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Office 365 services present confusing overlaps

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Office 365 services, including SharePoint, OneDrive, offer overlapping capabilities. Things can get confusing for prospective buyers or existing users.

Microsoft's business productivity suite, known as Office 365, is designed to make work easier. But in some cases, the confusing overlap of services can make things more difficult.

Microsoft's Office 365 services enable workers to gain access to a variety of applications for team communication and collaboration, from document sharing and editing to intra-team chat and document commenting.

These Office 365 services are broad and deep. But the wide-ranging nature of offerings also poses a challenge. While Office 365 features several applications to serve workers' variety of needs, many of these services do the same thing, which can be more than a bit confounding for prospective buyers or existing users.

Consider OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, which both feature document management and sharing features. While features overlap, SharePoint has more rigorous security and workflows attached, enabling a broader set of functionality. Conversely, OneDrive is a lightweight content management tool. OneDrive features easy-to-access storage that requires fewer hoops to jump through than SharePoint, but, again, less rich functionality.

OneDrive reflects a 'culture that is focused on immediacy and applications that are easy to use.'
Scott RobinsonSharePoint and BI expert

Because of the overlap, SharePoint and business intelligence expert Scott Robinson says, "It raises questions, [such as], 'What's going on here with Microsoft? Why are we reinventing the wheel? Are we creating SharePoint-lite with OneDrive?' It's definitely confusing."

But Robinson notes that SharePoint and OneDrive clearly have different uses. Robinson says that OneDrive makes sense for more short-term scenarios, where teams strike up a short-lived project, for example, and need a document sharing and collaboration tool without too many hurdles. In these instances, configuring permissions and creating these login hurdles may not be as desirable as using OneDrive. Conversely, SharePoint is a tried-and-true tool with hierarchy, security and workflows to enable more elaborate business processes.

Robinson says that OneDrive reflects a "culture that is focused on immediacy and applications that are easy to use."

"I can use OneDrive to organize work around an ad hoc team. I can include partners, and I have all this immediate functionality and can keep it clean and orderly in OneDrive," he says. "That's where I wouldn't want to worry about the rigidity and the hierarchy of SharePoint. I would want something lean and mean and easy to use. But I'm limited in terms of the security model and limited in terms of workflow. I can basically turn editing on and off. In SharePoint, there is rich workflow, the ability to bring people in at all levels."

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