SharePoint versus OneDrive

Microsoft created SharePoint, to facilitate better collaboration within organizations. The early versions of SharePoint performed document management function with limited features. As newer versions released, new features got added, such as a personal drive replacement called OneDrive for Business. The lines for storage, collaboration and usage became blurred, making it hard for end users to know which platform they should use.

What is SharePoint?

There are currently two versions of SharePoint, the On-premises and the online found within Office 365. SharePoint is not a single software program. It is a platform upon which several programs run. SharePoint is a collaboration tool for organizations that will enable individuals and teams to work on documents and products at the same time.

SharePoint is primarily for Collaboration, Document Management, Intranets, Extranets, Websites, Business Intelligence and Process Automation using Workflow. Each new version adds to the value of SharePoint, by enhancing each feature or adding new ones. SharePoint Online’s version of the core SharePoint components is always ahead of the On-premises version due to the process of updates.

In more recent years updates from the Online version make their way back to the On-premises version to bring them closer together, and facilitate a more seamless integration and use.

SharePoint is also an excellent platform for supporting interoperability and extensibility. Out of the box, SharePoint provides a rich object model and a set of robust developer tools. Creating web experiences within SharePoint can also be done using the native set of capabilities, API’s and services, along with the core configuration engine for administration.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is Microsoft’s consumer service for hosting files in the cloud, that’s available for free to all the owners of a Microsoft account. OneDrive provides a simple way to store, sync and share all kinds of files, with other people and devices such as Xbox, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Windows Phone. These devices use OneDrive for synchronizing system settings, visual customizations, themes, app settings, and even Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge tabs, history and saved passwords.

What is OneDrive for Business?

OneDrive for Business is an integral part of Office 365 and SharePoint Server On-premises. OneDrive for Business provides a place in the cloud or On-premises where you can store, share, and sync your work files. You can update and share your data from any device with OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business originally was created as an extension of SharePoint libraries but used to replace personal drives that end users used. In the most recent versions of SharePoint, OneDrive is now a Cloud Services that can be consumed within a Hybrid Configuration.

OneDrive for Business provides a seamless Web and Mobile experiences whether on a Laptop, Mobile Device or in the Web Browser. The ability to launch files directly into Office Online makes it a perfect place to store data that need to be shared externally to anyone. Sharing content outside of an organization can be very complicated, but using OneDrive for Business in the Cloud, you can share content with anyone just by using the wizard.

OneDrive for Business would not be a great solution if it did not offer a synchronization system for taking files offline. The ability to sync all or specifics data or locations across all devices make it a very powerful too.

What is the difference between OneDrive and OneDrive for Business?

OneDrive is an online personal storage that you get with either a Microsoft or account. OneDrive can save documents, photos, and other files in the cloud where you can share them with friends, and even collaborate on content. You’re free to decide how you want to use it.

OneDrive for Business is online storage intended for business purposes. OneDrive for Business is managed by your organization and lets you share and collaborate on work documents with co-workers.

The core difference between the two services comes down to the amount of control you have to manage the content, synchronize content as well as who you can share the content.

SharePoint versus OneDrive for Business

Choosing one service over another comes down to the needs or you the end user and the organization. Most organizations utilize both platforms as they complement each other. However, that only works if the organization provides training as to what should be used and when.

SharePoint has three deployment options: on-premises, cloud, and hybrid. Each model comes with a comprehensive set of pricing models, making SharePoint ideal for businesses of all sizes.

OneDrive for Business is a business-oriented online storage system that lets you manage documents and collaborate with your colleagues. Your organization manages your OneDrive for Business account, that is, the site collection administrators in your organization can control what you do.

To compare them we can use a simple table based on the core features that exist across both platforms.

Feature SharePoint OneDrive for Business
Management of Content Though you manage the content, you add to SharePoint this is all owned and controlled by the Team, Group, Department of even the Administrators. You own it all. What you upload, delete, or even share is entirely up to you. IT Administrators can gain access too, so be aware there will be some control.
Controlling Permissions The site or site collection owners define permissions. Permissions can be assigned from the container level such as Site Collection, Site, Library, Folder or even at the file level if needed. You will only see what you are allowed to see. You control all permissions. By default, all content is hidden and not available to anyone unless you choose to share it.

Be aware that Site Collection Administrators have control as well.

Collaboration Collaboration is within the user base that can access SharePoint. Working on documents together is only one part of the core Collaboration tools. When working within SharePoint collaboration usually is more than just documents and files. Folder and File collaboration can be achieved easily by sharing the locations. Each file when shared can be rendered within Office Online allowing for a rich co-authoring experience’s
Accessing the Content Usually, all content is available through the web browser, with rare occasions using file explorer. All content can be either access from the browser, local synchronized folder, or within the mobile applications on devices.
Privacy Controls When uploading content into SharePoint, permission is inherited by default. It can, however, be modified as needed once it is within SharePoint. Everything document or file is private unless you have decided to share them out individually.
External / Internal Sharing Content can be shared with any user that resides within the primary authentication store such as Active Directory. Documents cannot just be shared with anyone if using the On-premises version of SharePoint. SharePoint Online does allow content to be shared with external users more easily but still have restrictions. All content can be shared with whoever you need by using an email address. Specific sharing settings are available allowing for permissions to be set for the sharing.

As you can see each provides excellent features to ensure, that collaboration is as seamless as possible. Each also has various advantages over the other. This goes back to why Microsoft has both and advocates using them both within an organization.

If you’re looking for a document management system for your business, SharePoint is the ideal solution. If you are looking for an online storage service that provides secure collaboration tools, then OneDrive for Business is the ideal solution.

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Liam Cleary - SharePoint MVP
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