File Storage, File Sharing, and Backups

Office 365 offers multiple locations for file storage. Here are recommendations for where to save your files as you consider file availability, resiliency/redundancy, security, version control, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness to the university.

  Advantages Disadvantages
OneDrive
for Business
  • Preferred for files that are important only to you
  • Preferred for flies that are important to you that might need to be shared with a few others, over the short-term, and your group does not have a shared location
  • Files can be synced to your local computer(s) so data is co-located in cloud and your local device(s)
  • 1 TB of Storage!
  • Easy to access from any web browser on any device
  • OneDrive apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile so you are never more than a few taps away from accessing your files from a smartphone or tablet
  • Share files or folders with others, even folks outside of Western
  • Edit files online using web based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote
  • Collaborate with others editing a document or Notebook in real-time.
  • Compare and restore previous versions of your files
  • HIPAA, FERPA, and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data is contractually protected

Get started with OneDrive for Business

  • OneDrive is cloud storage you access through a web browser. This can be a bit slower than browsing local network file storage using File Explorer or Finder. It is possible to browse OneDrive from File Explorer, Finder, or from Office applications like Word, but again it might be slower than browsing local network storage like the U: Drive. There may be brief pauses or delays as you open folders.
  • Although sensitive information is protected from data mining, caution must be taken in setting permissions to files and folders.
  • Not recommended for long-term sharing with others. If you leave the university, your OneDrive files will be deleted. Files that have long-term importance to your department or workgroup should be stored in a shared location.
Office 365
Groups
  • Preferred for files important to you and a workgroup or project team
  • Unlike the P: Drive, Office 365 Groups can have members from different departments without having to make a special request to ATUS.
  • All of the advantages of OneDrive for Business, but in a central location for your group.
  • Everyone in the group has access to the latest version of files (as well as previous versions)
  • Any faculty, staff, or student can create and manage an Office 365 Group themselves in minutes.
  • Also works as an email distribution group
  • HIPAA, FERPA, and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data is contractually protected

Get started with Office 365 Groups

 
SharePoint
  • Preferred for files important to you and a workgroup, project team, or department
  • Preferred for files designated to be stored in a specific SharePoint location by a business process
  • Can be configured to prohibit the copying, printing, or sharing of sensitive files with those who do not have access to the SharePoint site or document library.
  • Supports workflows, approvals, custom lists, and more. 
  • More complex to configure or customize than an Office 365 Group, and usually requires assistance from ATUS
  • Although sensitive information is protected from data mining, caution must be taken in setting permissions to sites, folders, and files
P: Drive
  • Preferred for shared files that require a mapped network drive
  • Departmental common or restricted files (although SharePoint can be a good option as well)
  • While it is possible to access the P: Drive from off campus, it requires installing a VPN client and manually mapping the drive
  • You cannot access the P: Drive from a mobile device running iOS, Android
  • It is not a good location for sharing files with people outside of your department
U: Drive
  • If you are still using your U: Drive we recommend that you move your files to OneDrive unless there are reasons to keep them on the U: Drive.
  • Some software applications require your data to reside on a mapped drive letter rather than a web-based location.
  • U: Drive storage is on our network, so it is faster when copying large files or when modifying large files.
  • The U:\myweb folder allows you to create your own website using HTML

U: Drives are no longer created for every new account, and are now by request.

Request a U: Drive 

Map to your U: Drive

  • Limited storage capacity - the default faculty/staff quota is 1GB, while OneDrive gives you a full terabyte of storage (1000x as much). If faculty need additional storage for students in a class, request it by emailing helpdesk@wwu.edu with the name of the course. Similarly, students can request U: drives and additional storage. Ask your instructor how much storage you will need for the course.
  • While it is possible to access your U: Drive from off-campus, it requires installing a VPN client, manually mapping the drive, and having the Help Desk grant permission
  • You cannot access the U: Drive from a mobile device running iOS or Android
  • Older storage technology
  • You cannot share files with others from your U: Drive
G Suite
  • Google Drive is another cloud storage option similar to OneDrive
  • Preferred for files that are important only to you
  • Preferred for flies that are important to you that might need to be shared with a few others, over the short-term, and your group does not have a shared location​

Get started with G Suite

  • Not recommended for files that have HIPAA, FERPA, or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) because the university does not have an agreement in place with Google regarding sensitive data
  • Limited support. The university does not have an agreement with Google that allows us to request additional support. We do have a premiere support contract with Microsoft, which is why we recommend Office 365 Groups, SharePoint, and OneDrive as the fully supported, safest, and most secure storage locations.
  • Not recommended for storing files that belong to a department or group. Office 365 Groups and SharePoint are the fully supported shared storage locations in the cloud.
  • Fewer collaboration tools in the G Suite environment than Office 365 environment. Individuals can share files and edit them simultaneously, but we do not offer Team Drive or other central storage locations in our G Suite environment. It is intended only for personal use and not for departmental use. 
iCloud
  • Automatic backup and data/app synchronization between all of your Apple devices
  • Includes iCloud Drive, which allows you to store individual files and share them with others from your macOS or iOS devices
  • Good for personal (non-university) file sync, storage, and syncing for those who primarily use Apple devices
  • Ease of use
  • This is a consumer storage location tied to an individual's Apple ID. It is not an enterprise cloud solution.
  • University data is to be stored on university-approved cloud locations or university servers
  • Difficult to keep personal data separate from work-related data
  • Not recommended for files that have HIPAA, FERPA, or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) because the university does not have an agreement in place with Apple regarding sensitive data
DropBox
  • Ease of use
  • University data is to be stored on university-approved cloud locations or university servers
  • Not recommended for files that have HIPAA, FERPA, or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) because the university does not have an agreement in place with Dropbox regarding sensitive data
Local Hard
Disk
  • Not recommended as your primary storage location
  • More vulnerable to failure and corruption than other options. Your local computer hard disk should never have the only copy of a file.
  • Not secure enough for sensitive data unless the device is encrypted or stored in a secure location.
  • Requires user to backup regularly or risk loss of data
Removable
Storage
  • Useful as a backup storage location, but only for files that are not sensitive (unless the device is encrypted)
  • Files are available even when an internet connection is not available
  • Easy way to copy and transfer files between locations
  • Easily lost or stolen
  • Vulnerable to failure and corruption
  • Not secure enough for sensitive data unless the media is encrypted or stored in a secure location.
  • Requires user to backup regularly or risk loss of data

​

How secure and available is my data?

Data stored in OneDrive, Office 365 Groups, and SharePoint are all stored in the cloud on Microsoft servers. Although the data isn't "backed up" in the traditional sense, it is saved in multiple locations to create data redundancy. The files also have version control so you can retrieve a few previous versions of files.

These days nothing beats cloud storage for convenience and flexibility. Don't think of OneDrive as a backup location though. This is the primary location where you should create and save new files. OneDrive allows you to access your files from any web browser, on any device, from any location with an internet connection. It allows you to share files with anyone and control their access and there are apps available for iOS, Android, and Windows mobile. It also offers versioning, so if you make a mistake while editing a document you can simply load a previous version.

OneDrive is a much more secure location than your computer's hard drive. Most data loss occurs when a laptop or desktop hard drive simply fails, and the owner did not maintain a backup.