Microsoft's OneDrive for Business gets Mac client, shared folder sync

Much-requested features are still just playing catch-up with existing players

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Credit: Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft gave users and administrators of OneDrive for Business some new features on Tuesday that they’ve requested for a while.

The company also launched a new Mac client for its business-focused cloud storage service that can be deployed outside the confines of the Mac App Store. Users will also be able to sync files from SharePoint sites and OneDrive for Business shared folders to their desktops, like they have been able to for files that they own.

IDC Research Manager Chandana Gopal said in an interview that she saw the new features are Microsoft’s attempt to play catch up with other players in the enterprise cloud storage market like Box and Dropbox, which already offer Mac clients and broad syncing of all the files stored in their services. What’s more, Box and Dropbox are working on making it possible for people to stream files from the cloud to the desktop when they need them.

“If you think about it, some of the other [cloud storage] players that they’re competing with have gone beyond the sync client, they’re thinking beyond sync,” she said.

Like Mac clients from competing services, the OneDrive for Business client will sync files from Microsoft’s cloud and make them accessible from a user’s computer. Microsoft allowed Mac users to access OneDrive for Business files through the OneDrive app available in the Mac App Store. This standalone client gives IT administrators a way to directly deploy business-specific functionality.

Allowing users to sync group shared folders and data from SharePoint means that teams can have up-to-date versions of broadly shared files automatically available to them. In the past, users had to go get those files from a web interface, or use an older version of the OneDrive client that supported SharePoint sync.

January seems like the season for updates to cloud file storage services. Box just announced a set of updates to its Notes notetaking and collaboration product, and Dropbox is hosting a press event next week.

While these updates help address some of the key critiques of OneDrive for Business, Microsoft still has a list of other feature updates that it needs to tackle. For example, building applications that work with OneDrive for Business is a difficult process that Microsoft says it is working on, but those changes haven’t yet materialized.

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