If you’re confused about when to use SharePoint versus OneDrive, you’re not alone.
For starters, Microsoft really didn’t help matters with their naming strategy – OneDrive is actually a personal online storage solution (if you have a Hotmail or Live account, you’ll have access to free storage via OneDrive) and OneDrive for Business is the storage solution for organisations that comes as a part of your Office 365 subscription. For the purposes of quicker typing and to make it easier on your eyes and brain to register as you read, the rest of the time I refer to ‘OneDrive’ in this article, I’m actually referring to OneDrive for Business.
Even though it’s business, it’s personal
The easiest way to work out whether to use SharePoint or OneDrive for storage is to think of OneDrive like you would a personal online drop box folder for your company.
So, whilst it’s useful for quickly sharing files or making a file accessible from another device, it’s pretty much unstructured storage and it’s personal to you.
Whereas SharePoint is structured storage, designed so the whole team can access, collaborate and share files. SharePoint has built-in security and works as a professional portal for staff to share information, ideas and, of course, documents.
So, if your file is something that everyone needs access to or needs to be shared internally, SharePoint is the right place to store it. If you need to share the file with someone outside of your organisation, then OneDrive allows you to do this quickly. Both SharePoint and OneDrive have security features, but SharePoint’s is controlled centrally, whereas if you need to share a doc via OneDrive you have to choose to do so.
I use OneDrive for personal files that I don’t need to share with others, as well as for dropping in files that I need to access out of the office, when I don’t have my regular laptop with me. It works just like a drop box and I can easily get to the document from my phone or from my client’s PC.
Sharing and collaborating
OneDrive works well if I’m sharing a doc with colleagues in a one-off scenario. But, if we want to collaborate on the file, or I want to publish it across a wider group I’ll use SharePoint, as there is more control and it’s easier for my colleagues to get to the document after a period of time.
It also means if I accidentally share the doc with the wrong person, SharePoint’s permissions stop them from seeing and editing the file – they have to have access to the library that I’ve stored the doc in.
Documents evolve and grow in importance
Another reason to choose SharePoint over OneDrive is that often a specific document grows in importance and needs to be seen (or edited) by a wider audience.
Rather than ad hoc sharing of the file via OneDrive, storing it in the right doc library in SharePoint just makes the whole process easy, and everyone can expect to find the file with no hassles, e.g. if I save a client proposal in the SharePoint client folder, anyone who has rights to work in that folder can see the file, saving me from sharing it over and over again when my colleagues request it.
Also, if I delete a file in OneDrive, the link breaks for anyone I’ve shared it with, which can be a real pain for my colleagues, and for me if I have to resend it again from the new storage location.
Clear rationale for document storage
There’s no right or wrong way to store your files, but if you want to avoid confusion with your staff, it’s worth having clear rationale for when a file goes into SharePoint and when a file can be stored to OneDrive.
My recommendation is that everything gets stored in SharePoint document libraries and OneDrive is used as a drop box when you think you won’t easily be able to get into SharePoint, e.g. at a client site, or working remotely, and when you need to share a file externally.
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