Microsoft IT is implementing Microsoft OneDrive for Business as a managed file synchronization and storage service on Windows, iOS, and Android operating systems. In the process, we are decommissioning costly on-premises solutions. The cloud-based OneDrive sync client user experience is identical for personal and business content, giving users access to their data from a single interface. With storage in Azure, it provides robust enterprise-grade security and compliance controls.


OneDrive sync client unifies client file storage and synchronization


Microsoft IT wanted to use Microsoft OneDrive for Business and the OneDrive sync client to create a cohesive, cloud based file synchronization and file storage service for internal corporate users. We’ve gained an economical and effective service where our people can get their files from any client, wherever they are.

The OneDrive sync client user experience is united and identical, whether working with personal or business files. A few key limitations of the previous OneDrive sync client have been resolved, and our users have gained significant new benefits. In short, quotas are effectively a thing of the past, users can selectively choose the files and folders they want to synchronize, and there is no longer a need for extra disk space to handle cached file copies. On the administrative side, OneDrive for Business is a reliable Office 365 service, built on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Office 365 and Azure provide strong security and compliance controls.

We’re working to deploy OneDrive for Business across Microsoft as our default corporate client data management and file synchronization service. At the same time, we’re consolidating and retiring our former services. Decommissioning our costly on-premises Windows file storage and folder redirection and file synchronization services is not trivial—they support more than 70,000 users.

Retire on-premises services

Ultimately, we want to consolidate and retire two different large-scale services. They support both traditional Windows backup—for scenarios such as reimaging new or repaired computers—and folder redirection and file synchronization.

The services are capital-intensive to create and costly to maintain. Between them, hosting, storage, and operations costs easily total more than $1 million USD a year, not including the cost of service engineering resources. On-premises servers and storage are required at different locations around the world, and service engineers must manage, maintain, and support the services. We have to constantly invest to keep the services running adequately—adding disk space and server capacity as needed. Service engineers and IT Helpdesk support resources must be funded for both services.

We are working to reduce the number of active users of former services to no more than 5 percent of our employee population. Some internal users have specific business requirements or work in networking conditions that require them to remain on earlier services. For example, files may be excessively large, or users might be extremely remote. In some locations, legal and regulatory specifications must be satisfied. One example is data sovereignty, where files must stay in their country or region.

Windows backup

Our Windows backup service is used to support catastrophic or rebuilding scenarios. It backs up system components such as local data, browser and file favorites, and desktop configurations. It is used when a laptop has been lost, or needs to be repaired and re-imaged. It restores data to a new computer or a new instance of Windows. Data is backed up to Microsoft IT-managed file servers.

Maintaining the infrastructure for Windows backup is a global effort. We maintain file servers and file shares around the world. Service costs vary. 200 TB of storage spans 30 virtual machine servers. In addition to significant initial capital investments, operational costs require approximately $150,000 a year for virtual machine server hosting, and approximately $500,000 a year for storage and data management.

Folder redirection and file synchronization

Our folder redirection and file synchronization service supports roaming and synchronization between local devices and the cloud. Users specify the files and folders that they want to synchronize.

Like the Windows backup service, maintaining the folder redirection and file synchronization service is a global effort. Support at three Microsoft IT-managed datacenters around the world is required, and we also use a virtual branch office server solution. We maintain 250 TB of storage across 200 virtual machine servers. Server hosting and storage management costs are comparable to the Windows backup service, requiring an additional $150,000 a month for server hosting, and approximately $500,000 a year for storage management. Our IT Service desk supports the folder redirection and file synchronization service, which generates about 30 to 40 cases per month, costing approximately $120,000 annually.

OneDrive for Business as a service

We are deploying OneDrive for Business and the OneDrive for Business sync client as a unified service for our users. We wanted to be sure that wherever their personal or business data is, it can be accessed from any device. The OneDrive sync client runs on Windows, iOS, and Android operating systems. The application is integrated into a single interface that is accessible through mobile devices or the OneDrive web portal. To access business files, OneDrive for Business users do not have to be joined to a domain or connected to a corporate network. As long as their identity is verified through two-factor authentication or Microsoft Passport for Work, they can access their business data.

