Whiteboard Moves Its Storage to OneDrive for Business

Switchover Coming in October 2021

Updated March 9, 2022

Message center notification MC275235 (August 3, updated on December 7, 2021) says that Microsoft is rebuilding the Whiteboard app on top of OneDrive for Business (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 66767). Whiteboard will use OneDrive for Business as its default storage starting in January 2022 (previously October), but tenants can opt-in now through the Whiteboard settings in the Microsoft 365 admin center (Figure 1) to use OneDrive-based storage for Whiteboard when the feature becomes available at the end of October. The opt-in period will last until mid-November. Opting in affects the storage of whiteboards for every user in the tenant. The latest news is that Microsoft will complete the transition to OneDrive when it delivers updates to several clients during March 2022.

Configuring the Whiteboard settings in the Microsoft 365 admin center to use OneDrive storage
Figure 1: Configuring the Whiteboard settings in the Microsoft 365 admin center to use OneDrive storage

The trade-off is that only certain Whiteboard clients currently support OneDrive-based storage:

  • Whiteboard browser client.
  • Whiteboard for Teams meetings (including Teams mobile apps).
  • Whiteboard on Android.

Microsoft will deliver support for the other whiteboard clients (Windows 10/11), Surface Hub, the Whiteboard channel tab app for Teams, and iOS by October. Until then, if you choose to use OneDrive for Business, these apps will be unable to create or display whiteboards stored in OneDrive. Whiteboards created earlier and stored in Azure will remain accessible.

Solid Plan for Long-Term Whiteboard Storage

The switchover is like that done for Stream, which is also moving off Azure storage to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online (the final switchover for Teams meeting recordings is August 16, 2021). The new live (fluid) components which surface in applications like Teams chat, Outlook, and Whiteboard are also kept in OneDrive for Business. Moving off application-specific Azure storage to the more general-purpose storage managed by OneDrive for Business is a good idea for many reasons, including:

  • OneDrive for Business is a well-understood storage platform with APIs: Utilities like reports of files in OneDrive accounts will include whiteboards along with other files.
  • Available Storage: Although Microsoft doesn’t place any quota restrictions on the current Whiteboard Azure-based storage, OneDrive for Business offers very generous storage quotas which won’t be affected by the need to store a few whiteboards.
  • Sharing: Whiteboards can be shared like any other OneDrive for Business file. Users sent a sharing link for a whiteboard will open the file in the browser client.
  • Auditing: OneDrive for Business will log audit events for file operations against whiteboards.
  • Information governance and compliance: Like any other file in OneDrive for Business, retention policies and labels are applicable to whiteboards. It’s not obvious yet if the content of whiteboards is indexed and available for eDiscovery.
  • Tenant to tenant migration: Most tenant-to-tenant migration toolsets are very good at moving OneDrive for Business files around. Adding whiteboards to the mix gives them a little extra work to do but makes sure that these files end up in the right place in the target tenant.
  • Backup: ISV backup products are well used to dealing with OneDrive for Business, so having some extra whiteboard files to include in the mix will cause no problems.
  • User deletion: The Microsoft 365 workflow process for user account deletion allows another user to be assigned access to the deleted user’s OneDrive for Business account to copy important files before Microsoft 365 removes the account. The user assigned access can now rescue any important whiteboards from the deleted user’s account.

The Next Microsoft 365 App to Move is?

Moving storage to OneDrive for Business seems to be becoming a trend, which then poses the question of which will be the next Microsoft 365 app to move off Azure storage? Given the set which exists, Planner might be a candidate, but given its connection to Microsoft 365 Groups, the storage target is likely SharePoint Online instead of OneDrive for Business. We shall wait and see.

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