On December 16th, Microsoft announced (here) the availability of the highly anticipated “Next Generation Sync Client (NGSC)” [for OneDrive for Business].
I have been beta testing the new client for months and it is super fast (4x) the speed of the old sync client. It has resolved most of the pain points of the original sync client based on the Groove engine (also previously known as SharePoint Workspace).
After reading through the release notes (here) and (here) I can state that most large companies should wait until April of 2016 before considering a large scale deployment of the NGSC to their enterprise. However, IT Departments can begin evaluating the NGSC now in preparation for a deployment in April.
Why wait until April, you may ask? First, if your organization has any Windows 8.1 devices, they have to wait until April anyway, because the NGSC client is not available until Q1 anyway. The second reason is because if your organization is currently using the existing sync client there is currently no automated, in-place takeover or migration of content to the Next Generation Sync Client. This will be added in the first quarter of 2016. Therefore, by April, this capability will be available. This is significant to point out, because if you deploy the NGSC before April, the end-user experience for transitioning to the NGSC is “high touch” as follows:
1. End-users must manually turn off syncing (this cannot be automated by the IT Department)
2. End-users must manually rename the old OneDrive sync folder.
3. At this point, the end-user must launch the setup program and select which folders to sync (this is the new “selective sync” feature in the NGSC client). Note: Several IT deployment options are available (here).
4. Finally, the selected folders are synced back down to the client. Here is the rub – that is a big network impact to your Internet circuit if you have more than just a handful of users. That is why the April date is so important, because the feature to “in-place takeover” of the existing local contents of the previous OneDrive folder avoids having to re-download all the content. I cannot emphasize enough how important this decision is to the overall project.
The OneDrive for Business sync client brings many new features including 4x faster sync, the highly desirable selective sync feature, removing the 20,000 sync limit, supporting files up to 10GB in size, and the desirable promise of “unlimited” storage (Microsoft repeated this commitment following their announcement of pulling this from the consumer versions of OneDrive). Therefore, I am confident that organizations will eventually come to embrace the new sync client. However, the reality of large enterprises today is that they must wait for the in-place takeover feature to avoid a disruptive impact to their internet circuits. Alternatively, they could “stagger” the deployment into small batches, but at that point, that would cause the overall project to likely last beyond April anyway, so it makes more sense to me to wait until the takeover feature is available.
However, I encourage IT Departments to begin evaluating the new sync client right away. Tech-Savvy IT Users can follow these easy instructions to deploy the NGSC to their machines by following this article (here). However, those instructions don’t point out the recommendation to first stop syncing the current OneDrive folder and renaming the old folder, so just don’t forget those steps.