"We couldn't sync this library." in SharePoint Online is a typical error message to receive if you try to sync document libraries to a local drive using the OneDrive for Business client. This could have many reasons. See below about how to solve all of it using the Layer2 Cloud Connector.

How to sync a local file server with Office 365 / SharePoint Online / OD4B?

Office-365-File-Sync-Issues-Solved-By-Layer2-Cloud-Connector-600.jpg

 

When you are moving to the Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint Online cloud, there are a lot of reasons to keep your local file system, for example:
  • To quickly access files with non cloud-based applications or legacy systems
  • To work offline and with increased performance and without internet connectivity
  • For integration into local business processes
  • For compliance reasons
  • As some kind of local backup (or to manage "cloud" backup with common backup software)s some kind of local backup (or to manage "cloud" backup with common backup software)

But you don't have to miss the benefits of the cloud, like web based search, versioning, change notifications, workflows, mobile access etc. Setup a hybrid scenario:

You can synchronize selected parts of your local file system or server share with a SharePoint, Office 365 or OneDrive for Business document library in the cloud.

This article shows how this works step-by-step with the Layer2 Cloud Connector. The product can close some gaps and solve many issues that still exists with the Microsoft out-of-the-box offerings.

 

Office 365: We couldn't sync this library error
 

Fig. If you try to sync SharePoint Online document libraries using the OneDrive for Business client you will often receive an error message like "We couldn't sync this library.". This can have many reasons. See below about how to solve all of it.

 

Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and OneDrive for Business file synchronization
Features
Sync with Layer2 Cloud Connector 
Sync with Microsoft OneDrive
for Business Sync Client
​SharePoint 2007 / WSS 3.0 No​ No
SharePoint 2010 and Foundation Yes No
​SharePoint 2013 and Foundation ​Yes ​Yes
SharePoint Online / Office 365 ​Yes Yes​
​OneDrive for Business ​Yes Yes​
​Suport for all Windows Operating Systems ​Yes No​
​Central Administration, Logging, Alerting in case of issues ​Yes ​No
​Server-to-Server Sync ​Yes ​No
​Can sync from File Server ​Yes No​
​Can sync User Home Drives Yes​ No​
Works for any Office 365 Plan ​Yes ​No
​Unlimited amount of files ​Yes* ​No
​Any source drive supported ​Yes No​
​Replication conflict solution strategies (e.g. one entity wins, keep both etc.) ​Yes No​
​On demand sync ​Yes No​
​Scheduled sync ​Yes No​
​Uni-directional sync Yes​ ​No
​Bi-directional sync ​Yes Yes​
​No-delete option ​Yes No​
​No-insert option Yes​ ​No
​No-update option ​Yes ​No
NEW: Flexible SQL-like query language to filter files by name or path (including like and wildcards), file type, size, date etc. for migration, backup and sync ​Yes (requires 6.2 and higher) No​
List view support on SharePoint ​Yes ​No
​Flexible column mapping to keep metadata ​Yes No​
​Sync file metadata only to lists(without the file content), link to files located anywhere, e.g. FTP, Azure, DropBox... Yes​ ​No
​Sync to specific target folders in a SharePoint library ​Yes No​
​Support for Office 365 Groups ​No (will be releases soon) ​No
​File name convention issues solved ​Yes ​No
​File path length issues solved ​Yes No​
​Forbidden file types auto-zipped Yes​ ​No
​Can sync not only files but also structured data from 100+ data sources like SQL/ERP/CRM etc. ​Yes** ​No
​Licensing per installation, several editions, from Personal to Professional Free​
​Data volume-related costs  ​No No​
​User CALs required ​No No​

 

* Depending on configuration and amount of changes - but no hard 5.000 / 25.000 items limit as out-of-the-box. Please edit your SharePoint views to still be able to navigate your files: Remove all sorting, filtering, grouping. Also set to flat view in the folder section in case you have folders with more than 5.000 files. You can make use of SharePoint search or managed metadata to find your files without any restrictions. The "folder" parameter in connection string is not supported above the list view threshold (as it is implemented as a filter by SharePoint).

** Take a look here for supported systems and applications.

Now let's setup a sample connection to sync a selected file share directory one-way to SharePoint Online.

1. Select parts of your local file system to sync with Office 365

​Assuming you have a local file system like this, e.g. some folders at C: drive:

 

Fig. Local File System to synchronize with the Microsoft Office 365 cloud - but also works for server shares.

You first have to setup the connection definition in the Cloud Connector, for example "FileSystem to Cloud": 

 
Fig. Connection definition for Filesystem to cloud replication, unidirectional in this example.
 
Please note:
  • There is a bi-directional option available to sync back changes done online in the SharePoint libary back to the local file server.
  • There is an overwrite option to use for cleanup, if your library already contains some data.
  • Do not enable scheduling at this point. Please enable scheduling later on, when all tests are passed.

As a next step you have to setup the data source of the newly created connection as follows.

2. Define your local file system as data source for Office 365 replication

 

Fig. Example file system data source configured for replication to Office 365.

Please note:

  • Select the Layer2 FileSystem Provider as Data Provider.
  • Enter the source directory (root) "Test2" with the notation Directory=C:\Test2 or similar as connection string. You can also use mapped network drives, e.g. K:\. UNC notation supported as well, e.g. \\myserver\myshare. Please make sure that the current account (for Connection Manager) and service account (for the background update) has appropriate rights to access the shared drive. Note that Windows Services often run with local accounts and have no access to shares by default. You have to modify the accounts and / or access rights for this.
  • There are additional options available in connection string for non-recursive replication or to filter specific file types:
  • Directory: Root path where the files will be read from (mandatory).
  • UserId / Password: Optional credentials to connect to target path. Aliases are User, UserId, User Id and Password, pass, pwd.
  • FilenameFilter: Optional search pattern for filtering files by name or extension. Parameter accept standard windows file search pattern like *, ?. Aliases are FilenameFilter, FileNameFilter, filenamefilter. (Note that you can only set one filter pattern for this parameter.)

