Set up Office 365 file storage and sharing

Last updated 2 April, 2018

One of the best ways to set up file storage and sharing for your business is to use OneDrive for Business and an Office 365 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 for Business and collaborating on files in your team site.

Where you can store documents in Office 365

  • OneDrive for Business is designed for individual use, with the occasional sharing of files. OneDrive for Business is ideal for storing files you own.

  • An Office 365 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 or the whole team owns the files and might collaborate on them.

Both OneDrive for Business 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 for Business and Office 365 team sites together:

Storage location

What it's for

What to store here

OneDrive for Business

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

It's ideal for storing business files that you're working on by yourself.

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

Office 365 Team site

An Office 365 team site is like a website, but by default it's not public; it's accessible only to people you give permissions to.

It's ideal for sharing and collaborating on files.

Shared documents that all of your employees can access and collaborate on. For example, collaborate on a PowerPoint presentation, store team plans that everyone updates, or publish meeting agendas.

Office 365 Team subsite

An Office 365 team subsite is like a separate section on your team site with a unique look or unique permissions for access.

It's ideal for sharing and collaborating on files with a customer or partner external to your business.

It's also good for storing files you want to keep private from the rest of the people in your business who have access to the team site. You can set up a subsite so only you (and if needed, one or two others) can access it.

Learn how to create a team subsite.

Files you want to share with people external to your business.

Files you want to keep private from others in your business. For example, you might want to store personnel and financial information here.

Office 365 Site collections

An Office 365 site collection is completely separate from your existing team site.

A site collection has its own address and permissions, and can be used for internal or external collaboration.

Larger businesses use site collections in the same way small businesses use subsites. A small business with advanced security needs and strong technical skills might also want to create a site collection.

Store the same shared files in a site collection as you would in a team site and subsite.

Steps: Start using OneDrive for Business and your Office 365 team site for file storage and online collaboration

Estimated time to complete: 5–10 minutes

Each person in your business who has Office 365 gets OneDrive for Business cloud storage. Tell them they should store business-related files here if they are the only ones who need to use the files. For example, they might store a draft proposal, their meeting notes, or the script for a demo they're going to deliver.

It's also important to tell employees to share their OneDrive for Business folder with you and coworkers. If employees get sick or leave the company, it's difficult to access their files stored on OneDrive for Business. But if the OneDrive for Business folders are shared, you can always access the files if needed.

Here's how each person on your team gets to their OneDrive for Business and shares their folder.

Office 365 home page  

  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 for Business, if you already have a Shared with Everyone folder, open it. This is where team members should store their own business-related documents in OneDrive for Business. Choose Share, and go to the next step.

    Or, if you don't already have this folder, choose New> Folder, and name it Shared with Everyone.

    Right-click the folder and select Share.

    Office 365 share folder

  4. For the Send Link information, 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 a message. You can include your own email address to get a copy of the email that will be sent to the people you give access to.

    Office 365 send link to folder

  5. When you're done entering the Send Link information, choose Send. The email is immediately sent to the people you invite.

    Office 365 Send Link dialog

  6. Here's what the email looks like when it's sent. It includes an Open link to your Shared with Everyone folder so they can get to it.

    Office 365 send link email

Estimated time to complete: 5–10 minutes

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. Log in to Office 365 and go to the team site using the URL https://<your business name>.sharepoint.com. For example: https://contoso.sharepoint.com

  2. You'll see the home page for your team's internal website with a default title of <your business name> Team Site. This page includes:

    • Tiles to features to help you get started customizing your team site.

    • Left-side links for navigating to other areas on your team site.

    • A document library, so you can start storing and sharing files with your team.

Office 365 Team Site home page

Estimated time to complete: 20–30 minutes for your first few files

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 navigation menu on the left. This will take you to your Documents library.

    Office 365 Team Site - Choose Documents

  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.

    Office 365 File Explorer files to upload

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

    Office 365 SharePoint Documents library - Drag and drop

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

    Office 365 SharePoint Documents library - Uploaded files

  5. You can delete the files from your computer. In the next step, Step 4: 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.

Estimated time to complete: 20–30 minutes for your first few files

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 about every 10 minutes.

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 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.

    Office 365 SharePoint Team Site - Choose Documents

  2. In the SharePoint, choose Sync to synchronize all the files. Or select the individual files you want to sync.

    Office 365 SharePoint - Sync files

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

    Office 365 switch apps prompt
  4. If you then get a security prompt, choose Allow. If you get a prompt to enter your Office 365 credentials, enter your Office 365 user ID and then your password.

  5. At the Sync your files to this PC prompt, choose Next. 

    Office 365 SharePoint - Sync files prompt
  6. When the sync is done, you can see the files on your computer in your team's folder. The little green check mark next to the file indicates that it's up to date and has been synchronized with the file on the team site.

    Office 365 SharePoint Sync - Windows File Explorer

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

    If you're connected to the Internet, you might see a notice indicating the file is being saved to your team site. It's also saved to your computer at the same time. If you get the message "Failed to upload," try again. Sometimes an inconsistent Internet connection can disrupt saving.

    Congratulations! You're done setting up file storage and online collaboration for your organization.

Best practices for file storage and sharing

  • Small nonprofit: Create an Office 365 team site to store shared documents so information is centrally located and archived. This way information isn't lost during personnel transitions, for example, to another director. Create a private Office 365 team subsite to store files that you want to keep private from the rest of the team, such as your personnel and financial documents.

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

  • Co-ownerships: If you co-own the business, you can still use your OneDrive for Business, but you'll need to directly share your files with the other owner, and vice versa.

  • Businesses with external clients or partners who need access to files: Use Office 365 team subsites to store and share documents intended for a specific customer. Because access to subsite is specific to certain customers and limited to the subsite, you 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 for Business it's only accessible by you, unless you share it with others. When you share files, you can choose individual people to share with, or share with everyone. 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 for Business, see Manage your OneDrive for Business storage.

While you can upload almost any format file, some files may not be allowed for two reasons: security and invalid characters in the file names. OneDrive for Business security policies block certain file types and a small set of characters. For more information on what file formats and invalid characters aren't allowed, see Invalid file characters and file types in OneDrive for Business.

Next steps

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