- The use of GoogleDrive, DropBox, and similar external services to conduct university business is currently DISCOURAGED. University business should be conducted via the university provided Office365 based solutions OneDrive and SharePoint.
- In the near future the access of the aforementioned external services will be BLOCKED from the university network.
What’s the difference between OneDrive for Business, University SharePoint Team Sites and Portal and MyAlliant?
When should each be used?
1. OneDrive for Business
You get a OneDrive for Business account when the University associates a qualifying Office 365 license with your email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). A key consideration is that an administrator can remove the Office 365 license and your account no longer has access to the OneDrive for Business storage.
Additionally, OneDrive for Business offers considerably more features and functionality compared to a personal OneDrive account. The left-side navigation options show a few more choices, but the real surprise is tucked away in the “gear” menu, where you’ll see an option to display a hidden ribbon menu.
Display the ribbon and what to do you see? Well hello, it’s SharePoint! Yes indeed, OneDrive for Business is a personal SharePoint site. This fact should tip you off about the meaning of the other “gear” menu choices like Site contents and Site settings. This is an honest-to-goodness SharePoint site with the ability to create additional document libraries and lists, add columns and views, set alerts, run workflows and much more.
Best Use: Documents that are associated with work and are owned and maintained by an individual should be stored here rather than on a device-specific storage, like a C:\ drive, or a portable USB device, because the documents are backed up and secured by Office 365 and ultimately remain in control of the organization. A good use is for your My Documents folder so your data will be backed up and accessible from anywhere. Files stored on local storage or a USB drive mean that copies of the files must be created when sharing them with others. Files in a OneDrive for Business account are shared via a URL, complete with access controls. You can dole out read-only permissions to some people and permit edit capabilities to others, including others that are outside your organization. For example, you could share a document for collaborative editing with a colleague and also invite an external supplier or vendor to take a look at the document, all driven entirely by a URL. At any point, you can remove the permissions and the document is no longer accessible. Sending copies of files as email attachments offers no such control.
Bad Idea: Documents that are routinely modified by others or used as part of a group’s operations should not be stored in a personal area. The same goes for documents that need to be accessed by a larger, possibly changing, audience. For example, let’s say you’ve created the first draft of a company policy document. Several members of the HR department will end up providing input and then there are some approvals required from higher-level management. Ultimately, everyone in the company needs to be able to view the final, approved version. While this is possible to accomplish with a OneDrive for Business account, it ties the existence of the document and all business processes associated with the document to an individual user’s account. There is no easy way to administer the file sharing and version management because everything is driven by that specific user’s account. While you might justify creating the first draft by yourself and storing it here while in progress, but as soon as other members start needing access to it, you’re far better off using a group-oriented tool, namely, SharePoint.
2. SharePoint Team Site
A SharePoint team site is a self-contained SharePoint site that is a sub-site of the University SharePoint portal. The key characteristic of a team site is that the members are a subset of an organization, and as such, the documents stored in team site document libraries are supposed to be of limited use to outsiders.
Best Use: Documents that are created and maintained as part of a group process are ideal for storing in document libraries in team sites. You can leverage SharePoint’s security inheritance model to keep permissions management as easy as possible, while at the same time being able to create exceptions and invite non-members to participate. Returning to the company policy example, it would be far better to create, maintain and collaborate on that company policy document when it’s part of an HR team site. Team members can come and go without anyone losing access to important documents and administrators can easily jump in and lend a hand should things get messed up. Other HR team resources like a shared calendar, task list, image library and more can all be part of the team site, making it the best place to go when collaborating on documents. You would not gain any of these benefits with a personal storage location.
Bad Idea: Documents that need to be accessed by the general user population should not be stored in a team site. The HR policy example is a great case in point – when you’ve got a final draft that has been approved, how do you make the document available as a read-only resource to the rest of the company? That’s the role of the University SharePoint portal, discussed next.
3. University SharePoint Portal
The University SharePoint portal includes all University staff and faculty as members, though with different permissions depending on their role. The University SharePoint portal will have numerous special-purpose document libraries to help keep large numbers of documents organized and easy to search. SharePoint’s security inheritance model rewards designs that group similar sets of permissions together so libraries and individual documents don’t require constant, special attention. While all the document management features described previously also apply to corporate portals, it gets insupportably complex to manage when there are hundreds or even thousands of exceptions to permissions and sharing.
Best Use: University document libraries are the best repository for final, read-only versions of documents that have been prepared and collaborated upon in other contexts, or where changes are infrequent and not subject to ad hoc organizational changes. Users of a portal appreciate a consistent and efficient navigation and search model.
Bad Idea: Mixing the group collaborative nature of document libraries in a team site with the buttoned-down orientation of a University portal. Returning one more time to the HR policy document example, when the group is ready to communicate the final, approved draft of a document to a broad audience, it’s time to place a copy in a new location. The HR team site keeps a copy, ready for future collaboration while the University SharePoint portal stores the official policy document in the library where the right people are going to find it in the expected location and searching will yield the best results.
The MyAlliant portal is best used for student facing data sharing, forms, announcements, and anything that the student needs to attend class and have a fulfilling student experience. MyAlliant is a proprietary portal from Jenzabar that has built in linkages to Jenzabar CX, our student information system (SIS). As such it works very well for student facing communications but offers fewer features, centralized management, and University control. From an operational perspective it also makes us dependent on Jenzabar and should we decide to migrate to an SIS from another vendor we would have to migrate all of the operational data to a new platform.
By extrapolating University operational data into the new University SharePoint portal we maintain complete control of governance, architecture, design, and ease of use.
Best Use: Student facing information and communication needs.
Bad Idea: Continued use as a repository of operational data with a lack of controls, collaboration, and inherent inefficiencies. Over the next several months IT will be working with University departments to transfer their file shares and other data to their new Team Site on the new University SharePoint portal
The University has many solutions available, each of which has a place in our file management strategy.
OneDrive is about individuals while SharePoint is about groups and unimpeded operations.
Knowing the pros and cons of each will help answer the question: What’s the difference between OneDrive and SharePoint? with the answer: it’s all about access and ownership.