File Storage 101: OneDrive vs SharePoint vs Teams

On a dark and stormy night, a lone system administrator was awakened to a horrible sound. It was the sound of his phone ringing and his boss yelling at him to come into the office because the file storage server had crashed.

Through the sheets of falling rain, the cold blustery wind, and the monstrous puddles, he trudged. His head held low, and his coat wrapped tight around him. “Why am I heading back to the office when I could be snuggled up in bed?” he mused. “Why won’t the boss let me move our files to the Microsoft cloud like everybody else?”

Once at the office, our intrepid system administrator quickly found the source of the server outage. It was the boss’s toddler who somehow got behind the servers and started pulling all the power cords out of the machines for fun.

Soon the low hum of a server room returned, and our IT professional completed another on-site emergency recovery.

This is an all-too-familiar story that businesses could eliminate by using resources in the cloud.

Getting Started with File Storage

You are all ready to move your file servers to the cloud. You have decided to go with Microsoft 365, and you know that you will be using OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams to store your files. Your IT team is chomping at the bit to get started, but you still need to figure out where your files should go!

When deciding where to put your files, your goal should be to put them as close to where they are needed as possible and grouped logically. If people must hunt for files they need, it can lead to inefficiencies and lost production time. OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams will help you eliminate those inefficiencies.

Each of them has its benefits and its drawbacks. The idea is to use them as tools to maximize those benefits and limit the drawbacks.


OneDrive for Business (referred to below as OneDrive) is a personal file repository and sync app. It is a place to keep personal work-in-progress and private documents where only you can access them.

It is like a lot of other cloud storage services on the market in that when you put files in OneDrive, you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. You can access them on your desktop, laptop, and mobile device on the great OneDrive app (Android and iOS).

OneDrive is great for accessing your local files when you are offline and then having them sync again when you reconnect. You can set individual files or folders to be kept locally on your device, or you can store them in the cloud and free up disk space on your local drive.

The number one underused feature of OneDrive is its backup functionality. While not a true backup, OneDrive can be set up to automatically sync anything placed in the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures user folders. What is so great about this feature is that, once it is set up, users can go to any computer, log in using their Microsoft account, and their desktop, documents, and pictures are all available to them as if it was their own computer.

This is especially useful when, totally by accident, your laptop ends up in the ocean. All you need to do is get a new laptop and sign in to your Microsoft account. Once OneDrive syncs with the new laptop, you will have all your desktop icons and all of your documents just as you left them.

When saving files from Word, Excel, etc., the default save folder can be set to a OneDrive-synced folder. This enables the AutoSave feature and makes it hard for files not to be synced to OneDrive.

You can also share files from OneDrive if you wish. You can send links or give direct access to files. The ability to share with others is intended to be used for a small number of recipients. If you want to share documents with a larger group of people (more than three), it is best to use Teams.


While OneDrive is great for files you keep to yourself, Teams is an excellent place for putting files for a group of people to have access to. Every team in Teams is provisioned with a default channel called “General.” This channel is where team members put files for the whole team to use. When the team creates more channels, files can be put in those channels based on the channel topic.

Files within Teams can be opened and edited by any team member at any time, even alongside other team members. This promotes a collaborative environment and allows for rapid progress towards team goals as many people can be working on the same file at once.

Teams has a desktop app, browser app, and mobile app. The app tries hard to look the same across all platforms for ease of use and comfort. The app has the same functionality across all devices. You have access to all your team’s presentation files anywhere you can sign in and have an internet connection.


Finally, there is SharePoint. The predecessor to both OneDrive and Teams. It is also the backbone of those apps. If you are using OneDrive for Business or Teams, you are storing your files on SharePoint. SharePoint is a massive, complex, business Swiss Army knife of an app. Storing and accessing files is only a small fraction of what it can do.

At Advisicon, we offer a full range of SharePoint services, including consulting, to help your business move the needle. But for now, we’re just talking file storage functionality.

In order to store files in SharePoint, a Microsoft 365 group needs to be created. When an M365 group is provisioned, it creates a SharePoint site for the group. In that site, you can store files in a document library. To store or access those files, you will need to open the site, navigate to the document library, and then interact with the files.

It is much less user-friendly than OneDrive or Teams, which is a shame because you can access the same files from the File tab in Teams.

A native feature of SharePoint is workflows. When a workflow is configured, the document lifecycle can be managed. For those critical approval documents, a workflow can ensure that it is sent to the correct manager and then back to workers who need to have that approval.

Another benefit to using SharePoint is the ability to use document sets. Many projects have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of different types of files. Using a document set, you can group files by project to make them easier to find and track.

Document sets can have retention rules, workflows, and management preferences applied to them. Because document sets act like content types themselves, they can be set so that all sets inherit the same workflow settings.

How They All Work Together

What is something that all three of these apps do? They all sync your files to your File Explorer. Why open the SharePoint site, Teams app, or OneDrive app when you can open File Explorer and access your files like they are on a mapped drive?

OneDrive syncs with File Explorer automatically. To sync Teams files, open the Teams app and to the team you want to sync. On the Files tab, there is a “Sync” option on the navigation row that will sync that team’s files. To do the same thing from the SharePoint site, access the document library of the team you want to sync. Along the top navigation row is a “Sync” option.

SharePoint File Sync

Teams File Sync

All three apps use OneDrive’s sync engine to sync their files. That is why your SharePoint files stop syncing when OneDrive is closed.

When combined, all three apps provide for a well-rounded file environment. OneDrive provides personal file storage along with file syncing for your devices. Teams and SharePoint provide the collaboration platform for groups to work together on projects and pool files in a single place.

The File Storage Bottom Line

Where do you put your files in the Microsoft cloud? It depends on what you want to do with them. If you want to keep your PowerPoint presentation under wraps before the big presentation, you should use OneDrive. When you want to work with your team on that complicated project for a new client, you should use Teams. And if you need the big boss to sign off on a proposal, you should use the workflow features of SharePoint.

In the end, it matters less where you put files in the Microsoft cloud than the fact that they are not sitting on a file server in a closet somewhere.

Below you can download our Communication & Collaboration QuickStart Guide bundle that features OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook. It is a great jumping-off point that we recommend to all of our clients.

If you have additional questions about file storage or these applications, reach out to us and we’ll connect you with an M365 expert!

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Communication & Collaboration bundle features Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Outlook.

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