OneDrive for Business and what does it mean

Since Office 2013 we can use the OneDrive for Business client. What does it mean in different scenarios? What are known limits?


We need a SharePoint 2013 on-premises environment
Have SharePoint Online aka Office365

On the client machine (desktop, tablet, laptop, phone) you need Office 2013 client applications including the OneDrive for Business application. Finally, on Windows 7 and 8.x you will see that it has been integrated into the Windows Explorer.

So far so good - and now I want to synchronize the documents on my SharePoint MySite. Later on I will have a copy of everything which is available online, now also for offline usage on my client machine.

  • Do I have to expect issues?
    Yes, you should. You could run into conflicts.

I am just talking about the logic of it, not what other issues could happen like network outages, timeouts…

OneDrive for Business just synchronizes your data or files. In case you changed a local copy, but also somehow changed the server-side "version" of the same file, then switched on your laptop and the local copy of your laptop cannot overwrite the version on the server, the conflict occurs. Usually you have to choose which version of the file should stay, rename or save it before checking manually.

  • Does this affect all file-types?
    In general, yes.

The explanation above might be valid for all available tools that are able to synchronize local data with any cloud storage-service.

Benefits of Office 2013?

Let us talk about our Office file-types docx, xslx, pptx…

Since Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010, there is the ability to work at the same time with more than one application on the same file. We call it co-authoring. Since Office 2013, it has been improved so that we can use OWAS (Office Web Application Server) and the "fat" client on a desktop machine to work on the same document at the same time. And talking about that, we still have an exception and that is OneNote.

What does it mean for OneDrive for Business when talking about co-authoring?

  • I could say nothing, because co-authoring has to do with the application itself when connected to the SharePoint Server in real-time.
  • Different versions of a particular document? What will be synchronized? It will depend on the application that understands a particular file-type and can communicate with the SharePoint Server to exchange pieces of the file to synchronize the entire content.

One exception we have with OneNote:

To synchronize (have the same notebook/file on server-side and client-side) a OneNote notebook, there is no OneDrive for Business necessary and you will also not find any big files somewhere synchronized by OneDrive for Business. In other words, I would say OneNote is a native co-authoring overall synchronizing and usable tool, or even better to say ‘Note-Book with Editor’. You can have access to the same notebook from any device at the same time together with a lot of different people and Office365/Microsoft/Corporate-ADFS/… Accounts.

Still, there could occur also conflicts with OneNote, and I am able fixing these with OneNote 2013 on my client machine.

The mobile worker:

Can perfectly use OneNote to be always synchronized with latest information from department assistants and other mobile workers on the road.

Scenario when not using OneNote:

There is a SharePoint Team Site for a special project. My assistant and I have access to the site and I am synchronizing the document library using OneDrive for Business. On the road/train/plane I am working on a document and, in this example, offline, so not using the co-authoring way of editing. My assistant also did a few changes somewhere else in the document with e.g. 100 pages, using the client application or may be OWAS from e.g. home. Now, my laptop gets online and wants to synchronize my changed document/file with the server-storage, the document library in the Team Site using OneDrive for Business. Here we will get a conflict, because the version saved on the server side is a newer one than the last synchronized version on my laptop. OneDrive for Business cannot resolve the conflict and it needs manual interactions. Now it depends on the client application installed on the laptop, whether this one is able to open the local "changed document on the road" with the also newer server side version. Each application may behave differently, so no general answer possible. Also the SharePoint Server cannot help here, because the client application knows the file format and knows how to split it up to synchronize with the server side.

How conflicts can occur is always the same, and not specific to a particular synchronization piece of software.

How each application works with the own file-types and how co-authoring and conflict resolving works, please check on specific documentation for these applications.

Any above mentioned behavior is on one hand a logical one and on the other one still a subject to change.


Restrictions and limitations when you sync SharePoint libraries to your computer through OneDrive for Business

Use Office Web Apps with SharePoint 2013

Collaboration just got easier: Real-time co-authoring now available in Office Web Apps

The Garage Series for Office 365: First look at new real-time co-authoring for Office Web Apps

Real-time co-authoring in the Excel Web App: Why and how we did it

Limitations for Excel Web Apps:

Limitations for Word Web Apps:

Limitations for PowerPoint Web Apps:

OneDrive for Business Sync Limitations:

Note the following limitations related to syncing OneDrive for Business and other site libraries to your computer:

  • You can sync up to 20,000 items in your OneDrive for Business library, including folders and files. / This might be as well a subject to change.
  • You can sync up to 5,000 items in site libraries, including folders and files. / This might be as well a subject to change.
  • In any library, you can download files up to 2 GB. / This might be as well a subject to change.

Description MS-FSSHTTP (aka Cobalt) Protocol used for Coauthoring:

Background: This file synchronization protocol is supported on client-side by Office 2010 or higher and on server-side by the Office Web Application Server or by SharePoint 2010 or higher.

Office 2013 maintains a local Cobalt cache in " C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OfficeFileCache".

OneNote is an exception here, it maintains its own Cobalt cache under " C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\OneNote\15.0"

OneDrive for Business is using the same transport protocol for synchronizing changes to any file types between the local Office 2013 cache and SharePoint.

Cobalt as file synchronization protocol enables features like coauthoring (it can transmit revision packages for any change by different users). Coauthoring is supported by applications like Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013 or the corresponding web apps.

OneDrive for Business does not provide any direct application support for Coauthoring, it uses the Cobalt protocol in order to synchronize changes for any file types.

And much more when you look for SharePoint and Co-Authoring.

Comments (1)
  1. K. L. Estes says:

    In regards to the section "The only exceptional application is called OneNote:", I had trouble figuring out your English.  If you are willing to share your Onenote expertise with me, I will help you with your English.

Comments are closed.

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