Should SharePoint Replace Your File Server?

A file server is not only a costly expense initially, it will continue to need updates, license renewals and technical resources which are all expensive and can involve downtime. That’s on top of the cost of running the server.

Onsite file servers don’t provide the best flexibility for users either. A virtual private network (VPN) can help but this is dependent on good connectivity outside of the office and it’s not easy to deploy or the most secure option. The desire for a work anywhere approach, whilst being highly secure and resilient, has never been higher.

Thankfully, Microsoft SharePoint is designed for this very requirement. As a cloud-based application it comes with rolling and automatic security updates, and takes up no space in your office. You can access the files in it from anywhere and share them with anyone, plus drive down your running costs.

Assuming you’ve considered how your file architecture will look, have briefed your users on the incoming change and have a stable enough internet connection, you’ll have a painless move to the cloud. This post is all about how to use SharePoint as a file server. We’ll cover:

  • Why it’s time to replace your file server
  • The benefits of using SharePoint
  • What to do before you switch

Read more: SharePoint Consulting Services and Support

Why It’s Time to Replace Your File Server

A file server is traditionally used to store computer files in a central office network. All of your company’s devices will have access to this. The server itself is a physical piece of hardware that you keep in your office.

It’s not that a file server doesn’t have advantages. They give you complete control over your network and the files on it. There’s no way a third party could erase all your data. And you don’t need an internet connection to access your files. You can simply open them whenever you’re in the office.

But there are downsides to this approach. Having complete control over your own server means you're responsible for maintaining it and investing in its security and hardware upgrades. This takes a lot of time and effort, and a lot of space in your office.

Since it has to stay in the office, there’s no easy way of getting to your files from outside here. This isn’t ideal if you work remotely. And if disaster strikes, the hardware’s at risk of being damaged.

All this makes a file server unfit for purpose. Luckily, there’s another way.

The Benefits of Using SharePoint

SharePoint is a document storage, sharing and collaboration tool. Businesses can use it to work together on documents and share and store them, and keep up-to-date with company news. It’s a cloud-based application, so it can be accessed from anywhere using any device - including laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Strong security comes with SharePoint. You can pick and choose who has access to which files, and encrypt the ones you want to keep prying eyes away from. When combined with Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection, security only gets a boost. You can isolate and lock any suspicious files.

Read more: 5 Ways to Boost Security with Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Here’s why you should consider replacing your file server with SharePoint:

  • It makes remote working easier. You can access your files from any location using any device. Ideal if, for whatever reason, you can’t make it into the office one day or you’re working on-the-go.
  • Smoother collaboration. SharePoint is ideal for projects and teamwork. Several people can work on one version of the same document, and see what changes have been made, any by who, in real-time.
  • Peace of mind for security and backups. With SharePoint, security updates and backups happen in the background automatically. So you don’t have to do a thing to stay on top here.
  • More office space. There’s no need for your file server to take up room in the office if you move to the cloud.
  • Cost and efficiency savings. With your old server gone, there’s no need to spend money on updates to the hardware and infrastructure. And you can say goodbye to the running costs.

What to Do Before You Switch

While we’re all for the cost-saving, efficiency-boosting and security-enhancing capabilities of SharePoint, there are a few things you should consider before moving your files to it. This preparation will allow for a smooth transition.

First of all, think about how your network files will be structured and who these will be accessed by. Consider asking yourself questions like:

  • Who need access to which files?
  • What files should be restricted and why?
  • Who’s going to collaborate on projects?

With this approach, you can transfer only the files you need and remove anything that’s taking up unnecessary space. It’s a chance to de-clutter your network. For security, it’s better to restrict lots of access and gradually release this, as opposed to the other way around. You’ll learn who needs to see what as you go along and in a way that doesn’t compromise your data security.

Next up, prepare your staff on the new system they’ll be using. Like anything new, it’ll take some getting used to. SharePoint means they’ll have to use a new interface and wave goodbye to the one that they’ve gotten used to.

Run training sessions and show them how it’ll make their lives easier. You could try running a few demo sessions for a selected group of staff. They’ll get to see how the new system works before it’s implemented across the whole of your company.

Lastly, make sure you have the right internet bandwidth. As you’ll be uploading and downloading files to SharePoint a lot, it’s crucial your connection can support this. Larger files will struggle to transfer at slow speeds, so review all of this and if need be, get your internet sorted out before you get SharePoint up and running.

While we’re on the subject of files, be sure to remove or rename any that have special characters in them. These may fail to transfer over if left as they are.

Examples of these include:

: ~ " # % & * : < > ? / \ { | }

Summary

A file server comes with advantages. It gives you total control over your network and files and can be accessed without the internet, which is great at times when this goes out. But maintaining the infrastructure and security is costly. And they way they’re set up means they’re not ideal for remote and collaborative working. In the event of damage, your files may be hard to get hold of.

SharePoint can be used as an effective replacement for a file server, thanks to the fact it:

  • Makes remote working easier as files can be accessed from anywhere with any device.
  • Enables smoother collaborative working through shared document access and up-to-the-minute updates on these.
  • Is updated automatically and in the background. So you don’t have to worry about bugs exploiting old versions of software.
  • Frees up space in your office, as it’s cloud-based and doesn’t need to be stored here.
  • Helps you save money and be more efficient. You can stop spending on infrastructure updates and the running costs of this.

Before enjoying these benefits, you need to do some preparation to ensure your migration to SharePoint is a success. This includes:

  • Thinking about what needs to be transferred over, what this new organisational structure should look like, and what files need to be accessed by what teams.
  • Preparing and training staff on the new system they’ll be using, and showing them why they should feel good about moving on from the way they’ve grown used to.
  • Checking you have the right internet bandwidth for the kind of files and access you want with SharePoint, and getting this installed before you launch your new cloud-based system.

For a consultation on how to use SharePoint as a file server, contact us. We’d be happy to help you out, advise you on the best practices and show how you can achieve your business goals.

Get in touch!

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