I recently fielded a question from a client who wanted to know when it was appropriate to save a file to SharePoint instead of saving the file to the network shared drive. I was happy to hear that the alternative to saving to SharePoint being considered was a network shared drive and not a personal hard drive. You might ask why:
- You can't index and search for a document on a personal hard drive
- Others won't know the file even exists unless you tell them
- No one can access the file unless you clog up the email system and their inbox by sending it as an email attachment
- The file won't be backed up (unless your IT department has setup a script to automatically back up personal hard drive folders)
This is not the first time that this question has been posed to me, so I thought I would share some general guidelines that you can use to develop a policy or guideline for your SharePoint users to follow.
When to save a Document to SharePoint
- Users want to access the files without using a VPN (key assumption is that users have an Internet connection and you have setup SSL secured access to SharePoint)
- Version control is needed (need to be able to revert back to previous versions or view the content of a document at a particular point in time)
- An audit trail is needed for the file (who changed what and when)
- The file undergoes frequent updates by multiple users (the check-out feature is very helpful here)
- You want to take advantage of the multi-user concurrent editing feature of Office 2010 Word & PowerPoint with SharePoint.
- The file will pass through multiple life stages (draft, under review, approved/published)
- Single instance storage is required (renaming to v1, v2, final, final-final is not acceptable)
- Files are going to be engaged in a collaboration process (more than one person in your organization needs to work with the document)
- Users need to be able to easily send links to documents (instead of proliferating copies of the documents on hard drives through email attachments)
- The organization wants non-technical, non-IT end-users to be able to place security restrictions on documents
- There are a series of many similar documents that can be distinguished through strategic use of metadata columns, which would allow users to find the right document(s) quickly
When to save a Document to the File System
- SharePoint does not handle file dependencies well (e.g. developer source code, CAD files, etc.)
- Documents over 2 GB must be stored on a file server (SharePoint fares well with files under 50MB and is capable of handling files larger than 50MB, though I don't recommend it)
- Files produced by an individual without any collaboration with others and that individual is the sole consumer of the information in the vast majority of instances.
- Excel files that are not doing heavy calculations are typically a very good fit for being converted into a SharePoint list (which will allow multiple users to edit the list at the same and each item can be version controlled with an audit trail).
- You can add links to file system folders on your SharePoint portal. Here is the format for a link to a file system folder (just prefix with file:// ): file://servername/folder/subfolder/subfolder/
When in doubt, I recommend saving documents to SharePoint. You never know when someone else will be looking for it, and it is much easier to discover a document if it's stored on SharePoint. The bonus of version control and audit trail should help make the decision even easier. Also, if you aren't doing so already, take the time to index your network shared drive for search via SharePoint. Even if you are using one of the free versions of SharePoint (WSS or Foundation), you can integrate SharePoint with Search Server Express (also free) to index content stored outside of Sharepoint.
If you are looking for help getting started with SharePoint or taking advantage of its advanced features like Dashboards and Workflow, we would welcome the opportunity to help. Contact Us