Insync

My current job sees me using Onedrive as the primary storage location for files, and since the initial lockdown in the UK, we moved to using Microsoft Teams and storing data in Teams instead, rather than our on site servers and mapped hard drives.

This took some getting used to but suited me, as it meant that I could use my Mac Mini at home to access the files and work, rather than a work machine, which was good, as I had forgone the standard laptops that everyone else used so I could have an iPad for carrying out my risk assessments on, but this obviously isn’t as good for general office tasks1!

Access to files in Onedrive is dead simple and installing the Onedrive app on my Mac (and then PC) meant I could happily work on the files and didn’t have to navigate the Teams app every time I needed access to a file2. Whilst by default, this syncs my personal Onedrive account, you are able to sync a Teams folder as well, by diving in to the Sharepoint site behind and selecting sync.

This then downloads the file list locally, and you can browse the folder in Explorer without issues. It’ll also download the files if you want it to.

This is where I ran in to issues, as Onedrive often would ignore my options to have the files downloaded. I wanted an offline copy of all the files I might be working on, so that I’m not having to access them over the internet.

This is where Insync came in.

Insync

Insync is a third party Onedrive and Google Drive sync client. It states that it has additional features over the basic clients (for both Google Drive and OneDrive), one of the big ones being that it’ll sync folders outside of the Onedrive folder to the web and it can also sync files from external hard drives and network attached storage devices.

In my use case, the ability to sync files selectively was a key feature and also that with the Teams package, the software will sync files stored on Microsoft Teams folders3.

A side perk is that it doesn’t clutter up my sidebar in Explorer with each folder that I’m syncing, as if you’re syncing with the Onedrive client, this has your personal Onedrive folder, your work Onedrive folder and then a root folder where the Sharepoint folders sit!

Onedrive Syncing

The base version of Onedrive syncs a Onedrive account easily - just add the Onedrive account and you can access either a personal (or work) account. You have to give permissions to the app to access your Onedrive files, so I assume that to access work based Onedrive devices, third party apps have to be allowed to access the account. Therefore, if the administrator doesn’t allow it, then Insync is off the table for you.

Personal Files

Feed

Accessing Sharepoint is also easy, via the Sharepoint tab. However, this lists all of the Sharepoint sites that are within the organisation, so you might have a long list to look through to find the right one!

However, once you’ve found it, it’s easy to sync just a sub folder of the site if you wanted to, just like the inbuilt Onedrive client.

Sharepoint Access

Issues

One issue that I’ve noticed is that it can be slow - downloading a large file from Onedrive can take ages, even with decent internet speeds. I have a couple of small video files about 250MB, and these seem to take a significant time to download.

Another issue is that as the system is a third party API linking to Onedrive, it doesn’t support multiple people opening and editing the same file at once. As I’m working within a team, this can be handy, though isn’t essential. It’s just nice to not get a message telling me that the file is locked for editing if I’m just trying to view.

One of the deal breakers however, was that I found that in the end, not all my files had downloaded. I wanted to edit a Greenshot file and found that it hadn’t downloaded and I couldn’t see a way to force it to download. It’s a similar situation that I found myself in with Onedrive itself - however, with Onedrive, I could see the file was there and I was able to force download it and use it, whereas, Insync wasn’t indicating that there was a file there at all.

Conclusions

Overall, the software is decent. It provides an extra method of accessing Onedrive (and Google Drive data, though I’ve not tried that) without using the default clients.

Whilst it does offer some benefits, my use indicates that it throws up some of the same issues I was having with the in built client and therefore, in my case, it probably makes the most sense to use the default client - especially in Windows where the client is inbuilt and requires no additional software.

However, if you want/need to use Onedrive on Linux, it provides an easy method of accessing Onedrive data, if you can live the few quirks that appear. On the Mac, if you don’t need files synced to your desktop, Expandrive, Transmit or Cyberduck would probably be a better option, though if you do need the local copies, then this would allow that quite nicely, if you can live with the limitations.


  1. As much as Apple may market it as such, it just isn’t as good in my view as a desktop based operating system. ↩︎

  2. I found using the web app worked nicely, purely because I could bookmark locations as favoruite locations and I could also have multiple tabs open at different locations - something the default app doesn’t support. ↩︎

  3. As Teams is essentially a pretty interface to Sharepoint it seems. ↩︎