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Grow Your Business Technology

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

image for shironosov / Getty Images
shironosov / Getty Images
  • An organization should evaluate its needs before determining whether to use SharePoint or OneDrive for its business functions.
  • An organization's apps should easily integrate with the company's choice of either OneDrive or SharePoint for an efficient workflow.
  • An organization can integrate both OneDrive and SharePoint options in its organizational structure.

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, some subtle differences can play a major factor in how they're used. 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 works, here's a simple breakdown that may help in planning your company's work strategy.

This is a cloud service that connects you to all your files. It is part of Office 365. It allows you to store and protect your files, share them with others and access them from all anywhere on all your devices. Your organization will determine how much storage space each user will have. OneDrive for Business ensures the confidentiality of your documents, unless you share them. It is possible to allow other members of your team to edit your files by sharing them as a link.

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's needs.

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.

To sync in OneDrive for business into your computer, install the OneDrive for Business sync app.

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

Microsoft explains that SharePoint is "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 use SharePoint. Most organizations use SharePoint to create websites. It can be used as a secure place to store, share, organize and access information from any device.

While file sharing is also the domain of OneDrive, some administrators prefer the granular controls and user access settings that are possible with SharePoint. Additionally, companies that want an on-premises 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 enables custom operations in popular applications like Word and Excel. Credit: Microsoft SharePoint

Here are some of SharePoint’s products and downloads:

This is a cloud-based service for businesses of all sizes. It allows employees to create sites to share documents and information with partners colleagues and customers.

An organization can deploy and manage SharePoint Server on their premises or with an Office 365 Enterprise subscription to capture all the latest features. These include such features as modern site pages, modern web parts and authoring, modern list and libraries, integration with power apps, power BI and MS flow, and SharePoint homepage. 

While OneDrive is a cloud-based solution, SharePoint is an on-premises solution. The organization controls most of the features on SharePoint and the update rollouts.

OneDrive encrypts data to safeguard it from prying eyes. It encrypts all data upon transfer to and from its servers and stores it in an encrypted form. They offer granular access controls to allow administrators to assign permissions across the platforms.

SharePoint granular version control and user access settings assisting businesses control the security of their internal and customer data. Only SharePoint can offer security on a stand-alone server.

SharePoint offers the organization collaborative workflows and granular permissions to assist move content from idea to publication without missing any steps. It has marketing resources such as a website and media connections.

OneDrive, on the other hand, does not have any marketing resources and only offers workflows, auditing, templates and version control.

SharePoint engine allows companies to build and maintain their company's websites, internal documentation and web apps. SharePoint has a CMS application that allows you to publish documents directly to your company's website or make them available for access.

OneDrive, on the other hand, cannot publish content on the web. While it is possible to send links via email, those documents cannot be published directly on a webpage.

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.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.