Office 365 Enhances SkyDrive Pro Capacity, Sharing, and Data Protection

Office 365 Enhances SkyDrive Pro Capacity, Sharing, and Data Protection

This week, Microsoft announced some great incremental enhancements to SkyDrive Pro.  Improvements include capacity, data protection, and user experience. Details are here.

Let's look behind the announcement to call out the key take-aways, and answer some of the questions that I and others have about what is really happening, and when. Huge props, thank-you's, and "mahalos" to Mark Kashman (@MKashman) and Tejas Mehta (@TPMehta), Senior Product Managers for Office 365 and all-around good peeps, who took time out of their busy days and lives to answer theese questions. Fantastically helpful!

Post any answers that YOU have in the comments below!

What I Mean by SkyDrive Pro

Before we begin, let me point out that with all the naming/branding hulabaloo let's be clear that in THIS context, SkyDrive Pro means the SharePoint Online document library in your My Site (again, on Office 365).  The changes are not for on-prem, nor do they directly affect the SkyDrive Pro client applications or the consumer SkyDrive offerings.

Oh, and this "SkyDrive Pro" is not for Office 365 Home Premium or Dedicated customers.  JUST business and enterprise plans. 

Yowza.  It is time to fix this naming/branding mess… Mark… Tejas…Please help us by solving the branding/naming game soon!

Who Is Affected By SkyDrive Pro Changes

Mark DID help us by laying out super-clearly which plans and users do and don't get SkyDrive Pro.  In short, "Any Office 365 for business user who has usage rights to SkyDrive Pro."  That means users with licenses to the following plans:

  • Office 365 Small Business (P1/P2) - but as you know, my guidance is "friends don't let friends' businesses subscribe at only the P level"
  • Office 365 Midsized, which doesn't appear to have a letter-number code for the plan
  • Office 365 Enterprise (E1, E3, and E4) - Mark clarified a small question that I had simmering in my mind, which was "What ever happened to E2?"  E2 collapsed into E1, when v15 Office 365 added Office Web Apps Edit capability, which was previously the only distinction between the plans.
  • Office 365 Education (A2, A3, and A4)
  • Office 365 Government (G1-G4)

Let's call the collective set of users listed above, "SkyDrive Pro for business users."

Users licensed for Kiosk use (K1, K2) and external users (users with whom SharePoint content is shared using Office 365's new external sharing feature) do not get SkyDrive Pro licenses, and are therefore not affected by these changes.  

As mentioned earlier, Office 365 Home and Dedicated customers are not affected by these current changes.

So now on to the changes.

25GB Storage Limit By Default

Each new user gets 25GB (up from 7GB) of SkyDrive Pro storage allocated by default, in both new tenants and existing tenants.  Every SkyDrive Pro for business user gets the increase.

Up to 100GB Storage

You can bump up a user to 50GB or 100GB.

The user's SkyDrive Pro storage counts against your tenancy's quota, which is based on the number of licensed, non-Kiosk users you have. 

See the blog posting for details about the total quota calculation for your tenancy.  The good news is that additional storage is quite affordable, based on what I've seen from competing enterprise-caliber services.

Max Upload Size 2GB

One of the "under-hyped" improvements is that maximum upload size is bumped up to 2GB--the "hard limit" max of file size in SharePoint.  This is really excellent news, and Mark and Tejas will be posting more information soon about this change.  

Keep in mind that just because you can upload a ginormous file doesn't mean you should. There are issues of user experience (sitting waiting for a file to upload) and timeout to consider.  

The experience of uploading any large file will be, in my experience, significantly better using the SkyDrive Pro client or app on your computer. Using the SkyDrive Pro client application, you can now upload as big a file as SharePoint (and its underlying SQL storage) can take. This enhancement to SkyDrive Pro basically brings it in line with the SkyDrive consumer limits.

Maximum upload size is scoped at the tenancy in Office 365.  It cannot be configured directly by administrators.  I've run into scenarios where Microsoft was asked to change the max upload size (in those days, to increase it).  

So I believe it can be done through support, but I'm not 100 percent sure and there are probably fewer scenarios in which a customer would have reason to decrease the max upload size now that it's at its max, 2GB.

Recycle Bin 90 Day Default

Recycle Bin retention is bumped up from 30 days to 90 days, by default. Keep in mind that is 90 days from the date of original deletion--it's the cumulative time that an item has spent in either the first or second stage Recycle Bin.

I've actually never had to deal with the Recycle Bin settings in Office 365--I never had a customer with a need that touched that control in Office 365, though on-prem there are definite scenarios where the Recycle Bin should be modified or even disabled.

It's a good thing my customers have never needed to tweak it in Office 365, because at the current time you cannot.  Your Recycle Bin will simply be 90 days, moving forward.

I hope they add this control to Office 365 in the future, because I've seen scenarios in which it was critical that when a document was deleted, it had to be *completely* deleted (i.e., no Recycle Bin allowed).  Alternately, Microsoft should add a "shred" capability to completely purge an item or document from Office 365 as a separate command.

