In the past few weeks I've had a couple of conversations with customers that have wanted to use some old school solutions for modern day problems, with Office 365. One was trying to get Explorer View to work, the other was trying to map a network drive to a document library. Neither were having much luck. That's when I stepped in with what was probably an unappreciated answer, "Use the OneDrive Sync client instead."
OneDrive has taken its share of knocks over the years, and much of that was well earned. In the last two or three years, the OneDrive team has put on both their thinking caps, and their heavy leather working gloves and they've really made things happen. While I struggle to find a single area of improvement that I like the most, the sync client has got to be right up there. Most, if not all of the frustrating, infuriating, sync issues have been cleared up. And it can sync OneDrive Consumer, on-prem SharePoint MySites, and multiple Office 365 tenants. Most importantly, late last year, it added on-demand sync functionality to the Next Generation Sync Client (NGSC). This allows the sync client to see all of the files in the team site, document library, or whatever, without actually downloading the files and taking up local space. Here is how multiple libraries looks in Explorer:
All of those locations are under the purview of OneDrive’s Next Gen Sync Client.
Back to my customers. In the first situation, the customer wanted to get Explorer View to work because that was the way they were most comfortable uploading a bunch of files to SharePoint. They wanted to lasso a bunch of files in Windows Explorer, Ctrl-C copy them, open up a SharePoint Document Library in Explorer View, and Ctrl-V paste them in. I can't blame them. That method has worked for the last decade, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Except it is broken, sort of. Explorer View uses two technologies, WebDAV and FPRPC. Neither of which has aged well. And they behave differently depending on which version of Windows you have installed, and which version of Office you have installed. It's unreliable at its best, and downright infuriating at its worst. And if you're using Edge, it flat out won't work at all.
Instead of having their business balance on that decade old cobbled together technology, I recommended they use the OneDrive NGSC to accomplish this. I told them to sync it with the library where they want to upload the files. That will expose the document library to Windows, in Explorer, PowerShell, and anything else they want to run. Now they can use their lasso technique in Explorer to upload files, and do it with a current, maintained, and mostly reliable client, the OneDrive NGSC. Once the files are copied into the local OneDrive location, the NGSC will sync them up to Office 365. After that's finished the user can choose to no longer sync that folder, or keep syncing it, but free up space by making those files "Cloud Only" with OneDrive.
The other scenario was mapping a network drive to SharePoint. This customer didn't want to do a one time operation like the Explorer View customer above. They wanted a quick, easy link to their frequently used SharePoint documents, and in the familiar Explorer interface. Again, I can't blame them for that. It's familiar, and it works well. Except it doesn't sometimes. Once again, if you're using Edge, mapping as a network drive is not supported. Fortunately, if you have the OneDrive NGSC installed, you can use the same technic we used above, to mimic this behavior. Use OneDrive's "Sync" to sync with all of the locations you would have mapped as network drives. When you do they'll show up in Explorer and your file system. You'll be able to use them however you'd like. Since the OneDrive NGSC supports on-demand sync this won't take up extra space on your local machine, just like mapping as a network drive didn't.
I hope that helps a little.