Replace File Servers with SharePoint

Replace File Servers with SharePoint

Chris Farmer Data Migration, Office 365

Can you replace file servers with SharePoint Online?  With planning and a heap of project sponsor support, SharePoint can replace your file servers.

Is the File Server Dead?

As an ex-corporate IT Bod, I have seen that relentless routine that is managing file servers, ensuring that the backups have occurred, that the correct security on folders and files is adhered to.

Many might have an advanced system to help or have policies that secured folders go only 3 levels deep.

Many may have implemented a document management solution (DMS), but that doesn’t always end with the resulted expected. The main reason I have found is that the lack of upper management backbone. In the end, if they won’t use it, why can they expect anyone else.

Usability? Sync, checkout

Bad end user experience will kill the project dead.T Norman

Another hitch for the end user’s acceptability is ease of use. I remember around 2004 when a previous company introduced a DMS and the idea was great and an enormous amount of money was spent on half day onsite for each employee.

The problems were, that to access a file, it had to be downloaded and opened, worse the user must check out the document to ensure now one else updated the document and the reverse had to happen to put it back up there. And how many times did we have to go in and force a check-in? Too many!

Therefore, end users found it dreadful, when users are up against it, like most of the time, then complex procedure just to update a file and the time it takes to do this, users quickly revert back to what is easiest, doubling clicking on a file on a mapped network drive.

SharePoint Online now has many of those issues resolved. Admittedly it will never be as easy as the old way. But with most of the recent Microsoft Office version have some form of support for SharePoint, it helps remove those human barriers.

Server with SharePoint Online

Most should sell SharePoint on the advantages that it brings to the table, like collaboration in real-time, something that Google has had for a while. Admittedly, Microsoft has been slow and Googles Apps are more lightweight that Microsoft, but Microsoft and their online version of Office is certainly making this element of collaboration fast and less painful.

Replace File Servers with SharePoint Online


I know that many people will be put off by the whole process of attempting a migration. A migration comes in 4 stages, Discovery, Plan. Assignment and Movement.

  • Discovery

    Discovery comes down to how big the data set, how many files, any non-compliance (path length and file names with odd characters) and Ownership.

    With a decent tool, this can be achieved with a small amount of pain, but the next step will be the killer and having backing of senior management and project sponsors will be critical. If a project is going to slip, then it is guaranteed to be during the Assignment stage.

  • Plan

    After a discovery and any problem points have been highlighted, for example path length, invalid characters, planning may need to occur on designing what type of SharePoint collections and sites are required.

    SharePoint has some operational limits, like how many items can be shown in a view or largest file size that can be uploaded, full limits can be found at the below web article.

    SharePoint Online Limits

  • Assignment

    Boy, I don’t envy anyone giving this as a project task or having to get resources from departments.

    Assignment is delving in to the security of shared drives or folders. Some folders might have differing security the further down the tree.

    One idea might be to try and get buy-in from the business to change the shared drive structure before looking at migrating to SharePoint.  You may consider a maximum depth that any security permissions can be changed on.  For instances, you may decide that specific permissions can only go down to the third folder level.

    For Instance;

    • S:\Accounts (1) (All Employees can [View])
      • S:\Accounts\Public (2) (All Employees can[View])
        • S:\Accounts\Public\Transfer (3) (All Employees can [Add\Change\Delete])
      • S:\Accounts\Private (2) (Only Accounts Department have Access [View])
        • S:\Accounts\Private\Senior (3) (Only Accounts Senior Management [Add\Change\Delete])
        • S:\Accounts\Private\General (3) (All in Accounts Department  [Add\Change\Delete])


    If your current shared folders and file security is simple, then performing a migration once the security and user mappings have been completed will be less painful.

    If your folder structure is deep with many differing security permissions, then a tool that provides a great overview of what you have and provides a mapping facility to help map those security group and directories is essential.

  • Movement

    Large amounts of time are spent planning and mapping, don’t be fooled into believing that moving data is the easy bit.

    Movement is about managing the migration from location A to Location B.  With SharePoint, it’s not a simple drag and drop option. You could, if you are feeling lucky, create the relevant Sites, assign the users permissions and let them drag and drop, but this approach could strangle bandwidth and who takes the fall with users realise that not all the files have been migrated!  Fingers started getting pointed and temper lost, not to mention the business losing productivity.

    A managed controlled solution to moving the data from A to B is very important and should not be under estimate.  Many will fail at the point of moving their shared data from local storage to SharePoint online.

Replace Your File Servers with SharePoint

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