10-Item Version History By Default

Versioning is now on by default in SkyDrive Pro, with 10 versions retained. The new version-enabled configuration will apply only to newly-provisioned SkyDrive Pro libraries. There will not be a retroactive application of the setting, though you can certainly choose to enable versioning.

Personally, I think a 10-limit version history is an excellent default for most lists and libraries. It won't kill your storage quota, in most cases, and it will reduce friction when items or documents are corrupted (i.e., a user makes a bad change and clicks Save). Certainly, to have this be the default for your usrers' SkyDrive Pro document library makes great sense as a protect-your-support-team-from-stupid-user-mistakes default.

However, there's a problem here: if you have two users with SkyDrive Pro accounts, one (an existing user) won't have versioning enabled by default, and one will.  That means only one user will, by default, be able to recover a corrupted file thanks to version history.  This inconsistency is problematic, but is a result of incremental service improvements.

I highly recommend that you manage to a consistent configuration that is itself consistent with your governance policies for user document verison history retention.  For example, touch each of your existing users' SkyDrive Pro libraries and enable versioning.  Don't let User A and User B be inconsistent just because Microsoft has changed a default.

Together with the Recycle Bin change, document libraries will now "protect" data out-of-the-box, with better ability to recover previous versions and deleted items.

Changes to Every Site's Lists and Libraries: Not Quite As Advertised

The blog entry slips in a very important point, in under-hyped voice: The new max upload size, recycle bin, and versioning settings apply to team site documents and data as well.

To clarify what will really happen: Recycle Bin and max upload size settings are scoped to the teancy, so of course they affect both SkyDrive Pro and all documents and data in all of your site collections.

However, versioning will NOT be enabled on document libraries by default, EXCEPT newly provisioned SkyDrive Pro (My Site) libraries. This bit of news contradicts what was posted in the Office 365 blog (at least, intially--it might be updated by now).  But it has been confirmed with engineering that this is the case. 

You can, obviously, enable versioning and configure an appropriate version retention limit on any of your lists or libraries.

Shared With Me View

SkyDrive Pro now offers a "Shared with Me" view, which shows… documents other users have shared with you.  That, along with the Most Recently Used functionality in clients, gives users easy access to the documents that are likely most relevant to them.

This is one step away from what the market really needs, which is Dropbox-like synchronization of these "shared with me" resources for offline access. 

This is one of the most, if not the #1 most, missing features in SkyDrive (consumer and pro), after universal-cross-device-offline syncing.

When I saw the "Shared With Me" view, I thought Microsoft was just one step away from getting there, but it turns out it's a search-powered view, not really associated directly with SkyDrive.  So they're further away than I'd hoped.

Document Library Limit

There's a limit of 5,000 items in a document library that seems, at first, somewhat arbitrary.  That has not changed, yet.

Turns out it's a view limit related to sync'ing.  Mark Kashman indicates, in the blog, that Microsoft is reviewing plans to address this limitation, but doesn't have anything to announce.

Bravo, Mark.  This kind of communication is exactly what we need from Microsoft these days: Acknowledge that there's a problem and that you're aware of it, let us know it matters.  Sure, you can't commit to a solution until you know it is going to happen… I get that.

I hope these kinds of acknowledgements happen with increasing regularity, across teams and products, and that they also incorporate some indication of "priority."

For example, "we know customers are missing the Search By Content functionality in Office 365.  We're a) examining options to address the need, b) actively developing solutions, and if we're able to successfully solve the problem we'll make an announcement, c) working very hard to finalize a solution for the problem [i.e., "it's coming!"] or even d) there are reasons for which we aren't able to address this problem in the coming few releases."

Telegraph the roadmap, and customers will follow you on the road with greater "delight."

And These Settings Take Effect, When?

When Microsoft made these announcements yesterday, I immediately went to my tenancy to test the impact of the changes.  But I didn't actually see any changes in my Office 365 tenancy.  

That led me to write what became this article, and "burning question #1" was, "When should I see these changes?"

My assumed answer was: the announcement was a bit premature and settings have not actually taken effect, at least not for existing tenancies. The answer from Microsoft as of Tuesday, August 27 was: Microsoft hit a snag with the SharePoint Admin UI component that is currently delaying deployment, worldwide.

Today, according to Mark, "We hit a small deployment bug for the new SkyDrive Pro tab in the SharePoint Online admin center. We’ll clear it soon, and then it still takes a few days to roll the changes to all SharePoint Online farms across the globe."  

In the meantime, deployment of other technical and operational changes is proceeding.  His reasonable advice: "Hang tight."

So sure, there was a little bump in the road of this release. As Mark told me, "It's a brave new world."  We all--customers and Microsoft alike--are learning what it takes to work with each other in it.

But we continue to see a new Microsoft, releasing incremental but important improvements to its online services.  The route isn't easy, but this big ship has clearly turned around and is sailing a new course.  

Thanks again to Tejas and especially to Mark for digging in to answer the community's questions!!

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