The Difference between Office 365 and SharePoint Online

By KnowledgeLake on Jul 31, 2017

If you’re unfamiliar with the world of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), SharePoint or document management, you may sometimes hear Microsoft’s “SharePoint Online” and “Office 365” used interchangeably.

It’s a common misnomer that SharePoint Online and Office 365 are one in the same. Office 365 and SharePoint Online do share some capabilities. But what are the differences between Office 365 and SharePoint Online?

Office 365 explained

According to Microsoft, Office 365 refers to subscription plans that include Microsoft Office’s productivity applications plus services that are enabled over the Internet.

In addition to productivity applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Office 365 business plans offer e-mail services, internal communication platforms, infrastructure for audio, video, and web conferencing, as well as the capability to share and store internal files on the cloud.

How SharePoint Online fits in

SharePoint Online, while available on Office 365, is a collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. SharePoint Online, which can be configured for a company’s usage, allows an enterprise to store, retrieve, search, archive, track, manage, and report on digitized documents.

While SharePoint Online is a component of the cloud-based Office 365, it is available as a standalone product. (SharePoint’s on-premise platform still offers a few capabilities not found in the online version.)

SharePoint Online and Office 365 do possess some of the same features -- such as the ability to store documents. The best fit depends upon your needs and the content.

Office 365 is best when:

  • File-based storage is needed for ease-of-use. (In this case, you can use Office 365’s OneDrive)
  • Collaborations are uncomplicated and don’t involve a lot of content. (In this case, you can use Office 365 Teams)
  • Personal file management is needed across devices. (OneDrive is your best bet here)
  • Larger files need to be readily emailed. (Again, OneDrive is the stronger option)

SharePoint Online is your best bet when:

  • Collaboration is complex and in need of tight security and maintenance.
  • Custom views are needed as is metadata.
  • Data types have to be configurable.
  • Content management requires a custom workflow.
  • Complex security requirements are needed for certain types of content.

Andrew Hutson, Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions at KnowledgeLake, has an interesting take in this blog post:

“I mentally combine Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams into a single concept, where Microsoft Teams presents a single interface for dispersed applications across Office365. SharePoint is part of the equation for Teams and Group as a file repository. In terms of “hyper collaboration,” a file repository makes sense but falls short when considering document management and enterprise content management.“

KnowledgeLake's experts can help you determine your organization's document processing or Enterprise Content Management needs. Reach out to us today to schedule a demo call or just to chat about your organization's needs!

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