OneDrive for Business vs SharePoint Websites – Where do I place my documents?

We use Office 365 extensively in the next iteration and with some documents, I ask myself whether I should put it in my OneDrive or in a SharePoint team or project site. To put some light into the dark, I have compared the two systems for me and would like to briefly describe in this article which documents should be better placed in OneDrive for Business and which should be better in SharePoint sites.

With OneDrive, Microsoft has introduced a cloud space that I really find useful, but who also likes to create confusion. If you are running Office 365 or an On-Premises SharePoint or is planning to implement it, you often do not know exactly what the difference between OneDrive for Business and Website Libraries is. In both places I can file documents and share with others, have the opportunity to see earlier versions and can retrieve them with different end devices. Nevertheless, you should develop a uniform strategy for the document storage for yourself or your company and not simply dice everything in OneDrive or SharePoint Online.

To understand the principle of OneDrive and SharePoint sites, to get familiar with the technical facts. The second step is to develop a document storage strategy in OneDrive for Business and in SharePoint document libraries.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is a cloud store for documents Microsoft offers. What is important here is the distinction between OneDrive Personal and OneDrive for Business.

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OneDrive Personal is a private cloud store, which every private person can create and use for free. Similar to the dropbox, you can upload the documents and share them with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, and call from anywhere where the Internet is available. OneDrive Personal is clearly not a business topic and I do not consider it in more detail. At least not as a solution for my initial question.

OneDrive for Business

OneDrive for Business was designed for enterprise use. It is part of Office 365 packages for companies, but can also be purchased separately. Basically, OneDrive works as PC users are used to from the normal file system. You can create a folder structure, save, copy and delete documents using File Explorer. In contrast to the file system, the files in OneDrive are not stored locally but in the cloud. So you can access not only from the PC, but from any internet-enabled device. The files can also be opened via the browser and even in the file explorer.

Data Synchronization in OneDrive for Business

The files are synchronized with local folders on the PC using the OneDrive for Business Sync app. It is also possible to synchronize only certain documents or folders and make them available for offline processing. Soon there will be the so-called on-demand feature, in which the files in the local file system are displayed, but only synchronized if necessary. This saves storage space on the local terminal, but you always have an overview of all existing documents.

Audit control in One Drive for Business

Files automatically have a revision check, so earlier states can be recalled easily. Deleted elements are still in the basket for some time, which is emptied by default every 90 days. This setting can be adjusted by an administrator.

Share documents in OneDrive for Business

Further, the documents can be released to other persons. The sharing is done individually for each document (or folder) and can be set granularly. This allows permissions to be set (read only, edit), accesses are limited, and the share will be revoked.

Documents that have been shared can be edited together in real-time when the program supports this. This is possible in Word, for example. You can see live the changes of his colleagues and get informed who is working in the document just everything.

Security in OneDrive for Business

For OneDrive for Business, enterprise-wide compliance and security policies can be established to prevent sensitive data from being stored in the cloud, which cannot be stored there. Examples of this are credit card numbers or personal data such as the tax numbers of the employees. Device accesses can be defined via the Admin Center and, for example, the data on lost terminals can be deleted.

Browser access to OneDrive for Business

Accessing OneDrive for Business via the browser can not only access the folders and files, but there are other helpful menu items.

Shared with me.

In the section “Shared with me” you can see all the documents that were shared with the user. This is for me a kind of favorite list, because there are mostly documents in which I work or from which I draw information.


In the Discover section, OneDrive collects relevant data for me. These are documents that belong to me or have been released for me, which have been actively or actively being worked on recently. However, OneDrive does not override the authorization structure, so no document is displayed which has not been released for me.

What are sites in SharePoint?

Sites in SharePoint are a central location for teams or projects and have been designed to work together. There, files can also be uploaded and shared in the document library of a website. The simultaneous, simultaneous work on documents is made possible. At the same time, however, websites also include calendars, lists and the possibility to communicate in the team, depending on the type. Further, there is the possibility to integrate documents into workflows.

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Data in SharePoint sites

Documents that are uploaded to the document library of a site are automatically accessible to all members of the site, but can also be shared with colleagues outside the team or people outside the organization when compliance policies allow.

Verification control on SharePoint websites

The documents are automatically versioned when versioning is activated on the library; an earlier state can be restored at any time.

Access documents on SharePoint sites

Access to the documents is usually done in the browser, but the documents can also be integrated into the local folder structure and synchronized via the OneDrive for Business Sync app. The documents can then be edited directly in the browser or in the local app.

How do OneDrive for Business and Web sites differ?

The technical basis for OneDrive and Web sites is the same, both is based on SharePoint. The main difference is that sites were specialized in team collaboration, but OneDrive for Business was developed as a personal storage space for a company’s employees.

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This means that documents that are stored in OneDrive are automatically set as private, so sharing with others must be active. In a document library, on the other hand, the documents are automatically published for everyone who has access to the Team Site.

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