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Don’t overlook OneDrive when planning an Office 365 deployment


You didn’t think your Office 365 deployment was going to be seamless and without issues, did you? Well, if you are having some difficulties, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone, especially when it comes to deploying Microsoft’s file sharing service -- OneDrive.

Don’t believe me? Let me give you an example. An employee in your organization gets a new Office 365 account, excited to see how this cloud-based version of these familiar tools can improve productivity. This employee already has 20 gigabytes worth of documents on a laptop and wants to save storage space. So, the employee installs OneDrive for Business and begins to upload all of those docs. Suddenly, upload times slow to a crawl. Business applications grind and fail to open. That’s not the exact user experience Office 365 promised.

Sound familiar?

While this example is hypothetical, it is not unusual. I’ve heard countless stories of company networks getting blown up from synchronizing issues with OneDrive. That’s a big problem, since OneDrive is central to pretty much everything Office 365 does.

But, since it is simply a file-sharing site, OneDrive can be easily overlooked during your Office 365 deployment. By acknowledging that OneDrive brings some unique challenges and ensuring that IT efficiency is designed-in prior to your deployment, you can forego the excessive increases in bandwidth or any of the potential bottlenecks along the way. However, if OneDrive isn’t accounted for during the planning phase, its performance problems will begin to cascade through the rest of the Office 365 ecosystem.

So much so that, in a Tech Validate survey of 200 companies, nearly 70 percent experienced weekly bandwidth congestion or latency issues after deploying Office 365.

While tracking latency is important with OneDrive, controlling bandwidth at the network level is often more important. On average, network utilization with Office 365 increases by 40 percent. That’s because each user is now generating between 12 and 20 persistent connections. This increase can easily overwhelm firewalls and increase your transport budget. Configuring limits around upload and download will be key to helping prevent OneDrive from oversaturating your network connections.

But, simply defining limits isn’t enough on its own. Where you place those limits along your network is also of critical importance.

At the client level, you could configure bandwidth limits that allow for 1MB of upload and 10MB of download. But once you aggregated that over hundreds of users at the branch, you quickly need to abstract bandwidth control to the network layer. 

Placing bandwidth control at the local egress point of the branch office is the best place for it. Because Microsoft recommends local egress as the best connection method for Office 365, controlling this connection will be key to guaranteeing a healthy Office 365 deployment and branch connectivity.

Zscaler has gone to great pains to enable the best control over these local egress connections. With Bandwidth Control, network administrators and IT teams can set comprehensive rules around Office 365 traffic and other traffic, including to the open internet. For example, you can designate 40 percent of your bandwidth for Office 365 traffic but limit the maximum use to 50 percent so that OneDrive connections don’t kill the rest of your local breakouts.

Sophisticated bandwidth management controls allow you to guarantee bandwidth for Office 365 traffic during periods of contention—such as when users are watching YouTube or streaming the NCAA tournament. Zscaler gracefully slows the connection—before the last mile—without discarding packets, so a user gets an uninterrupted experience. The stream is simply downgraded when contention occurs. These controls can also be applied to large file downloads (such as OS updates) that can degrade Office 365 performance.

OneDrive is a critical element of Office 365, and its performance is key to users achieving the collaboration and efficiency benefits promised with this cloud-based tool. But your network could be the biggest inhibitor to those benefits. Doing a thorough examination of your network will help you overcome the inevitable strain that comes from an Office 365 deployment.

It will keep users from being idle while waiting for documents to load and make you an idol in their eyes. That should be music to the ears of any IT and network professional.

Want to learn more? Watch this video to get more tips on how to successfully deploy Office 365.

You can read other blogs in this series about Office 365 migration here and here


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Steve Grossenbacher is a senior product marketing manager at Zscaler 


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