SharePoint Online vs. PowerDMS: Which is right for you?

Discover the difference between SharePoint solutions, how they compare to PowerDMS, and which one is right for your organization's unique needs.

December 29, 2020

It’s time to update your document management system, to finally make the move from paper to digital. It’s an exciting step, one that will save you time, money, and frustration. But finding the right solution takes a lot of research.

If you’ve started the research process, then you’ve heard of SharePoint and PowerDMS. Despite their drastic differences, each solution is a leader across various industries. The question is which one is right for you and your organization’s goals?

In this article, we’ll discuss the pros, cons, and features of each platform and identify key differences that can help you make an informed decision. Let’s start by exploring the difference between the two SharePoint solutions: Online and Server.

Can SharePoint be used as a document management system?

The simple answer is yes. Is it the right solution for your organization? That’s an entirely different matter, but we’ll help you find out.

When considering SharePoint, you have two options: SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server, also called SharePoint On-Premises.

Generally speaking, SharePoint is a system for document storage and management. It’s a highly configurable platform, meaning if you have the IT resources, time, and money, it can be customized to meet your organization’s needs.


What is SharePoint Server?

SharePoint Server lets you host the platform locally. It offers benefits like on-premises document storage, control over server architecture, and greater customization. But the benefits come with the cost of server hardware, onsite storage, architecture, licenses, regular maintenance, IT resources, and much more.

It’s worth asking how much customization your organization actually needs. Customization sounds great until you have to sink time and money into building everything yourself.

If your organization can’t store information in the cloud for compliance reasons, or simply doesn’t want to, SharePoint Server could be a good option.

What is SharePoint Online?

SharePoint Online is a cloud-based document management software hosted by Microsoft. Unlike SharePoint Server, you access SharePoint Online as a service without having to manage the on-premises hardware and server architecture yourself. But as a result, you also lose significant control over your data and architecture.

Although you’re free of some of the backend responsibilities, SharePoint Online still requires IT expertise to implement successfully. Deploying a SharePoint site usually involves information architecture, configuration, branding, and content, according to Haniel Croitoru, a Senior SharePoint Consultant, in his talk at the Collab365 Global Conference 2016.

While we won’t go into each of these in detail, information architecture is the structure supporting the content on your site, including taxonomy, columns, content types, lists, libraries, subsites, workflows, etc. Configuration includes elements such as features, search, and user profiles. Branding and content are somewhat self explanatory, but you can learn more by listening to Croitoru’s talk on SharePoint deployments.

SharePoint Online vs. PowerDMS

Discover the pros and cons to both SharePoint Online and PowerDMS, with some tips on which might be right for your organization.

SharePoint Online Pros and Cons


SharePoint Online can be used as an effective document management system. It lets you store, retrieve, search, archive, track, manage, and report on important documents in the cloud.

  • Share files securely inside or outside your organization
  • Sync local copies of files for offline viewing and editing on Mac or PC
  • Coauthor in real time in familiar Microsoft Office apps
  • Inform and connect your people with intranets and portals
  • Use team sites to connect teams to content, expertise, and processes
  • Manage content in document libraries with versioning and access control
  • Share, organize, and track information with Microsoft Lists
  • Move and manage files between OneDrive and SharePoint
  • Navigate SharePoint with mobile apps
  • 24/7 phone and web support

The key benefit of SharePoint Online is its customization and integration with other Microsoft tools like OneDrive and Office 365. Combined with these other tools, it’s a fairly comprehensive enterprise document management solution. Here are some additional benefits:

  • Automatic updates keep your system current with the latest features
  • Important content is accessible anytime, anywhere on mobile devices
  • Monthly subscription model
  • Integrates with other Microsoft tools

The biggest disadvantages to SharePoint Online are 1) it needs to be built and maintained, which often requires the time and expertise of dedicated IT personnel, and 2) it’s not as easy to use as other solutions, which makes enterprise-wide adoption difficult. Here are some additional cons:

  • IT resources required to implement, migrate files, and maintain
  • Expensive when added up per user, per month
  • Monthly subscription requires an annual commitment
  • Costs even more per user, per month if you also want Office 365
  • Focused on features over usability, making it a more complex solution to adopt enterprise-wide
  • Little control over when and how automatic updates take place, which could affect customizations
  • Designed for document storage and management, not compliance or accreditation management
  • Lacks a complex training tool or LMS, though you can add external content to SharePoint lessons

Microsoft has two SharePoint Online plans, Plan 1 and Plan 2, which cost $5 user/month and $10 user/month, respectively. They offer a third plan, Office 365 E3, for $20 user/month, which includes SharePoint Online. View these plans and the features they offer here.

Final Review

When combined with Office 365 and OneDrive, SharePoint Online is a powerful tool for team collaboration and document management. Unfortunately, the many features listed above are somewhat negated by the lack of usability, IT resource requirements, and high costs. SharePoint Online may be right for your organization if you already use Microsoft tools, have a developer with SharePoint expertise, require more document management functionality, or don’t need to map policies and training to accreditation standards.


