OneDrive for Business | 14 min read

OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive – Know the difference

WRITTEN BY Benjamin Niaulin
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OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, they share a name, but don’t offer the same things. So, what’s the difference? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “one is the business or professional version of the other” because in all honesty, they are not the same.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive sign

OneDrive is a personal cloud place for you to securely store your files and access them later, from any device.

You’ve been using the cloud for years when accessing your emails on Hotmail or Gmail, etc. The difference is now it has been extended to store your files as well and given a name, OneDrive.

Here is a quick look at what your OneDrive looks like:

OneDrive User Interface

Your OneDrive is a place where you can organize your files in folders and access them when you want but, more importantly,  where  you want.

It is also part of your dashboard in the menu at the top; you can quickly jump to your emails, calendars, contacts, or even create a new document on the web.

Summary:  OneDrive is Microsoft's solution for storing your personal files online.

What is OneDrive for Business (ODFB)?

OneDrive for Business sign

This one can be a little more confusing at first, because of its brand name. One would assume that ODFB is simply OneDrive with some extra features to help businesses get the job done. However, it has nothing to do with OneDrive in terms of what it is and what it does.

But the purpose of this article is to compare the two and not explain  what OneDrive for Business is, which I covered recently and strongly recommend you read before continuing here.

No need to get complicated, Microsoft has the best definition:

OneDrive for Business is online storage intended for business purposes. Your OneDrive for Business is managed by your organization and lets you share and collaborate on work documents with co-workers. Site collection administrators in your organization control what you can do in the library.

In short, OneDrive for Business brings teams together to collaborate on documents, amongst other things, using a business account.

Close to the concept of the basic OneDrive, with OneDrive for Business each team member of the organization has his or her storage place. The difference lies in the platform used to offer the service; in this case, it’s SharePoint.

Everyone in your organization uses their Active Directory account or Office 365 to log in, if that’s what you're using to create their own “SharePoint Site”. This used to be called “My Sites” in previous versions of SharePoint.

Summary:  OneDrive for Business uses SharePoint to give each member of your team a place to store documents and collaborate with others.

Because it uses SharePoint, it also provides more administration options for working with documents. It doesn't require being on the cloud, and can be installed on your servers.

Extra Content: Download our Guide to learn more about OneDrive for Business.

Understanding Where your Documents are Stored

Storage in OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive

Storage in OneDrive

As mentioned above, OneDrive is a place to store your files in the cloud. As of January 2016, you can now store up to 5GB of files, organized in folders.

OneDrive is simple to use, and Microsoft has done a pretty good job keeping it that way throughout the years. However, it does come with a few things you may grow to dislike.

For example, you can’t drag and drop folders or upload them with your document structure. You need to create them directly through the web interface of OneDrive. Hopefully this is something that will be addressed in future iterations.

Something I do find interesting about OneDrive are the different views available for users to display their content:

Storage in OneDrive

Though OneDrive means storing your files in the cloud and accessing them where and when you want them, it doesn’t mean you should go through your browser each time.

OneDrive available on all devices

Luckily, OneDrive can be installed on pretty much any device.

Cool benefits you may not have known about storing your files in OneDrive:

  • Versioning: View, Download, or Restore a previous version of your Office files
  • Embed: Take your Office files, Picture or Videos and generate an HTML code that allows you to embed them in another location
  • Integration with Office: Automatically Open and Save files to your OneDrive straight from Office.

Storage in OneDrive for Business

Explaining OneDrive for Business storage comes down to explaining SharePoint storage.

Technically, OneDrive for Business is a synchronization feature offered by SharePoint. But as a brand, it’s a professional version of the OneDrive personal storage solution.

Contrary to its personal counterpart though, OneDrive for Business is also available On-Premises, on an organizations’ own servers.

OneDrive for Business User Interface

As you can see with the image above, it may be confusing at first for some users, as the name for OneDrive for Business is often just “OneDrive” in the interface.

In this Site, each user will get what SharePoint calls a Document Library. It’s where documents are stored and managed.

Read more to  learn the basics of SharePoint before choosing OneDrive for Business.

Benefits of using OneDrive for Business storage:

  • SharePoint and ODFB is a mature, collaboration platform used by millions of organizations worldwide.
  • You'll get more control on Versioning, Content Approval, Workflows, Document Templates, and much more. But what's more, there are many third-party add-ons available to really take advantage of the platform.
  • It’s also available on almost all devices through the app. The downside to some of these apps, however, is that they require an Office 365 login to work.

Security when Sharing

Security and Sharing in OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive

These days when we talk about the security or permissions of a document, we often talk about “Sharing”. This is what you'll see in both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

Both offer a similar experience to the user. You can either generate a link with permissions, so anyone with the link can access the document anonymously, or share the documents with an email address.

The difference is, of course, that with OneDrive for Business, it will include anyone in the organization or connected to the organization with federated services. This means you won’t necessarily have to know a users’ email to grant them access to the files and folders.

And whether you are using OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, you will be able to quickly see who has access to each document.

I’d say the only other noticeable difference is in SharePoint (or OneDrive for Business), which is that you can create your own custom Permission Levels and add them to existing lists. OneDrive only allows you to select “Edit" or "Read”.


Collaboration in OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive

This is where it all comes together, collaboration.

Of course, this will depend on each person’s definition of the word, but I think we can all agree that, at its core, collaboration software is about helping teams work together with a common goal and requiring the least amount of effort. It’s also important to keep the integrity of a document, and to avoid having multiple copies.

Lucky for us, both OneDrive and OneDrive for Business through SharePoint, allow us to work on documents at the same time. I have covered  Co-Authoring with SharePoint 2013  in the past and I invite you to see how it works. Microsoft has also done a great job showing us  how it works with OneDrive.

There is no one feature that makes it the best tool for collaboration, but it’s the combined little things, like Content Approval and document Workflows, that make working as a team so much easier. Not to mention integrations with enterprise social networks like Yammer, and future apps showcased like Oslo.

OneDrive for Business vs OneDrive

There is already a comparison chart on the OneDrive website, but I find it’s missing a few details. Here's my extended version:

for Business
Desktop Syncing
Windows PC
Mac OS
Mobile Access
Windows Tablet
Windows Phone
Create/edit Office documents in a browser
Built in integration with Office desktop
Real time co-authoring with Office documents
Versioning and history of documents
Basic automatic creation and recovery of versions
Management of versioning (Major and minor versions or major only, manual creation of versions, require checkout option and other advanced versioning options)
Multifactor authentication support
Auditing and reporting
Advanced administration for granular control
Approval Workflows
Create Custom Workflows with SharePoint Designer
Create Columns to add your own Metadata to documents
Advanced security management
Create views on your content (Saved Views, Filters, etc)
Create Lists to manage data (Announcements, Tasks, Contacts, etc)
Retention Policies (depending on SharePoint Plan)
Document Templates
Basically, every single feature SharePoint offers
SSO/ADFS/Directory sync support
Built in standards compliance
(See prices for additional storage)
1TB per

I hope this clarifies things! Do you think I've missed something?