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ALX Training / Articles / Teams, OneDrive & SharePoint – What is the difference?

Teams, OneDrive & SharePoint – What is the difference?

by ALX Training on Mar 18 2022

When clients first move to Microsoft 365 there are two main concerns; where should I store my work, in OneDrive, SharePoint or Teams, and what’s the difference? The other is which communication tool do I use; email, Team posts or Teams chat and what’s the difference? I will cover the storage options in this blog post and return to the communication issue next month.

In my experience, there is often a group of people who would really value guidance on this topic as they don’t feel confident experimenting to find what works best for them. Many people prefer clear direction from the outset, and then over time they may start to customise and adapt how they work.

To help, this post will make clear distinctions between the different storage locations. I will explain when you would save a file to OneDrive, over Teams and how SharePoint fits into the mix.

Where should I save this?

There are two main options when you come to save a file; save it to Teams or save it to OneDrive.  When saving a document via the File menu, you are presented with the following choices:

Save file to OneDrive screenshot
Save file to SharePoint screenshot

OneDrive leads you directly to your own personal storage area, whereas Sites takes you to your Team channel folders.

Your personal storage area (aka OneDrive) is where you can save items no one else will ever need access to.  Whereas items in your Team channel folders are accessible by anyone who is an owner, a member or a guest of that Team.

The main differences between the two are set out below:

OneDrive Channel Files in Teams
For personal work files
No one else needs visibility of these files
For files that belong to the team
Files that need to be accessed by others
Personal content that can be deleted when you leave the organisation Team content that needs to be preserved for future & existing team members

Team Channel Files

Within Microsoft Teams, there is an area called Teams where you can see the different teams you are a member of.  These Teams are a modern way of managing access to your organisation’s files and folders.  It is more transparent and responsive than the previous method of applying passwords to files or restricting access to specific folders within a shared drive.

Teams channel save to

Each team must have at least one owner who is responsible for ensuring the right people are members of that team and therefore have the correct access to the information, files and folders within the Team.  This means when someone does leaves the team no information is lost. Conversely, when someone new joins they will have access to all the previously shared information, posts and files.

SharePoint Online

So where does SharePoint fit into this? SharePoint is the application that stores the content for both OneDrive and Channel Files.  When you look at a file or folder within the files tab of a Team channel, you are really looking at SharePoint Online.  Teams is just the window you are looking at SharePoint through.

This is why Channel files and OneDrive look so similar and behave in the same way.  They both use SharePoint Online to store the content – they are just named differently to distinguish between personal files (OneDrive) and Team files (Teams).

To understand how the same Team files & folders appear when viewed directly in SharePoint, click Open in SharePoint from the top menu and you will see each Team Channel represented by a folder in SharePoint Online.  When you open these SharePoint folders, you will see the same content you can see in your Team Channel Files.

Teams channel save to

Microsoft Teams Chat Files

There is a third area to view files which is within a 1-1, group or meeting chat. When you add a document to a chat feed, you are actually uploading a copy of that file.  Although, it seems like you are saving a file to the chat, you are actually uploading a copy to your personal OneDrive and giving the people within your chat permission to access it there.

Files uploaded and shared in this way can create an additional data risk if people are not aware that chat stores these files in your OneDrive.  It is therefore always better to share a links in chat feeds rather than uploading the document as a copy.

Data Loss Risks with OneDrive

There will come a time when you leave the organisation, for one reason or another.  This presents the problem – what happens to your OneDrive content when you go?  Typically, someone in your team is given 30 days to go through your OneDrive files to make sure anything important or in active use is re-saved to a channel folder so that access is not lost.

However, when you are busy 30 days can quickly pass by and sometimes before they’ve had chance to check the contents, the OneDrive storage space is deleted along with any chat files and other shared files your colleagues were using.  Our advice to avoid this is restrict what you store in OneDrive, use your Team Channels for collaboration and clearly set out to everyone the purpose of each storage location.

If you would like us to guide you through your Teams architecture, different types of data, permission groups, naming conventions or the most efficient ways of saving to SharePoint and OneDrive, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Alex Morel


#M365 #SharePoint #MSTeams #OneDrive #Chatfiles #Dataloss #Permissions #ALXTraining

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