I’ve been a Dropbox user for years but with Microsoft’s upgrade of OneDrive for Business (formerly Skydrive Pro) to include 1TB of storage for every Office 365 user, I decided to move the majority of my files to that platform. I could pay for additional Dropbox storage but, frankly, why do I need to, with that much storage included in my Office 365 E1 subscription?
However, after a couple of days trying to force a synchronisation of legacy content into OneDrive for Business (noting the various restrictions), I have drawn the following conclusion:
The One Drive for Business sync engine is “pants” (definition 3 in the OED).
It’s straightforward enough to define folders for syncing into SharePoint Online (which is where OneDrive for Business stores data), and most of my content synced OK but I had one folder of correspondence, going back to my early days of using a PC (some WordStar and WordPerfect files, as well as some very early Word formats in there – right through to current day documents) that was causing difficulties.
Unfortunately, whilst the OneDrive for Business client is able to sync folders in parallel, it seems to work through a folder in serial. If it comes up with a problem, it doesn’t seem to skip it and move on – at least not in the way that might be expected. It might flag an issue, but there’s no “skip file” option. And it doesn’t seem to have a method for forcing a sync either. Or for telling me which file it’s currently attempting to work with. Here’s what I found…
Uploading files directly to OneDrive will change the modified date (perhaps to be expected):
Opening a “stuck file” in Word will present a sign-in error:
Even if you are already signed in:
and verified with File, Account
No good attempting to sign out (and in again) either:
(I’m logged into my Windows 8.1 PC using a Microsoft account, although I can switch to the organisation account that uses the same credentials for Office 365 access).
One thing I found that would sometimes kick-start proceedings was (in Word) removing the Connected Service for OneDrive – markwilson.it (and then adding it again, which forces a re-authentication):
Sometimes, I found that wasn’t necessary – just by ignoring the “credentials needed” error it might go away after a while!
I even resorted to opening each “stuck file” and closing it again, making sure I didn’t actually change it (clicking the Sign In button will update the document). This seemed to unblock things for a while until, eventually, I found myself in a situation where Word wouldn’t open any of the content waiting to sync. Some of the errors suggested it was trying to download the cloud copy rather than the local one whilst other times it failed silently.
In fairness, OneDrive for Business does have an option to repair the synced folders but that downloads everything from SharePoint again… and as half of it hadn’t got up there yet that wasn’t going to help much!
I re-installed Office 2013 and was just about to do the same with OneDrive for Business (which turns out to be based on Groove) but, instead, I decided to simply create a new folder and paste the files into that – effectively a second copy of the data to start the sync again from fresh.
After all the fighting with the first copy, the second copy synced in a few minutes (well, it got stuck on a few files but I deleted them, then pasted them in again, after which they synced). It seems that, fundamentally, the OneDrive for Business sync engine is more than a little bit flaky (which doesn’t leave me feeling good about my data). Thankfully, Microsoft is reported as acknowledging that the sync limits are “well understood” – and I hope that doesn’t just include the limits on item counts and file naming imposed by the SharePoint back-end.
Isn’t this is all just a bit too much effort for what Dropbox (and others) have made so simple?