OneDrive for Business is extremely cost effective because it does not require hardware or storage investments. It is managed as part of our overall Office 365 subscription.

Defining Success

We defined specific success components for OneDrive for Business. For our users, it had to be simple and reliable, and seamlessly integrated with familiar tools. Files had to be stored in the cloud, securely protected, and accessible from anywhere. For our enterprise, we required a cloud-first, mobile-first, and cost-effective solution that provides enterprise-grade security and compliance, and IT control.

Client improvements

We’ve already talked about how our users can use the same OneDrive interface from any device. They can be on their mobile device, the web, or in Windows File Explorer, and see the same files.

In addition, the OneDrive for Business sync client improves synchronization, functionality, and reliability, and effectively lifts quotas on file limits. The extra cached disk space that was once required to synchronize files is no longer necessary.

Real-time desktop synchronization reliability, across all endpoints, is improved in comparison to our previous services. It is also more advanced than other cloud file synchronization solutions. A typical cloud file synchronization solution maintains a real-time synchronization rate of 93 percent. The real-time synchronization success rate for OneDrive for Business with the new sync client is currently 99.5 percent.

Users are no longer limited to 20,000 files or folders. They can use up to 1 TB of storage space. This is a vast amount of storage, which effectively eliminates quotas. They can also select specific files and folders to synchronize to the local device. In the past, users had to synchronize all files and folders in their OneDrive for Business profile.

A variety of technologies enable roaming for our users. Windows 10 desktop personalization settings and browser favorites help to maintain the user experience across devices. Enterprise State Roaming, enabled through Windows 10 and Azure Active Directory, maintains business settings across devices. OneDrive settings maintain personal file and folder settings on devices running Windows 8 or later.

Enterprise improvements

Our enterprise has realized security and simplification advantages with OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business delivers enterprise-grade IT security, compliance, and control of work files. Storage for the service is within the Office 365 infrastructure, and it does not require a private cloud file server for storage.

Data Leak Prevention (DLP) constantly monitors files stored on OneDrive for Business, automatically classifies sensitive files, and helps protect against accidental sharing or data leaks. The OneDrive for Business service also supports encryption for data at rest in the cloud, and in transit.

In our former services, storage quotas had to be created and managed by administrators. In OneDrive for Business, each user is allocated 1 TB of Office 365 storage space. This large amount of storage has greatly simplified storage management, by eliminating the need to actively manage quotas.

Enterprise State Roaming offers enterprise-grade security, increases user productivity, helps to address privacy concerns, and simplifies IT management.

Cost avoidance

At Microsoft, each OneDrive for Business user’s storage allocation is included in our overall Office 365 cloud service cost. As referenced earlier, adopting OneDrive for Business saves us more than $1 million a year in costs associated with hosting, maintaining, and supporting our previous services.

Next steps

So far, we’ve deployed OneDrive for Business to 45,000 pilot users, with a goal of deploying to 150,000 information worker users across Microsoft. Going forward, we will continue to promote OneDrive for Business as our default client data management and file synchronization solution. We have defined adoption milestones, and we will evangelize the service across the corporation through targeted internal communication, such as email invitations and intranet pages.

With the OneDrive sync client now in place, we will develop a phased service improvement plan. We expect to increase our internal client satisfaction (also called NSAT) rating. We aim to meet or exceed our previous services’ NSAT rating.

We will continue to take advantage of new features of OneDrive for Business as they become available. They include conditional access with multi-factor authentication and mobile device management. Mobile device management will minimize complexity through integrated data protection and compliance capabilities. Enterprise Data Protection with Windows 10 will help protect Microsoft business or user data by enforcing policy and compliance on all devices that access Microsoft resources.


Although OneDrive for Business is not completely adopted across our enterprise, we are on are way to realizing it as our default client data management and file synchronization solution. We have gained an economical, intuitive, and secure service for our corporate client data, and we will retire two costly and resource-intensive services.

For more information

Microsoft IT

Separating business and personal settings with Enterprise State Roaming


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