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OneDrive Sync Issues - A Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you are an Enterprise customer with Microsoft these days, you're likely wrestling with timing on when to pull the trigger and launch OneDrive for Business (Office 365) for your end users. Until recently, this has been a frustrating experience for IT and their users as the sync technology (re-branded Groove) has been riddled with synchronization issues. In this article, I will give you our experience with one of our customers, and how we finally got this working better with the new OneDrive sync client.



Our client in this example had moved 90% of their users Home folders - an ancient but tried and true storage solution :-) to OneDrive. This was mainly accomplished by using a third party tool; Sharegate was our tool of choice, as it was able to mitigate issues for us, like invalid characters in files. We still had some issues with file path length - remember that OneDrive for Business - Office 365 can take a path of 256 and a long file name, but it won't sync to a local folder unless the entire path/file length are under 256 characters. Luckily Sharegate came to the rescue again here and helped us identify these files and rename when needed. Everything appeared to be great until we noticed randomly and without notice, sync would just break :-( We were using the traditional "OneDrive for Business" sync client that was bundled with Office 2013/2016.


Painful Sync Issues:

So, we had sync issues, no big deal, or so we thought. Most of the guidance for the error above is to use the repair option, which copies the broken local cached folder to backup and then re-downloads a clean copy from Office 365. In most cases, the user will be set to start syncing up files again, but in many instances, there was one major issue. The user didn't notice the broken sync for days/weeks/months, and kept putting files locally in their "OneDrive for Business Folder" Yikes!!!

So now, we had to conduct a delta sync between their old "OneDrive for Business" local folder and the new folder that the repair process created. Unfortunately, PowerShell scripting, Robocopy, or 3rd party tools like Beyond Compare were the only way to sync these two local directories and push files to Office 365. This completely manual process, but luckily we were only dealing with 50 users or so.


A Light at the End of the Tunnel:

Despite our best efforts to make all this work with the old "OneDrive for Business" client, it kept failing us, and it was like one of those bad dreams you can't seem to wake up from :-) Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, as the new (OneDrive) client now works with both "personal OneDrive Accounts" and "business accounts - O365" After about 4 months of use, I can say first-hand that the new sync engine is rock solid and it's alleviated most if not all of our customer's sync issues. In most cases, the configuration was seamless too, as it just used the existing cached "OneDrive for Business" folder.


Some things we're still waiting on.

All is now good with OneDrive sync for O365 OneDrive, but the following list of features is still pending release later this year, and it should close the loop on Sync issues for SharePoint sites and other use cases.

- Syncing SharePoint Libraries (still only works with the old client)

- Selective folder sync with SharePoint Libraries (not currently available)

- Syncing files from other users OneDrive locally (still only works with the old client)

Our advice for adopting OneDrive and its synchronization capabilities is to take a staged approach within your Enterprise and clearly set expectations about what works well, and what does not. The good news is the new Sync technology is great and Enterprises that were shying away from really pushing all their content out of file shares and into SharePoint/OneDrive can now put a realistic plan in place to make this happen.

And for you poor unfortunate souls that need to migrate users from the old client like we did, here is a good resource -

Happy syncing all, and a big thank you to my friend and colleague Marcel Meth for his efforts on this project.

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