Sharepoint vs OneDrive - What's the difference?

Cloud computing is becoming more and more common. Wherever we look, it is cloud this and cloud that, and understandably, because with the cloud, access is unlimited. By using the cloud, you can access your data and work on documents from ANYWHERE, instead of being indebted to your desk. However, as companies and users move to the cloud, one of the most common questions I get is “OK, so I have OneDrive and SharePoint… what's the difference again? They both seem to do the same thing, so which one should I use? ”Here, we will resolve all your SharePoint vs. dilemmas OneDrive.

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In all honesty, the SharePoint vs. disaster. OneDrive is not just a customer issue. Even for those of us who use both regularly, it can be confusing to know which solution is best for each situation . Although SharePoint and OneDrive are Microsoft cloud storage products with common characteristics, there are some important differences between the two that decipher how and when one or the other should be used. Confused, right? It may be, unless you have a system (hint: we've created one for you, plus an elegant mnemonic to remember). So, let's simplify as we delve into the similarities, differences and use cases for both


SharePoint vs. OneDrive: similarities

With OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, you get the following:

Cloud storage

OneDrive and SharePoint offer storage in Microsoft's cloud space, which means your data is securely stored in Microsoft's vast network of data centers. When you access your document, Microsoft seamlessly extracts it from one of these datacenters to your phone or PC, all without you even being aware of the security gym going on in the background.

What exactly is a datacenter? Essentially, it is a very large facility that houses servers that contain customer data. Think of a datacenter as a state-of-the-art depot (or multiple depots) that has nothing but a ton of very large hard drives. So the cloud is not just “somewhere,” it has a location. 

Enterprise-grade security:

Both OneDrive for Business and SharePoint include security features from Microsoft, ensuring your data is protected at all times. All communications to and from OneDrive for Business and SharePoint on the Internet use SSL / TLS connections. All SSL connections are established using 2048-bit keys. Therefore, during the entire time that you access your data, it is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access.

This may sound like a lot of nonsense, but to translate, let me give you a mental picture: think of the connection between your computer and the data center as a tunnel. Before entering the tunnel, your data is secure (see below (encryption at rest). When you access the data, it enters the tunnel and its active encryption is constant. Therefore, if an unauthorized person attempts to intercept this data before reaching the destination, all they would see would be a ton of garbled information. Do you remember creating a secret language with your friends when you were a kid? Nobody understood, right? Well, think about it (times a million) when you think of accessing your data .

As I mentioned above, Microsoft also implements security features when your data is NOT being accessed, called “Encryption at rest”. Rest encryption includes two components:

BitLocker disk-level encryption and client content file encryption.

BitLocker is deployed for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online across the service. While BitLocker encrypts all data on a disk, per-file encryption goes even further, including a unique encryption key for each file. In addition, each update of each file is encrypted using its own encryption key. Before being stored, the keys to the encrypted content are stored in a location that is physically separate from the content. Each step of this encryption uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys and is compatible with Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2.

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Encrypted content is distributed across multiple containers throughout the data center, and each container has unique credentials. These credentials are stored in a physical location separate from the content or content keys. Dashlane , a stronghold of personal information, password and payment (similar to Keeper) explains that the Advanced Encryption Standard “is now widely accepted as the strongest encryption there is - and is used by governments, armed forces, banks and other organizations around the world to protect sensitive data.

To give you an example of how secure 256-bit encryption is, Dashlane explains in this article how many combinations would it be necessary to try to decrypt it: "The number of possible keys that this system (256 bits) allows is 2 for the 256th power - this is a 78-digit number."

Access from anywhere:

Data from both services can be accessed by the user from almost anywhere with a network connection. The main reason for using cloud-based storage is ease of access. As a user, you can access your information from almost any device, as long as you have access to the Internet.

To give a personal example, I was on vacation once when a co-worker approached me about a proposal I had worked on for a client before the vacation. The deal was not set to close in the next two weeks, but it looked like the client wanted to move things forward and needed the proposal as soon as possible. For someone without cloud storage, this would have been a complete nightmare. If I had just stored the proposal on my computer, for example, there would be nothing I could have done. Fortunately, I had the proposal on my OneDrive, so I simply accessed it from my phone (while I was on the beach, mind you), downloaded it and forwarded it to my co-worker sitting by the sea in a chair on the sand. Both my business and my vacation were saved.

SharePoint vs. OneDrive: Differences

 For all the larger aspects that OneDrive and SharePoint have in common, there are some important differences. (This strictly goes with the storage aspect of the two.)

Personal storage vs. collaborative storage:

Storage usage is where most of the confusion between SharePoint and OneDrive comes into play. Yes, both options are great for cloud-based storage, but the main difference is what you are going to put in that storage. OneDrive is your own personal storage. This is where you want to place documents and files that you don't want others in your organization to access. For example, you may be working on a document that you are not yet ready to share with your co-workers. In that case, you want to store it on your OneDrive. Although it is private, you can still share the document with selected people if and when you wish, but your organization as a whole will not have access to it without your express permission.

SharePoint, on the other hand, is your collaborative cloud storage. This is where you would store a document in which you want to collaborate with a group of coworkers. For example, let's say you are working on a project that requires multiple people to contribute. If you store this in SharePoint, anyone in your group will have access to view and even edit the document, if you set the permissions to allow this. SharePoint is also where everything within Teams is stored. This is because Teams, in essence, is a collaboration tool.

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An easy way to remember the difference is this (here's that mnemonic I was talking about!). Think of the “One” on OneDrive as storage for one person (you). Likewise, “Share” in SharePoint is your shared storage where you want to keep things that need to be collaborated. Easy, right?

SharePoint and the intranet:

In addition to collaborative storage, SharePoint can also be used to create an Intranet (internal web pages that only employees have access to) in your organization. An intranet would be useful for an organization that needs a company webpage with exclusive resources for employees. For example, many HR web pages are intranet pages that only current employees can access by logging in with their work credentials. An intranet also provides a great place for training materials, especially for those who use Microsoft Stream (Microsoft's video streaming application) for training videos and more.

What is the best? SharePoint x OneDrive

Both SharePoint and OneDrive are extremely useful programs that you will no doubt use in combination, but which one you will use when it depends on what you want from it. My guess is that most of you will use OneDrive more often than SharePoint, due to the fact that it is your personal cloud storage. However, now that you know the difference, the next time you have a document for collaboration, I recommend uploading it to a SharePoint site or teams so that everyone in your group can access and work together from the start. Happy sharing and saving in the cloud!

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Felipe Santos
Felipe Santos is a Cloud and Security Architect, with experience in Windows Server, Cluster, Storages, Backups Veeam and Office 365 environments.
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