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Choosing between OneDrive for Business and SharePoint

If you are reading this post, then you, like the majority of Office 365 users are wondering which of the two major file collaboration/sharing options you should use within your organization. This is a frequently asked question by many users, and I would like to explain both options and set the record straight, once and for all 🙂 (yeah, right!)

NOTE: This post captures the information at the time it was written. For the most recent updates on OneDrive and its features, please reference this article.

What is OneDrive for Business?

One Drive for BusinessIn short, OneDrive for Business is a personal file sharing/storage solution. Think of it as Microsoft’s version of DropBox. To be fair, they do vary in some functionality, but conceptually, they are kind of the same thing. The key takeaway here is that it is a personal drive of a user. In other words, if you were to purchase OneDrive for Business, you have to associate it with the named user/owner in your organization. Whoever owns OneDrive for Business – has the ability to upload, delete and yes, share individual files and folders with other users. However, the thing to remember is that the owner of OneDrive for Business is the boss and has keys to the vault. Should this user leave the organization or not be available – you will have a big matzo ball to deal with. As an Administrator, you can still access that user’s files – that’s not a problem. However, you might now have important company documents residing in an unfamiliar folder structure – good luck figuring out what needs to stay or be migrated and what is the latest version.

OneDrive for Business

Example of OneDrive for Business account

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint LogoSharePoint can’t be described in one sentence. It is a company (enterprise) collaboration tool that allows organizations to store, share, and collaborate on different types of content. The primary feature of SharePoint is the ability to create multiple sites with different levels of security to correspond to different business needs of an organization. Without going into technical details, the key takeaway here is that SharePoint is not associated with an individual user, but rather, the whole company (organization). While different SharePoint Sites could be owned by just one user (Site Owner), physically, they are part of an organization Intranet framework/footprint, and access to the site can easily be altered via Security groups and permissions by SharePoint Administrator.

Moreover, unlike OneDrive for Business, SharePoint allows to store other types of content, not just files and folders. Examples of other types of content could be tasks, calendar events, contacts, etc. In addition, SharePoint is really a broad platform/eco-system, which allows you to build comprehensive Intranets, interface to other systems, and automate your business processes. So, in reality – you can’t really compare OneDrive for Business to SharePoint – they are in totally different leagues. It would be like comparing a bicycle to a rocket ship.


Example of SharePoint Department Site

So shall I use OneDrive for Business or SharePoint?

Coming back to the original question, the answer is: it depends. However, let me be loud and clear about this advice:

Do not use OneDrive for Business for Department or Project collaboration or as an organization’s Intranet!

Mark my words. You will regret it if you do. If all you need is to share and collaborate a few personal files and folders with the rest of your employees/users, and that is literally all you need to do, you might be okay with OneDrive for Business.

However, if you have a team of users who are collaborating on documents, or you want to have tighter control about security, or you require additional functionalities for your project (i.e., Tasks), SharePoint Team Site is the way to go.

The reason why many organizations start with OneDrive for Business, is because there is very little or no setup for it. With such a low barrier to entry, OneDrive for Business seems like a sensible choice if you need something fast. With SharePoint, on the other hand, you have to set up the site, configure it to make it user-friendly, make sure you think through Site Architecture, security, navigation, etc. However, you are getting a secure site, part of your organization’s Intranet, and, most importantly, belongs to an organization.

The analogy here would be a choice of your next meal when you are hungry. You can either go to fast food restaurant, chew a burger within 2 minutes, or you can go to a family-style restaurant, order a homemade meal, wait for 20-30 minutes for it to be prepared, and pay a little more than you would for fast food. Both options will achieve your objectives in the short-term. However, the consequences of your decisions will become apparent in the long term.

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