Smart File Sharing in Microsoft 365 / Office 365 Ecosystem

Any Business license for Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) comes with an abundance of apps, each built for a specific purpose. Chances are, your organization is not using these to their full potential, in part due to the overlapping features these apps have. For example, file sharing and storing could be done with either Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. In this blog post, I explain how to unlock the value of each application, instead of just sticking with the features you’re well versed in.

Vasily Petrashkevich

Vasily Petrashkevich

One of the most common obstacles users of Microsoft 365 / Office 365 face is where should they store their files: on OneDrive, on SharePoint or in Microsoft Teams? Each of these apps allows data storage and file sharing, but they exist for different purposes. Our clients often give their preference to only one of these. However, to get the best value out of your Microsoft 365 subscription, your organization should ideally be using all three. 

Microsoft OneDrive Across Devices

Microsoft OneDrive is a versatile personal cloud file storage service. It is available to anyone with a Microsoft account: the free version offers 5GB of storage and can be upped through a monthly payment plan if you need more space. However, it is best to pay for the Microsoft 365 license instead, as it comes with a hefty 1TB OneDrive storage.

Microsoft SharePoint has been around for over a decade and is primarily used by the organizations to share and collaborate on internal documents. It is well known for its flexible security settings and website building capabilities.

Both OneDrive and SharePoint support simultaneous editing of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint files with Microsoft Office for the Web (previously known as Microsoft Office Online), external file sharing, mobile devices, synchronization for offline access and file-level permissions.

Surprisingly, under the hood of the OneDrive app there is just a single SharePoint site accessing a single SharePoint library. The big difference is that OneDrive doesn’t store metadata (i.e., data about the data), since users generally know their own files and how to structure them. This reveals the main usage idea of the OneDrive: it is meant as a file storage for a single person. In paid versions, OneDrive usually comes with 1TB of storage space for the personal files and drafts of the documents that are not yet ready for collaborative work. User can give read-only or edit access to anyone within their school or organization, or even outside of it by simply sending a direct link to file. However, using this option for co-editing quickly becomes security nightmare and potential for total loss of version control: just imagine a group of several individuals each sharing a document from their personal space. 

Another huge reason for not storing critical team files on OneDrive is the fact that the account automatically gets erased several days after a person leaves the organization. OneDrive is a cloud storage space for work-related personal documents and drafts that were previously put on personal computer’s hard drive. OneDrive is secure, accessible from anywhere and on any device, expandable and gets backed up automatically on a regular basis, making it a go-to document managing system for individuals. 

The best place for teamwork in the Microsoft 365 environment is Microsoft Teams: any user added to the team gets full access to everything within the ‘Files’ tab and can immediately start editing the documents. These files are kept in a separate SharePoint library and Teams app acts as a Graphical User Interface (GUI).

Microsoft Teams Collaboration Chat Storage Power
Microsoft Teams is also connected to OneDrive: any file being sent in private chat in Teams is being saved on the OneDrive. Compared to sending files as email attachments or using shared network drives, Microsoft Teams is a worry-free collaboration environment with all the benefits of the cloud. It is even possible to invite people from outside of the organization as guests to the team, although they would have much less capabilities.
In contrast with Microsoft Teams, users of the SharePoint generally have read-only access and only a few of them can upload, edit or delete files from the library. Hence, the best use of SharePoint within the organization or school is for communication purposes: displaying corporate policies, templates, new hire orientations and announcements. It is more of a publishing space for the documents originated in OneDrive after the final version was agreed upon in Teams. Should a document require to be revised, its copy goes back to OneDrive or Teams site of its owner and returns to SharePoint after the changes were approved.
Office 365 Document Lifecycle OneDrive Teams SharePoint
The document lifecycle described here is just one of the options used for illustrative purposes. Your organization might have a different process where a proper use of SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams will play its proper role.

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