OneDrive began as a cloud storage service for files and documents. The idea is that you can access all your saved documents, videos, and music from any device—so multiple devices, one storage drive. SharePoint, on the other hand, is a collaboration tool. It works like an internal internet, or intranet, for businesses, and you can also use SharePoint to create portals for clients, an extranet.
Where it gets tricky is that SharePoint is also a place to store and share documents so they’ll be accessible to all the people in a company who need to read, print, or edit them. And OneDrive now has features that let you share and collaborate on documents as well. It seems like the functions, and even the underlying purposes, of OneDrive and SharePoint are beginning to overlap. Since you can get OneDrive and OneDrive for Business as standalone services, is there any reason you might need SharePoint as well?
The answer is that SharePoint still does a lot of things OneDrive doesn’t. OneDrive is an as-is, out-of-the-box service. SharePoint requires some development and customization, but it can do just about anything you may want it to do. Your company may be able to get by with just a OneDrive for Business subscription, but it comes down to what all you need your collaboration platform to do.
OneDrive for Business
If all you need from a cloud storage platform are the capabilities listed here, you’ll be fine sticking with OneDrive for Business:
Store and Sync: You can save all kinds of files and documents in OneDrive and they’ll sync to your tablet, smart phone, or any other device.
Share and Collaborate: You can easily upload a document in OneDrive and give other people access to it, including options to make it read-only or allow them to edit it.
Meet Security and Compliance Requirements: OneDrive for Business meets ISO 27001 security standards, and complies with EU Model clauses, HIPAA BAA and FISMA.
Sites: This one is a bit tricky because if you’re using sites in OneDrive for Business you’re really using SharePoint Online. But technically you can use OneDrive to set up different areas to store documents for different departments.
OneDrive also provides a very simple and intuitive interface. So to meet your most basic requirements OneDrive may be sufficient. SharePoint, depending on what you want it to do, may require you to purchase, provision and maintain on-site servers. And without some outside help to customize your SharePoint platform your workers may find it really complicated to use.
But here are some of the main things SharePoint does that OneDrive doesn’t:
Dashboards: Employees sign in on branded company pages that can feature news, announcements, notices—pretty much whatever you want everyone in the company to see.
Sites: After signing in to the main company dashboard, employees navigate to their department’s site, or even their own site, where they find all the documents they need to work on, along with things like reminders and notifications of coworkers’ availabilities.
Workflows: These are automated actions that you can set up that get triggered whenever someone uploads or edits a document. A common example of a workflow is one that automatically sends an email notification to people in other departments if a document or series of edits needs some kind of administrative approval.
Lists: These are similar to spreadsheets, and they’re used to provide information in areas where they can be accessed by different types of users. A common example is a list of employees with their roles and contact information.
Calendars: These can be used to schedule meetings, set up notifications and reminders, and help workers keep track of each other’s availability.
The way different Microsoft technologies have evolved over time has been largely determined by business contingencies and changes in the IT market. It is interesting to see how many of the applications that formerly had clearly delineated functions are starting to overlap, and even begin to compete with each other. The trend now, though, is shifting more in the direction of seamless ease-of-use. Just as OneDrive for Business makes use of the cloud version of SharePoint, the service bundles available in Office 365 integrate the functions of applications ranging from Lync and Exchange to Office and Power BI. To make the most of these various technologies, you need to begin with a clear sense of how people in your business will be using them, but there’s really no way of getting around the need to keep up with trends and developments in the industry.
I'm Aptera's Content Strategist. I've been writing about tech and marketing for 5 years and have certifications from HubSpot and The Content Marketing Institute. A big science and literature geek, I taught college rhetoric and composition while I was still busy going to school for way too long, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master's in British and American literature. Look me up on LinkedIn.