Over the past few posts on this blog, we’ve mentioned different aspects of Microsoft Office365 and its collaborative software, namely Teams and OneDrive. Part of the backbone of Office is SharePoint: the cloud or on-premises infrastructure for OneDrive and the rest of your organization’s shared data. SharePoint has a few features that OneDrive doesn’t, and it can get a little complicated because they overlap quite a bit in their functionality.
If you’re thinking about switching from a self-hosted file server and using OneDrive, SharePoint, and/or Office365 as a cloud solution, there are some pros and cons to keep in mind. Ultimately, SharePoint is a great way to utilize cloud hosting and simplify your network, but it definitely requires some forethought and planning to make the most of it. In this post, we’re going to assume that SharePoint means the cloud hosted version and not a SharePoint Server that you host on your own servers.
Sharing Files Internally and Externally
If you’re new to SharePoint, you can think of it like OneDrive but with the added ability to create your own websites and shares for your team. The most common way to use SharePoint is to make a website that your team members use to share documents and collaborate by publishing on the SharePoint Site. The SharePoint Site also becomes a place where files can be stored from any part of Office. The SharePoint application helps you create content that goes in this cloud or network storage, but SharePoint is also the name for the storage and service.
When you set up a SharePoint Site, it becomes a place where you can store shared documents like you would on your OneDrive. Think of OneDrive as personal space for each user and SharePoint as a shared space like a network drive. They are integrated to make it seem like they are pretty much the same thing: for instance, if you move a file in OneDrive, you’ll see your SharePoint Sites below your personal OneDrive storage. Since the files are in the cloud, and accessible through OneDrive and SharePoint, they can be shared externally (with anyone) simply by sharing the link. However, OneDrive and SharePoint are very different in how they manage the rest of their sharing features.
Pro: simply copying, moving, or saving a file to a SharePoint site makes it available to your team
Con: sharing is configured much like permissions on the network, making them both complex and powerful
Once a file (or any other object) is on the SharePoint Site, it is accessible to users of the team that have access to that Site. This is managed by administrators the same way a network drive or file server would be (based on their role and what data they need access to). This means you don’t have to share individual files or folders like you would in OneDrive, but it also means that you need to set up the proper permissions scheme so that everyone has access to what they need (and, more importantly, so that users don’t have access to what they don’t need).
SharePoint can be a great way to simplify your company’s network infrastructure, since using Microsoft’s cloud hosting eliminates the need to manage a VPN for off-site access. You can even use SharePoint as if it were a drive in Windows (like it’s on a file server), or in the web browser. Using it in the browser is really handy if you are comfortable using other Office365 Online apps, like Word Online or Excel Online. Like all of the Office365 apps, the SharePoint and OneDrive apps give you a unified experience on every platform.
Microsoft can be a little opaque about how much storage you have at your disposal when you subscribe to OneDrive or SharePoint individually. Initially, Office365 includes one terabyte of OneDrive allotted to each user, and can expand that to five terabytes. OneDrive for Business (as part of the Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan) includes 25 TB/user and anything beyond that is provisioned as a SharePoint site administered by the user. And, of course, Microsoft refers to all of this storage as “unlimited.” It may indeed be unlimited, but it’s not a great idea to find out the cost of more storage by exceeding these caps.
Pro: storage for SharePoint and OneDrive start off as included in the price of Office365 and is very reasonably priced for small amounts
Con: the included storage varies by which tier of Office subscription your business buys or which products you subscribe to, and using more may incur higher costs
All of this is to say, maybe SharePoint and OneDrive are a great solution for your storage and collaboration needs, but it will depend on what kinds of data you need to share on SharePoint and OneDrive. Five terabytes of storage per user is large for personal storage, but whether or not it’s big for your operation depends on what kind of work you need to get done.
Like any other cloud service, it requires quite a bit of planning and execution for your IT team to migrate. And also like any moving to any other cloud service, it could be a bit time consuming to get existing data moved to a new platform.
-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team