In my last blog post I introduced you to Lou and how she was using Microsoft ToDo, an Excel File, Outlook and SharePoint to organize her day. Using Microsoft 365 to get your day organised. In this post we will explore OneDrive and SharePoint and how to access your files.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is your personal storage location inside your Microsoft 365 account. It includes 1 TB of storage which I am sure you agree is a huge amount. Although it is amazing how quickly it fills up! OneDrive is private to you and only you can access it. You can share individual files or folders with others, however unless you do so, no one can see or access what is in your OneDrive.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a shared storage location. SharePoint sites include a document library. Here documents/files that a team of individuals need access to can be stored.

Please don’t confuse a SharePoint Team Site with a Microsoft Teams site. Although they are similar.  A SharePoint site can be created and exist independently of a Microsoft Teams Team.  I know I know; the terminology can be a bit confusing.

A SharePoint site can have a landing page, with company news, a document library or libraries and many other applications. In this post we are discussing the document storage side of things.

Your organization will have policies set around who can create SharePoint sites and what they can contain and that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

By the nature of the location that the documents are stored in, the permissions about who has access to them is set. So, when files are stored in a SharePoint site, so long as the Site itself has been shared with an individual – Lou in this case – they will have access to any files stored there.

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint

When a new Team is created in Microsoft Teams, it comes with a document library. This is a channel called General. You will see it wherever you create a Team. A team must have at least one Channel as this is where the action happens. Documents are stored here; applications can be added and many tools for collaboration can be used inside of Channels in Microsoft Teams.

When a Microsoft Team is created a few things happen in the background.

  • A Microsoft 365 Group is created – anyone who is invited to join the team becomes a member and will have access to anything available in the team. This is a cross application membership service and ties into other Microsoft 365 services.
  • A SharePoint Team site is created.
  • A Document Library called General is created which appears as the first Channel in the new team. It will have a Files tab along the top which is how the site files will be accessed.
  • An Exchange Online Shared Mailbox and Calendar
  • A OneNote Notebook.
  • Connections to other Microsoft 365 applications.

You can access any documents/files you have stored in this SharePoint site via Microsoft Teams and via SharePoint online.

Any new Channels that you create will also automatically have a document library, accessed via the Files Tab in the Channel.

How many ways are there to access your files?

  • Microsoft 365 on the Web
  • OneDrive – on the web or the computer
  • Microsoft SharePoint on the web
  • Synchronized SharePoint folders on the computer
  • Microsoft Teams inside the Microsoft Teams application

Phew that is a lot of places!

OneDrive Synchronization to the rescue!

What is this synchronization that everyone is talking about? What does it do and what does it mean?

As you read earlier with a Microsoft 365 account your files are stored in the cloud inside your main OneDrive folder.

OneDrive also exists as an App – it is a synchronization application and controls the uploading and downloading of files between your online OneDrive folder and the local folder on your computer.

The first time you launch the Microsoft OneDrive Application you will be prompted to sign in with your work or school account.

OneDrive creates a local copy of your files on your local machine, and you get to them via File Explorer – in the image below you can see Lou@tomorrowsva is the name of her OneDrive folder.

Lou has also backed up her local Document, Pictures and Desktop to her OneDrive making anything stored in any of those locations available wherever she is when she opens her OneDrive folder. You are prompted to do this when you first set up OneDrive – however you can come back to it later if you forgot or skipped that step.

Adding a shortcut to SharePoint locations to OneDrive makes life easier!

To avoid getting confused as to where documents are or rather which way to get to them, you can add shortcuts to your OneDrive folder. That way everything can be accessed in one location. Not only that, but you can create a folder in your OneDrive to save the links to so that they are easily available.

Lou has created a folder in her OneDrive called Links to Sites.

This is where she will place her shortcuts once she has created them.

To Add a Shortcut to a SharePoint site to OneDrive

First navigate to Microsoft 365 and go to SharePoint.

Once in SharePoint open the Document Library that you need a shortcut to.

Click on Add shortcut to OneDrive.

As soon as you click Add shortcut to OneDrive you will see a notification telling you that the shortcut is being created and almost immediately afterwards a notification that it has been created.

You will then see it in your File Explorer OneDrive folder.

To move your shortcut to an easy to remember location.

First create a new folder in your OneDrive – like the one Lou has for Links to Sites.

