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Grow Your Business Technology

Microsoft Sharepoint vs. OneDrive: What's the Difference?

Microsoft Sharepoint vs. OneDrive: What's the Difference?
Credit: Stokkete/Shutterstock

At first glance, it's easy to assume that Microsoft's OneDrive and Sharepoint are a major duplication of service. They share many features and seem to have the same basic premise – cloud service and collaboration for work.

However, there are some subtle differences that can play a major factor in how they're for business. They both excel in certain contexts, although in many other cases they complement one another. If you're confused about how each of these cloud-enabled services work, here's a simple breakdown that may help in planning your company's work strategy.

Microsoft offers consumer and enterprise versions of OneDrive. While OneDrive for Business uses some SharePoint technology behind the scenes, its major focus is with document storage and collaboration.

As Microsoft explains on the OneDrive for Business site, the service is geared for file sharing, backup, and collaboration. When a team's files are in OneDrive, they can be accessed and worked on via Windows, Mac, iOS or Android.

Many of the features have caught up with Google Docs, such as real-time collaboration and chat. Beyond the day-to-day workflow, a major concern for business is security. Microsoft outlines its policy for encryption of data in transit and at rest (this also applies to SharePoint). This is a key piece of documentation to review to ensure this will suffice with your organization needs.

OneDrive keeps files updated in real-time, giving teams the ability to co-collaborate on files without the mess of sending different versions back and forth to one another. Credit: Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive's major strength is in how it enables a team to work simultaneously on files and keep all items saved – much like the functionality made popular by Google Docs. It makes OneDrive a more competitive offering compared to popular alternatives like Dropbox.

Catchy slogans are often meant to sell something, but in this case the way that Microsoft outlines SharePoint helps to understand what the service is about: "your mobile, intelligent intranet."

SharePoint goes beyond OneDrive in that it can be the backbone for many different functions within a company. Those that want an intranet for team collaboration or ordered groups of files may wish to turn to SharePoint.

SharePoint enables custom operations in popular applications like Word and Excel. Credit: Microsoft SharePoint

While file sharing is also the domain of OneDrive, some administrators may prefer the granular controls and user access settings that are possible with SharePoint. Additionally, companies that want an on-premise solution – or wish to use SharePoint as the backbone for building their own applications, a CMS for internal publishing, or other services – may want to further explore the capabilities of SharePoint. Savvy teams can use it to power a considerable amount of work.

SharePoint's seemingly expanded feature set isn't meant to imply that it's the superior service. Understanding the difference, and choosing how you make use of SharePoint or OneDrive, is the real question.

As you dig deeper into the capabilities of both SharePoint and OneDrive, you'll find there's much flexibility for IT departments that want to host their own solutions or create custom services. For most, some combination of both OneDrive and SharePoint will be the best working solution.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is a freelance writer in northern California. He is the founder of Walter Media and author of Learning MIT App Inventor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.