SharePoint vs. OneDrive: Where Should I Store My Files?

October 20, 2016

On the surface, a SharePoint library and a OneDrive library may seem strikingly similar. They're both cloud-based tools for storing content, their user interfaces look alike, they're both part of the Office 365 suite, and they can both be synced to your hard drive via the OneDrive for Business application. Considering all they have in common, it's easy to assume they work more or less the same way.


However, SharePoint libraries offer so much more functionality that, in most business content storage scenarios, OneDrive isn't worth consideration. That's not to say OneDrive doesn't serve a purpose. Personal, cloud-based storage space is a valuable asset for employees to have. The problem is that OneDrive is sometimes asked to do a job it isn't equipped to handle.


Here are some details to consider about SharePoint and OneDrive if you are debating which storage tool to leverage:


OneDrive is Best Suited for Personal Use

The best practice use of OneDrive in a professional setting is for users to store content that belongs to them, and potentially share that content with a select group of users. Folders in a OneDrive library have the capability of being shared individually. A user can give access to specific areas of their personal OneDrive, while keeping everything else hidden from view.


For example, storing fifteen photos of the company's recent staff picnic that were taken on a personal camera is a great use for a OneDrive folder. Users can choose to share only that folder, allowing coworkers to view the photos while maintaining ownership and control. Using OneDrive to share content, rather than attaching it to an email distribution, also reduces the amount of content the company's email server needs to manage.


If those same fifteen staff picnic photographs are shared via email with 200 people in the organization, a large amount of disk space is expended. By using OneDrive to distribute these photos, everyone gets to enjoy them, but the company email server is saved the trouble of managing 3,000 duplicate photos.


OneDrive's Organization Tools are Limited
The only way to organize content in OneDrive is by using folders. When trying to organize a large amount of content into groups or categories, the traditional "folders within folders" method is limited in potential, and often results in a clunky document storage structure. Furthermore, folder systems only provide one static way to organize and view your content. If you decide to reorganize your folder system into a new structure, then the previous structure must be completely dismantled, which will break any existing URLs connected to shared files or folders.


OneDrive "Ownership" May Become an Obstacle

Similar to a personal folder shared over a network, every OneDrive has an "owner", the user that the library is associated with. That user can share the OneDrive folder to provide access to the library, but Office 365 will still consider them the "owner" of content stored within. If the employee who "owns" the OneDrive leaves the company, any business-critical content stored there must be migrated before the company can remove the user's account from its Office 365 subscription. If no one else is aware the content is stored there (or that it exists in the first place), there is a risk the account will be removed before migration can take place, meaning any content stored in that OneDrive will be lost entirely.


OneDrive Can Impede Collaboration

Consider a scenario where employees are collaborating on a project, and storing project documents in their personal OneDrive libraries. If separate copies of a document exist in each OneDrive, it can be a challenge to determine who has the most recent version. If multiple documents are required, it can be difficult to recall where all the required documents are stored, or if documents have not yet been created.


SharePoint is Built for Sharing and Collaboration

The main purpose of SharePoint libraries is to provide a space for storing documents and other content where teams of users can collaborate. Libraries can be built in sites that are accessible to an easily adjustable audience. Each file is tagged showing who last edited the document, and in the event that two users are editing the same document at once, SharePoint is able to merge the changes made by both. Simply put, SharePoint was designed for collaboration, while OneDrive was designed for private personal storage.


SharePoint is an Organized Base of Information
SharePoint libraries allow content to be categorized and grouped into a meaningful structure. Furthermore, they also allow users to set rules for how the library displays content. These tools can shape how content is organized, and often eliminate the need for folders.


For example, groups of documents being uploaded to a SharePoint library can be tagged to reference the department they're associated with. Rules can then be applied in the library to group documents together based on their department, or display only one department's documents at a time. This makes it simple to sort and filter content, while keeping it all in one location rather than separated into a series of folders.


SharePoint can Automate Your Business Processes
SharePoint libraries can leverage automated workflows to enhance business processes and streamline collaboration. Has a document been waiting for approval two days past it's due date? SharePoint can remind the person responsible that they need to take care of it. Does a document need to be perfected before it can be approved? SharePoint can notify its author and ask for changes as well.


We're Choosing SharePoint! Where Do We Go From Here?
Now that you're aware of the benefits for using SharePoint for collaboration, it's time to make it happen. Once your company is working in the collaborative environment offered by SharePoint, they can take advantage of tools that will make your staff more efficient, both individually and as a team. Don't be surprised to overhear someone in the office say "I'm so glad we moved to SharePoint."


In our decades of working with clients to solve business problems, we find that SharePoint often ends up being the content storage solution most companies never knew they needed. Are you looking to adopt SharePoint and help your staff work better as a team? Get in touch and we'll help you decide on the SharePoint configuration that best fits your company.


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