Ever since Work Folders was released in Windows 8.1, the most frequently asked question is how Work Folders different from OneDrive for Business. The short answer is, Work Folders is the sync client for file server, and OneDrive for Business is the sync client for SharePoint.
While the comparison between file servers and SharePoint is out of the scope for this blog post, I found this TechNet article to be useful if you are researching whether to use SharePoint or file server for the user data storage. Once you decide on the infrastructure, the rest is simple. Work Folders offers access to data stored on file servers on a variety of devices, and the devices can be on corpnet or over the internet; and OneDrive for Business will do the same when data is on SharePoint.
While I’m not the expert on SharePoint/OneDrive for Business, I get to learn a lot from many customer discussions, and in this blog post, I’ll share my view on the differences between Work Folders and OneDrive for Business.
|OneDrive for Business||Work Folders|
|Data storage location||SharePoint Online (O365 Cloud)
On-premise SharePoint 2013
|On-premise Windows file server
Note: We are doing private testing to enable sync on SMB shares
|User experience||User access data stored in OneDrive for Business folder||User access data stored in Work Folders folder|
|Sync status||User view sync status from the file/folder icon overlay, or go to the View sync problems link from the file explorer menu||User view sync status from the file explore status bar; or control panel Work Folders app|
|User data||In the current release, only user personal site can by synced.Team share can be accessed online, but not through OD4B||Support only user data share.
Team share is not supported currently.
|Other access||User can open web page for content access||User can use SMB access to the share if admin has configured|
|Data encryption on client device||Leveraging BitLocker||Allow admin to enforce encryption policy on client, using Selective wipe encryption|
|Device support||PCs, iOS, Android, Windows Phone||PCs, iOS, Android|
|Collaboration||Allow user to share files via links||NA|
|File limits||Focus more on office documents, some files types/characters in file/path name are not supported.||Any file types.However, sync will automatically excludes desktop.ini, thumbs.db and *.tmp which are machine specific or temp files.|
|Admin experience||SharePoint management experience||File server management experience|
|Data backup/restore||Managed by the O365 team, backup every 12 hours and is retained for 14 days.||Admin managed, use any VSS backup application, e.g. DPM.|
Both Work Folders and OneDrive for Business are improving through releases, the table above only captures the current view, and for sure they will change over time. When making the choices, think about the backend infrastructure first, i.e. file server vs SharePoint.
I also want to acknowledge the feedback on providing a consistent user experience between Work Folders and One Drive for Business, and I welcome you to share your thoughts on that in comments below, specifically help me to understand what consistent user experience mean to you. Thank you.