Is Microsoft OneDrive Bouncing Back?

Few, if any, Microsoft products have been as unloved as OneDrive for Business. The firm launched its file-sharing application in 2007 as a response to the sudden emergence and rapid success of Box and Dropbox. At the time, the launch might have heralded the death of these independent file sync and share companies as the Microsoft brand and its ubiquitous install base could surely have crushed them all. Instead, the many and various problems associated with early versions of OneDrive helped to drive growth for Box and Dropbox.

Over time, OneDrive has improved, and its consumer version is now equal to both of its significant rivals. But OneDrive for Business, the commercial version, has struggled to keep pace for several fundamental reasons. The main reason is that it didn’t do an excellent job of syncing files and that it relied on aging SharePoint legacy infrastructure, which wasn’t designed for the cloud. In 2016 Microsoft went as far as to state that OneDrive wasn’t for sharing files at all: that job was for a SharePoint team site. Twelve years on from the first OneDrive release, Box and Dropbox have both had IPOs and now provide file-sharing services to 350,000 businesses between them. At Deep Analysis, our question is whether all that is about is to change. Is OneDrive for Business finally ready for prime time?

You can never write Microsoft off; it seldom gets its first or even second release of a new product right. Microsoft products typically require multiple upgrades and fixes before its truly ready for prime time OneDrive has taken its time, but it does seem to be finally getting there. The firm is now winning significant new customers like Autodesk, Walmart, Michigan State, MGM, and Cox Automotive away from Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox. Microsoft claims, with some justification, that the last six months have been pivotal to a rebound of OneDrive for Business. So what has changed?

The first change was to make a shift from Box or Dropbox to OneDrive financially appealing. In early 2018, Microsoft made the aggressive move to open a six-month window for customers with at least 500 users on Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive to switch to OneDrive for free for the remainder of their existing contract. Then came parity between the Windows and Mac clients, plus the ability to work with on-premises SharePoint, not just SharePoint online, and improved navigation, search, and editing capabilities. Most important of all, OneDrive finally fixed its core syncing capabilities, the root cause of so many of the earlier complaints.

Over the coming months, we plan to talk to some of the switchers and find out in more detail why they moved to OneDrive. For now, file sync and share is a four-horse race, with Box and Dropbox out in front, OneDrive closing in fast, and Google Drive still behind. It will be interesting to watch the race unfold over the coming year.

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