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Storing Documents in the Cloud: OneDrive, SharePoint, or Email?

J Peter Bruzzese


I know I’m not the only one confused about where to store documents these days. When I go to store a Word 2013 document, I’m offered multiple OneDrive accounts and have to work through excessive navigation to save it to my desktop for easy access. I’ve started to give up the fight and just save everything to OneDrive, especially since OneDrive for Business now offers unlimited storage space. That’s why I paid attention when I saw an Office post that asked the question, should I save my documents to OneDrive for Business or a team site? This also had me thinking, what about email?

Imagine this scenario: Alice has a lot of documents that she works on throughout the week. Some she works on by herself, some she shares, and others she works on with other people. What is the best way for her to store her documents? Should she email herself important documents and include others when she needs to share them?

Storing Documents in the Cloud

With a plethora of cloud-based storage options available, what method should you chose for storing documents? J. Peter Bruzzese breaks it down for us.

What about using cloud storage, such as OneDrive? When is SharePoint Online appropriate? Working with Office 365 you will find that you have a lot of new tools to use, but just as important as knowing how to use these tools is knowing when to use them.

Microsoft’s Advice on the Document Storage Conundrum

Based on advice from the folks at Microsoft via the aforementioned article, here is their best practice approach:

1. Use OneDrive primarily for documents that you don’t anticipate needing to share with others.

Of course, you can share documents stored in OneDrive, so if you do have to share something you certainly can. If you must rely on OneDrive for sharing, then make sure it’s something that you will only share in a limited way, such as only with a few users who will only need to review the document rather than collaborate on it.

2. If you are working as part of a larger team or on an important project you will want to consider using SharePoint Online.

SharePoint team site libraries work great as document repositories for team projects. More than choosing to simply share a document or not share it you can assign it to another user or assign permissions. The workflow aspects of SharePoint libraries are perfect for collaboration and for tracking responsibility. Basically, when you need anything more than simple sharing make sure to use SharePoint Online.

3. What about the old standby of emailing files to people you want to share them with or even emailing to yourself as a makeshift way of storing and moving files? Email can still work for getting files where you need them, but only in a pinch.

Just because at one time it was a great alternative to swapping floppy disks does not make it a good option now. Part of the reason for this within Office 365 is the fact that there are limitations on file attachment sizes. Now granted, you’re limited on file attachment sizes, but the limits are decent enough for typical documentation (Word/Excel documents), although you may run into issues with image-heavy PowerPoint files.

Note: A way to combine the email and SharePoint methods is to consider site mailboxes, which offer the ability to use Outlook to view, send and receive documents, and so forth to a SharePoint document library.

If you want to make sure that your organization’s important files do not get fragmented and divided among many different OneDrive accounts and your SharePoint Online team sites, then don’t get flooded with unnecessary, irrelevant files. Please remember:

  • OneDrive is best used for individual users.
  • SharePoint is best used for serious sharing and collaboration.
  • Email should be used for emergencies, and remember the mailbox size limitations with Office 365.

It’s going to take time for us to get used to the new method and manner of saving and sharing documentation with a cloud-based connection at our beck and call, integrated into our OS and Office products, offering a bevy of different options for saving, sending, sharing, collaborating and so forth.  Hopefully these few tips help you begin the process of organizing which method and tool work best based on the scenario.

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