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Set up Office 365 file storage and sharing

One of the best ways to set up file storage and sharing for your business is to use OneDrive for Business and a team site together. This is ideal if you have a small business with a few employees.

Office 365 includes a basic team site for you to get started. You can immediately start storing files in OneDrive and collaborating on files in the team site.

Last updated June 7, 2018

Where you can store documents in Office 365

  • OneDrive is designed for individual use, with the occasional sharing of files.

  • A SharePoint team site is designed for sharing and collaborating on files regularly. A team site is ideal for storing files that have shared ownership where several people own the files and might collaborate on them. In a business with only a handful of employees, you might only need one team site.

Both OneDrive and team sites provide anywhere access for you and your employees.

A diagram of how you can use two types of storage: OneDrive or Team sites

Here are recommendations for what to store in each location when you use OneDrive and team sites together:

Storage location

What it's for

What to store here

OneDrive

Storing content in OneDrive is like storing files on your computer; no one else can easily access them.

For more info, see What is OneDrive for Business?

Business files that other team members won't need to collaborate on or access regularly.

SharePoint team sites

Collaboration. When you create an Office 365 group (for example, in the Office 365 admin center, in Outlook, or by creating a team in Microsoft Teams) a SharePoint team site is created for that group. Likewise, when you create a new SharePoint team site from the SharePoint home page or from the new SharePoint admin center preview, it also creates an Office 365 group. For more info see What is a SharePoint team site? and Create a team site in SharePoint Online.

Files that have shared ownership. We recommend separate team sites for each unit of work in your organization. For example, to keep personnel and financial documents private to a small team, create a separate team site.

Note: SharePoint also has other types of sites you can use for your business. You can use communication sites in your intranet to publish information for a broad audience. And you can use hub sites to connect sites in your intranet.

Start using OneDrive and your team site

Each person in your business who has an Office 365 license assigned (and SharePoint Online selected) gets OneDrive cloud storage. They can store business-related files here for access from any device, and they are only available to that user. For example, they might store a draft proposal, their meeting notes, or the script for a demo they're going to deliver.

Employees can also share OneDrive files and folders. If an employee is away or leaves the company, others can access shared files stored in OneDrive.

Here's how each person on your team can set up OneDrive and share files.

Office 365 home screen with OneDrive select  

  1. Go to office.com to sign in, and sign in with your user name and password.

  2. On the Office 365 home page, choose OneDrive.

  3. In OneDrive, team members can store their own business-related files. You can share either individual files, or a whole folder. Pick a file or folder, right click, and then choose Share.

    Sharing a folder

  4. On the Send Link page, leave the default selection Anyone with the link can view and edit.

    Type names or email addresses of team members who you want to have access to the folder, and add an optional message.

    If you want your own copy of the email that will be sent, add your email address to the list.

    Share a link dialog box showing showing typing and selecting a name.

  5. When you're done entering who you want to share with, choose Send. The email is immediately sent to the people you invite.

    Share a link, showing list of names

  6. Here's what the email looks like.

    Email with link to share OneDrive folder

Office 365 includes a basic team site with some features to help you get started. Only the people in your business can access this internal website.

Here's how you get to your team site:

  1. Go to office.com to sign in, and sign in with your user name and password.

  2. On the Office 365 home screen, choose SharePoint and then choose your team site link on the left-hand navigation menu.

  3. You'll see your team's home page. This page includes:

    • The main page displays team News and Activity, such as new files added or recently edited.

    • The +New button to add elements to the home page, such as a document library, list, or new page.

    • The left-hand navigation menu to get to other areas on your team site, like the team document library.

SharePoint Online Team site home page

To help you get started storing and sharing files quickly, your team site comes with a place to store files. It's called the Documents library as in a "library of documents."

Here are the steps to add files:

  1. On the home page of your team site, choose Documents from the left-hand navigation menu. This will take you to your Documents library.

    Team document library

  2. While you're still signed in to Office 365, open Windows File Explorer from your taskbar or other location. Go to the files you want to upload to your team site.

  3. Select the files you want to upload to your team site, and then drag them to the Document library.

    Drag a file from a desktop folder to your library

  4. When you're done, the files will be stored in both your team site and your computer.

    Team site library with files

  5. You can delete the files from your computer. In the next step, Sync online files with your desktop, you're going to create a new location for these files on your computer.

    If you have a lot of files or large files to upload to your team site, read these tips on uploading large or many files to a library.

    If you need more storage space, see Change storage space for your subscription.

Now that you have files on your team site, you can set them up to sync with your PC or Mac. This way, you can work on your files from your PC or Mac instead of working in Microsoft Edge, Chrome, or another browser. It's also useful to have a version of your files synced on your computer for situations when you need to get to a file and you aren't connected to the Internet.

After you set up files to sync with your computer, when you’re connected to the Internet, they'll be synchronized automatically.

Here's how to synchronize files on your team site with your desktop:

  1. On the home page of your team site, choose Documents from the left-hand navigation menu. This takes you to your Documents library.

    Tip: When syncing files on your team site, you’re syncing each file library on the site, not the entire site.

    Team document library

  2. Choose Sync to synchronize all the files. Or browse to the specific folder you want to sync.

    Document library with Sync button selected

  3. If prompted to switch apps, choose Yes. OneDrive is the process doing the synchronization.

    Office 365 switch apps prompt
  4. If you then get a Set up OneDrive prompt, sign in with your work or school account.

    OneDrive setup screen

  5. If you haven't yet synced your OneDrive, you might see a This is your OneDrive folder screen. Check the path under Your OneDrive folder is here. Choose Change Location if you want to use a different path, and then click Next.

    Change your local folder at this screen

  6. The files in your team sites will appear in the left pane of File Explorer under the name of your organization. The files in OneDrive will appear under "OneDrive - <Name of Organization>"

    See what's been sync'd in your local folder

  7. Test the synchronization by opening a file in the team's folder on your computer. Make a change, and then choose Save.

Best practices for file storage and sharing

Here are a few tips for getting the most from OneDrive or your SharePoint team site.

  • Sole proprietorships: Use OneDrive to store your own files and share them with customers on a case-by-case basis.

  • Co-ownerships: Both owners use OneDrive and share files back and forth.

  • Businesses with external clients or partners who need access to files: Create a new team site to store and share documents intended for a specific customer. Set up the site to allow access to only that customer. You then don't need to worry that one customer will accidentally get access to information intended for another customer.

When you store a file in OneDrive it's only accessible by you, unless you share it with others. When you share files, you can choose to create a link that can be forwarded, or to share with only specific people. You can also create separate folders in OneDrive for different purposes such as public, personal, or for individual projects. Each folder can be shared with a different person or group, or nobody else at all.

For more information on sharing, also see Share files and folders in OneDrive for Business.

To see how much storage space you have left in OneDrive, see Manage your OneDrive for Business storage.

While you can upload almost all types of files, some file names and characters in file names aren't allowed. For more info, see Invalid file characters and file types in OneDrive for Business.

Next steps

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