Can SharePoint Online replace a file server? SharePoint’s group-connected team sites and powerful admin center offer organizations an impressive alternative to on-premises servers. We explain why you should move from a file server to SharePoint Online.
Think of your crazy aunt’s photo album and SharePoint as similar entities. Yes, she probably has one too many cats, and is a little overprotective of her newspapers from previous decades. But if there’s one thing your aunt is good at, it’s keeping the family photo collection in pristine condition.
Related reading: Learn how to use SharePoint Online, best practices, tips & common issues to avoid from Microsoft MVPs
Album after album is filled with memories from your childhood: pictures of your grandparents, your cousins, and your neighbors. And the best thing about your aunt’s photo albums? They’re organized by date, time, family members, event, and are indexed in the back for your convenience. Your aunty has organized the albums obsessively for years, and now a photo of every embarrassing haircut you ever had is available on demand.
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What is a file server? (And what are the drawbacks?)
There are a lot of similarities between a well-kept collection of family photos and healthy document management.
Think about how much content you create or work with every day. Now multiply that by the amount of members in your team and add up the number of teams across your company. You need to be even better at managing documents than your aunt is in order to keep on top of it all! If you ever want to find anything again at work, you’ve got to have a good digital filing system in place.
Traditionally, companies have used on-premises file servers to store their corporate data. This is often a common drive, like an f-drive or an o-drive, that is accessible from the connected desktops in the office. When first introduced, it was a big leap forward for businesses; employees could save documents to a shared drive and not have to worry about files or other content getting hidden away in personal hard drives or inboxes.
However, the shared drive isn’t perfect: people forget to store their files in the company drive all the time, and they wind up having to scour their inbox for that important piece of data, or spend too long ‘hunting down’ content from colleagues who are across the hall, or out of the office entirely. With traditional file servers there are gaps in collaboration; often content gets duplicated and old versions get mistaken for the latest incarnation, etc.
All of these things are a hindrance to collaboration; they cause mix-ups in communication, and can really damage the efficiency of the company’s work practices, which consequently hampers the bottom line.
SharePoint vs file server: The future vs the past
The constant evolution of technology seems to be almost relentless. It means that technologies that were once cutting-edge get left behind fast; your aunt’s photo albums, by now, have been digitalized, and are saved in a folder on her desktop as well as on your mom’s Facebook. She no longer needs to manage them in the same way—she has a simple computer program for that.
It’s the same in business. We’ve moved on from file servers to more powerful tools for managing and sharing our work. And if your business still hasn’t migrated its file shares to SharePoint, you’re missing out on a lot! The remainder of this post will focus on why.
5 reasons to migrate your file server to SharePoint Online
1. Complete access, always
By migrating your files to SharePoint, you are making it easier for employees to access to their content. You can access your files from anywhere—whether you’re at home, at the office, or on your way to a meeting—and from any device. This is something regular file shares have trouble matching.
2. Search muscles
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for including file shares in your SharePoint migration is the search power for finding files.
Search by document name or keyword and pull up relevant results in nanoseconds. This is something to be lauded and applauded when you take into account the sheer volume of content our companies are dealing with every day.
3. Check-in and check-out
Often, you’re working on files and documents in collaboration with multiple colleagues. It can be a hassle (or even impossible) to know who is working on the same document that you’ve been assigned, or who needs to input a few last-minute changes before you begin your task.
In SharePoint, you can check out a file so others can’t access it—meaning everyone knows who has the latest version of the document. This helps ensure you don’t cannibalize each other’s efforts.
4. Version history and backup protection
Speaking of versions, in SharePoint there’s no need to create multiple versions of a single file and rename it every time.
You’ve probably seen the v1, v2, v3, v4… ad infinitum stitched to a file. Having so many versions is confusing for your collaborators because it clogs up space over time. Again, remember the volume of content most companies are working with—with unnecessary versions, it just looks like a mess.
In SharePoint, you can also take advantage of version history—meaning you only ever need to work on one file. When you edit and save a document, the old version is still kept, invisibly, and can be accessed with the click of a button if you ever need to backtrack.
5. A single copy in a single space
In SharePoint, you store your document in one place; colleagues come to the document rather than sending the document all over the place.
This means no more multiple copies of the same file in different people’s inboxes, or on their hard drives, being backed up over and over. The one version is in the right place, and that provides great clarity for your entire team.
6. Everything in moderation
You can choose a team leader, or somebody else, to manage and moderate the content in each library. That way, you make sure only those with access can view and work on specific company data. This is important in an age when compliance and regulation is ever more important.
By now, you should be able to see the advantages of storing your file shares on SharePoint. If you’re ready to make the jump, here is a handy article that will show you how to prepare your file shares for the eventual migration to SharePoint. Enjoy!
For more articles on file share migration you can read the following posts
- Migrating File Shares and SharePoint On-Prem to SharePoint Online
- 5 Key Areas to Improve File Shares to SharePoint Migration
- Automating Your File Share Migration to SharePoint with PowerShell
- Migrate File Shares to SharePoint and preserve Office document properties
- A File Share Inventory for Smart SharePoint Migrations
- Preparing for a File Share to SharePoint Migration