A common question we get from customers is: "Where do I stick my stuff in Office 365 – Where do I store my files and how do I share with others?" With all the options for places to store things and communicate in Office 365, it’s a fair question and, unfortunately, there isn’t a straight forward answer.
Every business will be different. The important thing to do is to set the parameters for your company, share those with your team, and then stay consistent!
To set the baseline, let’s first define the different places to store and share in Office 365:
Yammer: Yammer is Microsoft's social media platform. Most people describe this as Facebook for your office.
OneDrive for Business: OneDrive is cloud storage included in Office 365. Every user gets 1TB of space to store their files (documents, PDFs, photos, music, videos, etc). This is similar to DropBox and Google Drive.
SharePoint: SharePoint is a web portal that can store documents and lists (among other things). The easiest way to think of SharePoint is like your company file share or your company’s network drive. This barely scratches the surface of what Sharepoint can do, but shared storage and company portals are the most common usage.
Office 365 Groups: Groups are a mashup of several different technologies: email, file shares, calendars, even shared notebooks. It's not exactly the same, but a good comparison is Slack.
Got it? Let's get into recommendations for where to house files and communications in Office 365. Remember, these are just recommendations and you may find what's best for your company is a little different.
When to Use Yammer
Yammer as a great replacement for distribution groups in Outlook. It’s a place for company announcements, asking questions (via Polls), and to engage around a certain topic. While you can post files into Yammer, we generally recommend against it. It’s better to post a document in SharePoint and then promote it via Yammer by clicking the Post button.
Examples of Yammer Content:
Type of Post
401k enrollment is next Tuesday!
I am meeting with Acme and Company on Tuesday. If you have any contacts there, please let me know!
There’s birthday cake in the break room!
Post (and who doesn’t love this one?)
Acme and Company called today to say that John did a great job on their assessment! Way to go John!
|We are thinking of expanding our footprint. What location do you think would be best? A) Florida, B) Alabama or C) Washington||
When to use OneDrive (for Business)
When we say OneDrive in this article we are referring to OneDrive for Business – not to be confused with Microsoft's consumer offering OneDrive.
Every user on a Small Business or Enterprise Office 365 plan gets 1TB of OneDrive for storage. The best way to use OneDrive is for storing all of your personal work files. These might be reports, performance reviews, financial documents, etc. Occasionally these files may require some input from someone else – but not at massive scale. It's with maybe one or two users.
The intent of OneDrive is for it to be the place where you store all of your files, replacing your "My Documents" folder. The beauty of this approach is that your files are available across all your devices (PCs, phones, tablets) and in the Cloud.
OneDrive is built right into Office so you can File->Save As right to OneDrive. You can also sync your files down from OneDrive to your PC using the Sync Client. Because Office 365 uses Azure Active Directory, your files are secure. You can share files using just a link (similar to DropBox's offering) or share it so that a user ID and password is required.
When to use SharePoint
There are two unique use cases for file storage in SharePoint: 'static' information and 'dynamic' (or collaborative) information.
Examples of static information include your Employee Handbook, SOPs, employee benefit information, etc. - the documents that generally don't change often and need to be accessed by many people in your organization.
We recommend creating a SharePoint site collection for each major department (HR, Legal, Sales, Marketing, R&D, etc.) and placing the appropriate static documents in these site collections. Put them right on the homepage so that they are really visible to your team.
This is where SharePoint can really shine. For many years, the main selling point of SharePoint was 'Team Sites'. While SharePoint has grown into many things over the years, Team Sites continues to be the most heavily used feature by high performing organizations. Team Sites are made up of Lists and Libraries.
Lists are exactly what they sound like – lists of information. Examples might include contacts, tasks, calendars or even custom lists you create.
Libraries are where documents are stored. Much like OneDrive, the documents can be synced to your PC. They can also be checked in/checked out for control, include versioning, automated change updates, and co-authoring.
Team Sites are the place to store files that require heavy collaboration or version control. Good examples of Team Sites are RFP sites, Product Launch sites, Contracts, etc. Much like OneDrive, sites and documents can be shared externally, making Team Sites a great place for people from multiple companies to collaborate.
So if you're planning to have several people work on a set of documents collaboratively, have workflow requirements, or versioning control, SharePoint is the right place for your documents and files.
When to use Office 365 Groups
This is the big one. Office 365 Groups is a mash-up of almost all of the items above into a single platform. With Office 365 Groups you get:
- Group mailbox (think of it like a chat room)
- Shared OneNote Notebook
- Office 365 Planning space (in Planner)
- Shared document storage location (it’s technically a SharePoint document library – but without any of the bells/whistles)
- Shared calendar
The intended use for Office 365 Groups is to be a hub for complex projects that may require file storage, calendars, and team notebooks (something a Team Site gives you as well).
There are a few different ways you could create and manage groups. The two most common ways are by department and by project. How you organize Groups will really come down to how your employees need to communicate (be aware, there are limitations to the number of groups and group members – there is no external sharing at the moment).
But honestly, unless your company is already set up to communicate using a platform like this, it may not work very well for you. Office 365 Groups offer so much functionality, but it doesn’t seem to integrate well with the way most teams work. We work with a lot of customers on Office 365 and, so far, we haven’t found one where Groups worked well or significantly improved their communication or productivity. The biggest hold back right now is that Groups cannot be shared externally. If this changes, it could significantly increase the value of Groups.
We’re keeping an eye on it, though, and hoping that changes.
The short version
To break it all down into a single chart – here’s our recommendation:
|Idea sharing and feedback||Yammer|
|Personal file storage||OneDrive for Business|
|Group file storage and collaboration||SharePoint Team Sites|
|Complex projects requiring calendaring, message threads, file collaboration, and notebooks||Office 365 Groups|