metadata. OneDrive for Business lacks a tangible user interface and tries to make file sync go on ‘behind the scenes’, but more often than not leaves users confused as to which files are synced and where they reside. So, it seems no matter what version of SharePoint your organisation uses, metadata is going to be limited.

Synchronisation software without prejudice

Easier365 has no prejudice against organisations using older versions of SharePoint. Easier365 works with all iterations of SharePoint: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and SharePoint Online, enabling cloud-based and on-premises file synchronisation.

Easier365 features a real working user interface from which you can selectively sync your files, so the actual process of document synchronisation is easier, too. Easier365 supports SharePoint’s Content Types, so documents you create are pre-defined for the SharePoint site.  Meanwhile, all the File property fields and contained metadata are all automatically synchronised

All this makes Easier365 the best alternative to OneDrive for Business, whether your business operates on premises or in the cloud.

To find out more about an alternative to syncing files with OneDrive for Business on premise, get in touch with a member of the Digilink team today.