Re-Thinking mail – Attachment storage in the cloud

2015-05-06_23-42-40This week Microsoft is hosting its big Ignite conference in Chicago and based on comments from some people in my network I was alerted to an intriguing announcement about Microsoft releasing a new integration between outlook and OneDrive by the end of 2015 that would allow attachments to reside in OneDrive and shared and co-authored across recipients both internal as well as external without the need to actually ‘attach’ the actual file in the mail itself.

“Why is this relevant?”

  •  If attachments are stored and referenced from globally accessible cloud storage it saves on data being transfered across networks and cluttering our mail servers.
  • More importantly, it allows for central storage and versioning instead of people blindly sending each other copy upon copy with all the risks of lost changes and incorrect versions
  • Furthermore…. Single point of data means that other great options like online simultaneous co-authoring are possible!

It is in fact the basis of true collaboration and it is something many customers have asked for.

Most enterprise social networking tools and some mail providers already offer or are working on similar features but the main problem has always been “what to do with external recipients?”

This is where Microsoft is trying to make a difference apparently. The idea being that you don’t have to ask yourself whether someone has access to the central storage depository (OneDrive) or not. Based on the recipients email address the system will simply check whether the recipient is a known user, prompt the user to create an account so he or she can then authenticate and open and edit the file.

“Nice, but what if my org doesn’t use OneDrive?”

This is where I actually got a bit excited while watching the recorded session as they recognize this scenario and are actively working on including other cloud storage systems like Dropbox to work with this feature as well. So no vendor lock-in on OneDrive… nice!

I am curious though as to what the larger implications are going to be with this. The main one being data consistency….

Like how do I, as a recipient, ensure that the attachments I receive in this way remain unchanged and available? With attachments received in the old fashioned way the sender would not be able to change my copy of the mail/attachments as it would physically be located in my mail box. With this new way the attachment on the OneDrive location can easily be changed or even removed by the author and/or other recipients. This could cause questions in regards to legal implications and E-Discovery needs.

Overall I think Microsoft has just throw down a serious challenge to the other major players in this market and I look forward to seeing what they are going to do!

Tidbits about this feature from watching the session recording:

  • Automatically suggests to upload large attachments to OneDrive instead of sending as attachments
  • Easy ‘share from OneDrive’ options that will upload and set the correct accessibility settings
  • Previews without downloading (cloud only)
  • Support for non-Office files
  • Real time online co-authoring for MS Office files through O365
  • User can control whether attachments are send as a ‘cloud attachment’ or authentic attachment
  • Works both for on-prem as well as for O365 environments
  • Allows users to connect to multiple cloud storage platforms & accounts
  • Is planned to work with different cloud storage providers. Talks are already underway with DropBox

The session “Rethinking attachments: Collaborating in Outlook with OneDrive” is available online.Watch the session here yourself  (I’m not sure how long this will be up) or check out the sessions detail sheet.

 

2 comments

  1. Femke Goedhart

    Well in a way…. but with collaboration added to it as well as the option to allow this to work with users outside your own network. You could say it’s closer to what Quickr was for Notes as it allowed sharing and collaborating outside the own network.

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