Teams, OneDrive SharePoint what is the difference?

Nick Mullen
Thursday 29 September 2022

Office 365 offers a number of different applications that can be used to save, share and organise your documents. Managing your files can get a bit confusing, after all, these applications are built on the same technology, have many of the same features and look very similar. In this article, I am going to look at the difference between OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams and how best to make use of them.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is a cloud service that allows you to save files to a remote location, enabling users to access the same file on multiple devices. A sync process is used to synchronize the movement of files between your computer and the cloud storage.

What is SharePoint Online?

SharePoint is a web-based collaborative document management and storage system. It is similar to OneDrive in that documents are saved and managed in a remote location via a sync process and can be accessed using multiple devices. SharePoint also offers a wide range of features aimed to enhance the collaboration and sharing of documents.

So why do we need two places to store files?

Whilst OneDrive and SharePoint have many similarities they do perform different roles. The key difference is that OneDrive is primarily used to manage private work documents. That is documents that can only be seen by the owner.  It is possible to share documents using OneDrive however the default behaviour and primary use is to handle private files.

On the other hand, the main use of SharePoint is to share documents and support collaborative working practices. It is possible to have private documents within SharePoint however the default behaviour and main use is to handle the sharing of files.

So how does Teams fit in?

Microsoft Teams bundles together instant messages, meetings and file sharing into one application with a focus on instant communications. Teams provide access control to shared resources through the management of groups (Teams).  Behind the scenes, Teams is using SharePoint to handle all the file-sharing functionality. Each time a new team is created in Teams a new SharePoint site is created to store your documents.

Files shared in the general channel within Teams will be stored in the SharePoint site, within the general folder within the Documents library. Once created, files can be accessed via SharePoint or by Teams. Document access rights are reflected so that once a user is removed from a Teams channel they will no longer be able to access the documents held in SharePoint.

The key differences between OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams
OneDrive SharePoint Teams
Simpler than SharePoint SharePoint has many features to share documents Combines messaging, meetings and file sharing
Used for personal work files Used for collaborative file sharing Provides instant communication
Files are private (unless shared) Files are shared with the team (unless restricted) Files are shared with the team
Can be used to create and upload Files Saves documents to Libraries Acts as an interface to SharePoint. Uploaded files are saved in SharePoint libraries
You can collaborate in OneDrive but it lacks the features of SharePoint. OneDrive can be used to create draft documents before sharing them on SharePoint You can have private documents however the main function of SharePoint is to provide distributed access to documents Access to Teams channels are mirrored in the access rights to SharePoint documents

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