    Examples:

    *jpg = file extensions
    Layer2* = Files which begins with Layer2
    *Layer2* = Files that contain Layer2
  • SQL-like query is supported to include or exclude folders and files to / from sync by name (including like or wildcards), type, size and date.

3. Define a SharePoint library in Office 365 as data destination for your file system

Now you can create a SharePoint library in the clound, e.g. "FileSystem" in this sample. As a next step you have to setup the data destination of the newly created connection as follows.

 

Fig. Example data source to replicate a part of a file system to Office 365

Please note:

  • You have to select the Layer2 SharePoint CSOM Provider to communicate with the cloud using web services.
  • Setup the connection string for example as:
    Url=https://mydomain.sharepoint.com/sites/mysite/; List=myList;   Authentication=Office365; [email protected]; Pass=myPassword
  • There are other authentication methods available, if required. See User's Manual for this.
  • The URL goes to the site that hosts the library.

4. Setup field mapping for file system metadata

To map the file system files and metadata to your SharePoint library you can simply use the "Auto-Mapping" feature or map the fields manually - as shown below.

 

SharePoint-File-System-Sync-Mappings.PNG
 

 

Fig. Field mapping example to sync file system meta data to a SharePoint library.
 

Please note:

  • You can generally map file system meta data as Created / Modified to the corresponding SharePoint fields. But note: Writing to SharePoint system fields requires specific access rights and can cause replication issues. We strongly advise to map such fields to custom columns, e.g. FSCreated, FSModified, etc.
    The custom fields must be created before mapping.
  • Please be careful to map author data to the SharePoint meta data fields. That will fail in most cases with the cloud because of different tokens in both worlds. It is planned for future versions to provide translation.
    At this time you can map e.g. Author to some additional SharePoint text field like "FSAuthor".
  • If you can't find some list columns in mapping, they are not exposed in the view you are using for sync. If you don't give any view in connection string, the AllItems view is used. Better to use specific view for sync. Please add the columns needed there. Remove ANY sorting, grouping, filtering to overcome the list view threshold.
  • Office document metadata is propagated by SharePoint automatically in case columns exisit with the same column name. For example an Author column is populated with the content of an Author metadata field automatically by SharePoint. You don't have to assign such kind of metadata in the field mapping section.
  • Please also note the conflict resolution mode (in the mapping section). Please select depending on your requirements.
  • You have the original file location path available in the FilePathCopy field to map to some additional
    field on SharePoint, e.g. to link back to the original file source (using a calculated field to construct any HTTP/FTP link).
  • You can also sync your file system with SharePoint lists to only add metadata and backlinks - not the files itself.

5. Access your local files via Office 365 from everywhere

​When all connection settings are done and verified successfully, go back to the configuration settings and run the connection first time. After all files are tranferred, you can benefit from your local data replicated to the cloud.

 
Fig. Example of SharePoint library with file system content replicated.


Please note:

  • In case of errors while replicating first time, please see the log section. Increase log level for more details, if required.
  • Initial replication can take some time, depending on amount of data and bandwidth. Expect 2-4 seconds communication overhead per file plus the upload time. Note that Office 365 limits the upload (and also download) speed.
  • Later on, only changed items are replicated. This is much faster compared to the initial replication. Expect around 20-40 seconds to compare metadata per 5.000 files + upload / download time for changed files.
  • To setup automatic background replication, e.g. every 24 hours or 20 minutes go to connection settings. Be careful to set sync intervals < 20 minutes (depending on your typical sync duration).
  • Generally there should be only low CPU and memory usage during sync. Syncing large files can result in temporary higher memory usage.
  • SharePoint has different file name, type, path or size restrictions compared to the file system. Possibly you want to fix before sync. You can do manually based on our error / warning messages or use tools before to fix, like e.g. SharePrep for help. You can also try powershell:

    ls E:\CompanyData -R | ? {  ($_.FullName.Length -ge 260) -or ($_.DirectoryName.Length -ge 248) } | select FullName

    Otherwise the Cloud Connector will manage different naming conventions, path length etc. by itself.
  • Please note the SharePoint list view threshold above 5.000 items in a list or library. This is not an item limit - no problem with sync! Please use an usorted, unfiltered, ungrouped view for replication in connection string. This view can be executed in all cases also above 5.000 items. Please index your columns to execute more complex views. Display your library as flat file list, if required, by removing the folder option in view settings. Use managed metadata navigation, folder navigation and search within large libraries and lists without any restrictions. For best results keep the number of files per folder below 5.000.
  • To enable document properties (e.g. title, description, author, etc.) promotion to SharePoint columns please take a look here.
  • To automate the complete migration process for a large number of user home drives to OneDrive for Business by scripting (including user provisioning and other required steps) take a look here.
  • You will have all features of a native SharePoint library or list, including change notifications or workflows on external data change.

 For more information and a free download of the Layer2 Cloud Connector see here.

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We recommended it for a client that required reliable bi-directional sync between their local shares and their hosted Sharepoint . This has allowed remote workers to see up to date changes whilst still retaining their familiar working environment.

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