Pro Tip

When creating folders, give them a number and they will appear at the top of your folder list.

Then drag your new shortcut into that folder.

Repeat the process with any other SharePoint sites you need to access.

Add a Shortcut to a Microsoft Teams Document Library to OneDrive

If you need access to the files in a document library in Microsoft Teams, you can add a shortcut from the Files section of the channel.

Navigate to the Files tab in the Team/Channel you want a shortcut for.

Note that you have two options.

  1. Sync
  2. 2. Add Shortcut to OneDrive

For now, I am focusing on Add Shortcut to OneDrive.

Click on Add shortcut to OneDrive and just like the SharePoint one, the shortcut will be added.

Now when you go to OneDrive in your File Explorer you will see that link.

You can drag it into your designated folder just like before.

OneDrive and Microsoft Teams

Did you know that you can access your OneDrive files via Microsoft Teams?

On the left hand-rail click the shortcut labelled Files – this will show you files stored in OneDrive with your complete folder structure. You will also see links to SharePoint sites you have access to.

However, you will also see any shortcut links that you created in OneDrive and if like Lou, you have moved them into their own designated folder you will see that too.

This means that Lou can get to anything she needs to work on via the Files section in Microsoft Teams.

What do the cloud symbols mean in File Explorer?

You may have noticed that when you look in your OneDrive on your computer, there are symbols next to the files. Remember these files are all stored in OneDrive online.

When you first activate the OneDrive Sync client it asks you to log in with your work or school account and once you have added in your login details it works away in the background, making sure you have access to all those files.

Your IT support will also have added OneDrive and SharePoint as online storage locations to your desktop applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint so that you can choose where to save those files.

Let’s look at the File Explorer and understand the different icons.

There are three types of icons on display in the Status Column.

Empty Blue Clouds – this means that the documents are stored in the cloud and are available on demand. So long as you have internet access these files are available to you.

White Circle with Green Border and Green Tick – these files have been downloaded once and are now available to you even without an internet connection. If you lose internet access, you can still open the last version of the file. Any changes you make will be synchronized when you next connect to the internet.

Green Circle with Solid Green Border and White Tick – these files have been completely downloaded to your device and are now available to you even when you do not have internet access.

This is powered by a feature called Files on Demand. This keeps a link to your files locally on your machine so that you can open them when you have internet access.

As we learned at the beginning of this post, your Microsoft 365 account comes with 1TB of online storage which is way to much storage for most laptops.  With Files on Demand, you still have access to all your files, and can keep only those that are important on your local device.

Controlling what to synchronize

The settings for OneDrive are accessed via the blue clouds icon on your taskbar.

Click this and then Settings top right.

Once in Settings you will see the following dialogue box.

On the Sync and backup tab, scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced Options. You will now see Free up disk space or, Download all files.

Choose which you want to do, and OneDrive will go to work.  As Lou is  working on a wired connection and always has internet access, she as chosen Free up disc space.

When Lou travels she can download the folders she needs access to whilst on the plane or when there is no access, and these are then fully downloaded.

To Keep Files on This Device

When you have a document that you need permanent access to, right click over it in your File Explorer and choose Always keep on this device.

This document will be downloaded and the status symbol next to it will be the full green circle with the white tick.

When you get back from your travels you can right click and choose Free up space. This moves the file back to the online only location and keeps the link as before. Once again, your files are always in sync when you have an internet connection.

You can also control what you see in OneDrive on your local machine, go back to the blue clouds in your Task Bar and choose Settings.

Click on Account and now you can choose which folders to make visible.

Note that on the dialogue box it tells you that the files will be delivered to you on demand and what you are doing here, is deciding which ones you wish to see. ALL files are available when you access OneDrive via the Web.

Phew you did it! You reached the end!

Now that you have read this far, do let me know if you are using OneDrive, SharePoint or Microsoft Teams and what you have learned from this blog post.

Will you change the way you work with OneDrive and SharePoint?

Will you be creating shortcuts to save logging in to lots of different places?

Even if you are using OneDrive on the Web, your shortcuts to SharePoint libraries and Microsoft Teams libraries will work, saving you from having loads of browser tabs open.

Are your team all over the place?

If you need to get your team up to speed with where to save documents to and how, then get in touch for a no obligation chat. We can work out together what your organization needs and put a plan together. Click here to book a chat Book time with Shelley Fishel: Let’s Chat

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