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Understanding Office 365: Let's Tour Your New Home

Office 365 is a suite of tools that schools and businesses can use to maximize productivity, increase communication and collaboration, and empower individuals to be creative and innovative. Office Online, which includes your traditional desktop publishing software such as Word and Excel, is available at your fingertips for analyzing data and creating reports. And Don't worry and PowerPoint is there too! However, with new tools like Sway, users can develop engaging, multi-dimensional presentations in less than 10 minutes. Microsoft Forms allows users to quickly and efficiently create and distribute surveys, polls and quizzes. Planner is the go-to tool for team projects and Microsoft Teams helps those teams stay connected through chat, calls, and meetings.

How does it all fit together?

Think of Office 365 as a house and SharePoint as the basement of that house. The basement is where all of the major utility units exist; water heater, furnace and electrical panel. Sharepoint is the driving force behind Office 365. The basement is the driving force behind your home.

For example, when you build a home, it will likely include a living area for communicating with groups of people (Teams), a storage area in that room which contains items you may or may not share with those groups (OneDrive), and at least one bedroom where you may journal or take notes (OneNote) and plan your personal or work day (Planner).

When you create a Microsoft Team for a group of people, it exists "on top" of SharePoint. You automatically get a SharePoint site for all of your documents, conversations, etc. that will be created through your team. If you build a house, you automatically get a storage space for all of your utilities that are needed to keep the house running. Most of the time, this storage space is your basement. Right? Now let's dive a bit further.

If you turn on your television, it connects to the electrical panel in the basement (Sharepoint). If you are washing dishes in the kitchen, the water is coming from the water heater (SharePoint). In winter when you turn on the heat, hot air comes through the vent. This comes from the furnace in the basement (SharePoint). Everything in the house is connected to your basement in some way. Everything in Office 365 connects to SharePoint in some way. Your basement is also where you normally keep items that you don't use often or that you want to store for safe keeping. Sometimes you store those items in a locked container to protect it from water damage or destruction. SharePoint is the place where you store documents and files for safe keeping. You can lock those files and only give permission for some individuals to view or make changes.

In Office 365, when you use OneDrive, all of your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files are stored in SharePoint. They are kept there for safe-keeping until you decide to share them with others. When you create a Sway presentation, that presentation is stored in SharePoint. When you create a Form, the "data" for that form is stored in Excel in SharePoint. When you create a Stream video, the "data" for that video is stored in SharePoint.

Get it? I know. You just had an AHA moment. Let it sink in a bit. Would you like to dive a bit further? If so, keep reading.

A Note:

While SharePoint is for secure document storage, organization and possibly sharing, it is a really robust system that is usually managed by experienced users. I know I don't go into my basement alot but I can at least manage to light the pilot if it goes out or trip the circuit breaker in the electrical panel. That is the extent of my skill level. If you do not feel you can manage your SharePoint documents or sites, then don't into the basement. Just know there is always someone to call to help you if you need to go in the basement.

Sharepoint vs. Teams vs. OneDrive

You are probably like millions of other users wondering when you should use SharePoint, Teams or OneDrive. Well, I am here to simplify it for you. Let's revisit our house analogy.

If Office 365 is the house,

Then SharePoint is the basement (secure storage area) in that house.

Teams is the living room (gathering space) of the house and

OneDrive is the closed bookshelf in the living room (or bedroom or office).

Use SharePoint for securely storing and managing important files and documents that you don't want anyone to manage or edit without your permission. For example, no one goes into the basement to touch your utility units or important files unless you've invited them to do so for example, the plumber, HVAC technician or electrician.

Use Teams when you want to chat, collaborate, call, share announcements, co-author documents, create budgets with family, friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues. Note: EVERYONE in the team (living room) has access to your general house area and the basement (Sharepoint) files (well because you let them in and the basement door is not locked).

Use OneDrive when you want to take personal notes, draft presentations, create your girls' trip budgets, etc. and just aren't sure if you want to share with other people. People know you have it. The door is closed. But they won't go in without permission because it's closed bookshelf/room and they aren't sure what's in it. But if you change your mind and want to give them access, you can!

Now that you understand the blueprint, go out and decorate!

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