Business owners have a lot of options to consider when deciding on the best way to store and access company files. There is a traditional file server, SharePoint, and a Cloud Based File Server are amongst some of the more popular choices. In this post we will cover some of the pros and cons of each.
First let's take a look at each solution.
1.) Traditional On-Premises Server
This is what has been seen in most businesses for years. This is a physical server that sits at your location. This option gives you a place to store your files and share them across your network. You can authenticate into the network for security. You have the ability to set permissions on certain files, so that only certain users have access. Setup does take a considerable amount of technical ability, and maintenance is of the utmost importance.
SharePoint comes with Microsoft 365, a tool most businesses are already using. It is fairly easy to program, and it is easy to find what you need. It comes with great search functions. When paired with OneDrive and Teams, you’ve got your files all where you want them. Multiple people can work in a file at the same time, making collaboration easy and in real time. The simplicity of SharePoint has made it so that the common business owner can put a SharePoint site together in a few minutes. The software (like Word, Excel, QuickBooks, etc.) that used to be housed on traditional on-premises servers is now cloud based, so we are finding that a lot of customers that have these traditional servers on-premises are only using them for file storage. With so many applications being cloud based, at some point there is the logical jump to say I no longer need the added maintenance and expense of a server since everything is already in the cloud.
3.) In the Cloud, but a traditional File Server
With some of the Cloud options out there you can get a nice virtual workspace. It is still accessed over the internet, and it is still very secure. The difference here is that rather than hardware you maintain, it Is powered by a Cloud provider. This workspace will include all the business applications you need. You get the feel of a traditional file server, but you no longer have to worry about software and hardware upgrades, or the expertise to maintain the server. With this hybrid model, you get the feel of a traditional file server, but the benefit of Cloud services.
Which one is right for your business?
The majority of companies out there will find that they can explore SharePoint. Most users already have Microsoft 365, and maybe don't realize they have SharePoint available to them as part of their subscription to that service. Microsoft 365 comes with SharePoint and OneDrive, and given that there are a ton of advantages (file sharing, collaboration in real time, ease of use, app integration, centralized administration-just to name a few) this is an amazing tool to leverage for your business. Especially since, chances are, you already have access to it at no additional cost.
There are exceptions. One example would be a CAD design company. It would not be beneficial to them because the files are large and the design files unique. If there are concerns about the versioning of the files, SharePoint would not be the best choice. It would be better for them to look at a traditional file share type of environment.
This is where, if they do not want in house hardware to worry about, you might look to a cloud service provider. Here you can get a virtual workspace with a traditional file server, but in the cloud so you can access it anywhere you have internet connectivity, you have redundancy with your backups, and you have robust security.
But it does not have to be exclusively one thing or another. Technology gives you the flexibility to mix and match to find what works best for your business. Even with a CAD company, while the engineers might need that traditional file server, the accounting department will find that SharePoint makes their job easier.
Let's talk about remote capacity.
So many companies are going completely remote, and maybe do not even have a physical office. For a company that knows they need a file server, how does that function in a remote capacity?
This is where a Cloud Solution can really bring some advantages. it is accessible anywhere you have an internet connection. It allows a lot of flexibility and gives you the ability to access your files and applications anywhere.
For a company that already has a traditional server and a VPN (Virtual Private Network), is there any benefit to adding Cloud Services?
The traditional method of connecting over a VPN does solve the problem of being able to access your files remotely. But there is some overhead there. This method is not very user friendly and might bring complexity to people who are not accustomed to the software. You will need someone to maintain your firewall, and the configuration of the VPN software. VPN software traditionally uses resources on your computer. Another thing to consider is that when connecting through VPN, if the connection is spotty you can lose your files or create orphan files. With Cloud based systems, everything saves automatically.
When talking about these different options, which is the easiest to maintain?
Traditional On Premises Server-There is a capital expenditure to purchase it. They do have a lifespan similar to a car. Really, you want to replace it every 5 or 6 years. You have to keep the hardware and the operating system current. There are required patches and updates to ensure that your server is secure. You cannot really trust one box to house all of your business data, so having an offsite backup is a necessity, and this is another expenditure. If the server does go down, you need to have a plan in place to keep working. There are a lot of layers to keep a server healthy and running.
SharePoint-After setup, security and maintenance is handled through Microsoft. Having your files in SharePoint and OneDrive, your files are secure in the Microsoft Cloud. This replicates to another Microsoft Cloud. Microsoft 365 is great, but we do recommend that you have another backup in place some place other than Microsoft.
Are there concerns about speed on a local fileserver vs. SharePoint?
If you have a slow internet connection, it can take time to open large files. As technology progresses, file sizes are getting smaller. The nice thing is the smaller file makes it take considerably less time to open. We recommend that if you have a large, multifile spreadsheet, for example, you are working in every day to keep a copy of that locally on your machine. If it is something you are only in once a month it is okay to keep it in SharePoint only.
If you are considering moving to more modern tech, it is worth exploring. Post Covid, so many changes have happened with technology, and people working remotely. If you have not considered it in one or two years, there have been tons of improvements. There are so many options open. Take advantage of something you already have a license for. It is not all or nothing, hybrid models are a great way to get the most out of your technology. Reach out to your provider to see how you can take advantage of them. Find someone you trust and have them look at your environment to see what would be the best fit for you.
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