Microsoft Whiteboard Moves its Storage to OneDrive for Business

Whiteboard Joins the OneDrive Fold

Message center notification MC253185 published on April 28 gives advance notice that Microsoft is changing the storage location for the Whiteboard app from Azure to OneDrive for Business.  The switchover will happen in October 2021 with tenants given the opportunity to opt-in to use OneDrive for Business earlier. The move addresses several management, compliance and governance issues which exist for Whiteboard today.

According to Microsoft, Whiteboard is “the collaborative canvas in Microsoft 365.” This claim is largely based on using whiteboard to share ideas during Teams meetings. Other applications might claim to cover the same ground as it’s possible to collaborate in a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or other files shared during meetings. The canvas moniker could also be called a blank sheet of paper, which is what Whiteboard looks like when it starts up, ready to be drawn upon by the pens and other tools available in the app (Figure 1).

The Whiteboard app (for Windows)
Figure 1: The Whiteboard app (for Windows)

Problems Solved by OneDrive for Business

Problems addressed by moving away from storing Whiteboard data in the current Azure-based service include:

  • Retention policies and labels can govern whiteboard files. The files can also be restored if deleted in error using the Restore your OneDrive feature.
  • OneDrive for Business is a core Office 365 workload and available in all datacenters. Whiteboard’s data is not currently distributed outside the U.S. Data stored in OneDrive meets customer data residency requirements through go-local Office 365 datacenter regions and multi-geo deployments.
  • Sharing with internal and external users is much easier using OneDrive for Business.
  • Data in OneDrive for Business is indexed and available for searching, including eDiscovery. In the case of Whiteboard, it’s probable that file metadata will be searchable. We will have to wait to see if the actual whiteboard content is searchable.
  • Storage is more manageable as tenants can report on how much storage is used for whiteboards along with other files held in OneDrive for Business. Given that Microsoft allows OneDrive for Business users to have as much storage as they need, running out of quota isn’t a problem.
  • Whiteboard content will be accessible to ISV products which support OneDrive for Business. For instance, backup products can include Whiteboard in the files they copy.

These reasons are the same as those which underpin the move by Stream to embrace ODSP (OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online) for video storage, initially for Teams meeting recordings and eventually all video content.

The person who creates a new whiteboard is its owner and the file is in that user’s OneDrive account. This applies both for whiteboards created in Teams and in the standalone browser or Windows applications. The dependency on OneDrive for Business means that people need to have a OneDrive account provisioned to store whiteboards. Given the emphasis on moving away from local to cloud storage for documents and other business information, I don’t think this should be an issue.

Migration is a Developing Story

For the moment, existing whiteboards will remain in Azure and can be accessed there. MC253185 says that Microsoft will share more details in October about how to migrate existing content to OneDrive for Business. They also say that tenants might be able to opt-in to use OneDrive before October, which is the same tactic used to allow tenants to move the storage of Teams meeting recordings early.

Controlling Whiteboard

You might be in the position where you don’t want to use Whiteboard or want to restrict its use to certain people. To disable or enable Whiteboard for the entire tenant, go to the Org settings section of the Microsoft 365 admin center and select Whiteboard. Then turn the setting on or off (Figure 2).

Enable or disable Whiteboard in the Microsoft 365 admin center
Figure 2: Enable or disable Whiteboard in the Microsoft 365 admin center

To disable Whiteboard for an individual user, access their account and uncheck Whiteboard in the set of apps. For example, Office 365 E3 and E5 plans include the Whiteboard (Plan 2) service plan.

Whiteboard’s move to embrace ODSP warrants just a few words in the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. The other 625,000 words cover many more topics.

11 Replies to “Microsoft Whiteboard Moves its Storage to OneDrive for Business”

  1. You say: For the moment, existing whiteboards will remain in Azure and can be accessed there.

    Where and how exactly could we access whiteboard data in Azure?

      1. Tanks. Perhaps I have expressed myself unclearly. We need to know if it is possible to access the whiteboard data other than with the client. A whiteboard was deleted and we need it urgently. At best, there are old data statuses.

      2. Microsoft Support might be able to retrieve the data. I don’t know this for a fact, but they might be able to help if you make a good case to them.

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