“Optimizing Cloud Storage on macOS: New Developments and Integration with Major Cloud Services

Introduction: For most of us, cloud storage has become an integral part of our daily lives, both professionally and personally. It’s highly likely that your photos are automatically uploaded to iCloud after taking them, and you may use files stored in cloud environments provided by Microsoft or Google for business purposes. In this blog post, we want to tell you about new developments in both macOS and major cloud services that allow you to make the most out of your cloud storage.

New Possibilities

New technologies in macOS and various cloud service apps offer unprecedented possibilities and improved integration. One example is the new OneDrive app (currently in preview and soon to be widely available), which enables automatic backup of your Desktop and Documents folders to OneDrive. This functionality, known as Known Folder Move (KFM) or Folder Backup, can be configured and enforced through MDM. This guarantees that local files are securely stored in the cloud while preventing automatic synchronization of business files with a personal iCloud account.

Enhanced Integration with OneDrive

With full support for Apple Silicon and the use of new functionalities, the OneDrive app now offers better integration with macOS than ever before. Synchronized folders from OneDrive, SharePoint, or Teams can be displayed under ‘Locations’ in Finder, just like iCloud Drive, thanks to the new File Provider API in macOS.

The Previous Approach

Kernel Extensions For years, we have relied on apps to easily access cloud storage on our Macs. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox have long developed synchronization apps that allow easy access to both personal cloud storage and shared business folders. However, these apps were based on an outdated principle called Kernel Extensions. Since the early days of what was then known as OS X, developers have used Kernel Extensions to add functionality or specific support to the Kernel, the core of the operating system and a vital component of your Mac. While this allows for functionality and flexibility, such as virtualization (e.g., Parallels Desktop), hardware support (e.g., network cards), securing your Mac (endpoint security), or on-demand use of files in your cloud storage, it poses security and stability concerns. Essentially, you are allowing anyone to add code to the most critical part of your operating system, which can result in instability due to code bugs or potential security risks.

The Current Approach

File Provider API and System Extensions Technology continues to evolve, and in 2022, we can rely on more elegant, robust, and intelligent solutions. Since macOS Big Sur (11.0), we have had File Provider, and Apple introduced System Extensions in macOS Catalina (10.15) to replace Kernel Extensions. Instead of accessing the deepest parts of macOS, developers can now access frameworks within macOS, unlocking a multitude of possibilities. This allows File Provider and System Extensions to operate outside the kernel in a much more controlled manner on your Mac, enhancing security, stability, flexibility, and speed.

The File Provider enables the OneDrive app to offer files on-demand in a better way, and synchronized folders from your own OneDrive, Teams, or SharePoint can be displayed under the ‘Locations’ section in the left column of Finder. Improved integration is also evident in the enhanced speed and functionality of file status icons, which indicate whether a file is in the cloud, local, or on-demand.

With the File Provider API, software developers have a powerful and specialized tool that allows for seamless integration of one of the most important aspects of modern IT into macOS. This holds great promise for using cloud storage on your Mac, with OneDrive serving as an excellent example of what is possible.”