PowerDMS Pros and Cons


PowerDMS is a document management platform that creates a living connection between your policies, accreditation, and training. It lets you store, manage, distribute, update, track, report on, and collaborate on your most important documents. Forged in the public safety sector, PowerDMS now serves 4,200+ public and private sector organizations worldwide with secure, cloud-based solutions.


PowerDMS was built with policy admins and accreditation managers in mind, so it feels like a custom solution, and there is plenty of flexibility to leverage the platform for your organizational needs.

  • Centralized storage
  • Automated workflows
  • Acknowledgement tracking
  • Real-time notifications
  • Custom groups
  • Access control
  • Version control
  • Powerful search
  • Smart editing (side-by-side comparison)
  • Policy-to-accreditation mapping
  • Integrations (Microsoft Office, Adobe)
  • Mobile functionality

What are the key benefits of PowerDMS when compared to SharePoint Online? First of all, PowerDMS is a powerful, out-of the-box solution requiring very little set up and IT support on your end. Secondly, PowerDMS simplifies compliance by connecting your policies, training, and accreditation. For example, receive alerts when standards need updating, and after the standard is updated, get notified of every policy impacted by the change. Here are some additional benefits:

  • Mapping of policies and training to accreditation standards
  • Industry-leading customer support, proven by their 97% customer satisfaction rating
  • Dedicated customer success advisor who supports your needs
  • Frequent, automatic software updates that don’t require technical assistance
  • Designed for HR directors, policy administrators, accreditation managers, etc.
  • Implement PowerDMS for your organization and allow each department to use it while maintaining an independent system
  • Upload a variety of content (images, videos, audio, documents)
  • Get access to virtually any standards manual
  • Save $10,000 on paper and printing costs, on average
  • Save 2x–4x the amount of time and money typically spent on accreditation processes
  • Optimize the PowerDMS platform for your organization’s specific needs
  • Faster employee adoption thanks to an easy-to-use interface
  • Increased employee accountability

PowerDMS is not a content provider, so they will not create content for your organization. However, they do provide subscription access to certain standards manuals, as well as a tool for adding almost any standards manual to PowerDMS.

With policy, training, and accreditation features, PowerDMS is a fairly comprehensive solution. So while it can save you time and money long term, it will take an investment of time upfront to learn the platform.

PowerDMS does have a training solution, but it doesn’t function as a full LMS (learning management system). Consider reaching out to PowerDMS to find out if their training tool can meet your needs.


PowerDMS is sold at a base cost and from there priced on a per-user, per-year basis. Your annual cost will be determined by the number of users and, therefore, licenses you purchase, as well as the add-ons procured for your organization’s specific needs.

These two variables (number of users and feature add-ons) affect the cost of PowerDMS, so pricing can vary widely between industries and organizations. To provide a quote, PowerDMS would need to learn more about your needs over a friendly, no-obligation call.

Final Review

PowerDMS offers a single product – their policy, training, and accreditation management platform. While PowerDMS isn’t as customizable as SharePoint Online, it is still a powerful and flexible out-of-the-box solution requiring minimum IT support. If you’re definitely looking for a content provider, PowerDMS may not be the right solution. If you need a tool for simplifying your policy and accreditation process, then PowerDMS was made for you.


Important considerations and questions worth asking

What it boils down to is do you want to buy or build? Of course SharePoint Online doesn’t require as much planning or building as SharePoint Server, but it still requires significant time and expertise to deploy the key components of a SharePoint site: information architecture, configuration, branding, and content.

If you don’t have an in-house developer or IT department already, is it worth incurring the cost of a new hire’s salary to implement a SharePoint solution? Once implemented, SharePoint Online may not require as much maintenance as SharePoint Server, but the installation and migration is the biggest challenge. Do you want to figure it out? How about with the help of an external IT expert, and how much would that cost?

If you’re not already using Microsoft’s full suite of tools, you need to consider if you want to go all in on Microsoft. The plan that includes SharePoint Online, Office 365 E3, comes to $20 per user per month. Neither of the SharePoint Online plans offer a free trial, but the 30-day free trial of Office 365 E3 provides access to SharePoint as well.

“From a compliance and risk standpoint, PowerDMS has been a game changer. It’s extremely easy to use and provides us with everything we need to efficiently manage our policies and procedures. It saves us a tremendous amount of time and has greatly increased accountability.”
- Corporate Director, large Orlando-based hospital

Do the research and talk with your IT specialist before pulling the trigger. SharePoint’s ubiquity alone is no reason to purchase it. While it’s the right solution for some organizations, it’s not the right solution for all.

If you decide to buy instead of build, PowerDMS is the leader of several policy management solutions on the market. Unlike SharePoint and other solutions, PowerDMS brings your compliance to life. Its platform acts as an ecosystem connecting your policies, training, and accreditation, which saves you time, money, and headaches. Schedule a demo to learn more about PowerDMS today.

And take a look at our essential guide for more information about document management benefits, best practices, and options for your organization.

Related Article

Footer CTA Image

Buyer’s Guide to the Top 7 Policy Management Tools

Download The Future of Policy & Compliance Management report.

How does your organization compare? Get your copy today.

Download the Report

Schedule a Consultation!

Everything you need to train, equip, and protect your public safety employees in a single system – from the moment they’re hired until they retire. Schedule a consultation to learn how PowerDMS can benefit you.