Understanding OneDrive and SharePoint

OneDrive is a hidden SharePoint document library, so let’s start with SharePoint. SharePoint is much more than just a repository, but the following points relate to document storage.

In part, SharePoint is a location or document library for your organization’s documents, not unlike the public drive on your old file server, but in the proverbial cloud. That is, they’re sitting on a server computer in one of Microsoft’s regional data centers.

OneDrive is a SharePoint location or document library, but accessible exclusively by an active and licensed end-user, not unlike home drives in the days of yore.

Both OneDrive and SharePoint document libraries can be synchronized to your local Windows 10 or macOS device using the OneDrive sync app. The result after syncing is a new folder location in Windows File Explorer or Finder on the Mac. Your OneDrive sync folder is recognized by the simple naming convention of “OneDrive – Your Organization Name”. Your SharePoint sync location is usually found directly above or below the instance of OneDrive and identified simply with “Your Organization Name”.

Within SharePoint Online, your organization can create a hub site, which connects users to multiple SharePoint sites and subsites beneath those. And within each site is always a default document library, although additional document libraries can be created for any site.

The next thing to understand about SharePoint Online is its correlation to Microsoft 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams.

  • When you create a Microsoft 365 Group, then that creates an associated SharePoint site and document library.
  • When you create a team in Teams, then that creates a Microsoft 365 Group and an associated SharePoint site and document library.
    • When you create a channel within a team in Teams, that creates a subfolder within that team’s SharePoint document library.

A key factor to consider about OneDrive and SharePoint is collaboration. And key to collaboration in SharePoint and OneDrive is the ability to share live and unique documents with co-workers or colleagues outside your organization with shareable links, and *not* by using email attachments. Attachments create disparate copies of your documents. But sharable links not only provide access to the one true document, they provide more control over who is able to open the document, whether they can edit or just read, and for what period.

One last point about sharable links: you can provide them to multiple recipients giving all the ability to collaborate by co-authoring or editing the document simultaneously, either in the web-based version of your Office application, within the desktop application, or within Microsoft Teams.