The Real Benefits of SharePoint for File Storage

Iain MacTaggart,
As the recent pandemic has accelerated organisations forwards to cloud-based platforms, solutions such as SharePoint Online are fast becoming an impressive alternative to on-premise servers for managing and sharing work.
An example of Sharepoint Online

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a cloud-based service, hosted by Microsoft, offering a secure location to store, organise, share, and access your business information from any device. The platform allows employees to create SharePoint sites and share documents and information with colleagues, partners and customers.

How can I access SharePoint?

SharePoint Online is part of the Microsoft Office Suite of products. Access to SharePoint and its hosted content is faster than traditional use of a VPN, remote desktop or mapped drives, and the platform can be accessed from any location across a multitude of devices, including desktops, phones and tablets.

An example of Sharepoint Online
Fred Perry's SharePoint Intranet

What are the advantages of SharePoint?

Moving files to SharePoint provides a complete document management solution, as opposed to a file management system provided by a more traditional file server. SharePoint Online provides many document management features that extend the usefulness and security of content beyond the concept of shared storage, as outlined below:

  • Access your content at any time from any location

    SharePoint provides end users with the ability to work with documents from anywhere on any device, as well as the ability to work offline with Microsoft OneDrive sync and co-authoring features

  • Instant file search capability

    SharePoint Online creates an indexed list of all information stored within your SharePoint sites. The platform’s search tools can then access this list to return near-instant results

  • Check-in, check-out

    Locking files to prevent editing as well as the ability to edit unpublished versions of a file before publishing are both possible with SharePoint Online

  • Version control

    Need to refer to a previous version of your document or replace a corrupt file? Use the inbuilt version history tool to locate and restore previous file versions. No need to make multiple copies and manual versions of a file, SharePoint handles that for you

  • One copy in one location

    Files stored within SharePoint are accessible via Microsoft Office and Office Online. Changes you make are saved automatically, and major changes are recorded by the document’s version history

The drawbacks of sending documents by email

With email, multiple versions of identical file attachments will eventually exist - send an email containing a Word file, and each recipient now has a copy. If recipients each save this file and update it, there now exist multiple versions of your document.

Email attachments present problems with version control

SharePoint provides a centralised location to store the Word file for all recipients to access. Each recipient can access a single version via shareable links, with multiple users able to edit the same document simultaneously.

Better collaboration

Word and Excel offered this capability previously, but it didn’t work very well. With SharePoint Online, collaboration has been vastly improved, as users may choose the Desktop versions of Word or Excel – subject to licensing – for document editing, or rather use the online version of both applications in order to view all changes in real time.

Sharing files within Office Online
Sharepoint allows collaboration through Office Apps including Microsoft Powerpoint

How do I find my files in SharePoint?

SharePoint has a very powerful, highly customisable search engine, meaning that not only can filenames and other attributes be indexed, but metadata can as well. Metadata is a way to include additional parameters within a file allowing the same to be classified for filtering purposes and search results.

Can I back up my files in SharePoint?

With SharePoint’s versioning and recycle bin, documents can be recovered for up to 90 days. Wanstor can extend this with additional backup plans.

Does SharePoint work with Microsoft Teams?

SharePoint is the storage solution for Microsoft Teams. When you create a new team in Teams, a new office 365 Group and SharePoint team site are created. For every Channel in Teams, a folder in SharePoint is created and any files stored in Teams are actually stored in SharePoint. Additional tabs can be created in Teams to show team sites, lists and other SharePoint applications.

OneDrive for business is also based on SharePoint technology. OneDrive is best suited for storing personal and single file sharing with other users. To share more than one file or a folder, SharePoint is the better suited.

What benefits does SharePoint offer besides file storage?

Intranet. SharePoint can be used to create a fully customised, centralised point of focus for the business. A SharePoint site can be set as the homepage or landing screen for all users accessing your intranet. These pages can be extensively customised with business-related news, social events, document libraries, calendars and procedural information dependent on organisational requirements. Departmental areas or subsites can be created to indicate team members, new products and documentation, useful links, FAQs and self-help literature, saving users the time involved in opening support tickets.

SharePoint offers a centralised, standardised resource hub that your staff and partners can access for all of your business-related information.

Process Automation. Still using Excel to undertake daily processes? Or are you paper-based? Go paperless with SharePoint and automate your day-to-day task list. SharePoint can be used to automate the onboarding of new clients or employees, billing systems, timesheet processes, courier requests and much more. With the integration of Microsoft’s Power Platform, SharePoint can automate mailshots, approval requests for leave, expenses, and automate version approval.

If I’m accessing SharePoint files over the internet, how secure is it?

With in-built security and compliance tools such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), Safelinks, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), data classifications, eDiscovery and Data Retention Policy, your data is in safe hands.

Is SharePoint GDPR compliant?

SharePoint and Office 365 include multiple tools for GDPR compliance, not limited to Data Loss Prevention Policies, Advanced Data Governance, Group Permissions, Microsoft Audits, and eDiscovery. Microsoft is also able to identify the location of data centres in use, for the purposes of GDPR audits.

How much does it cost?

Initial costs can include user licensing, file migration, branding and customisation setup - but this is offset by the benefits of reduced server reliance, offloading of current intranet services, and process automation.

Wanstor’s SharePoint Solution

Iain MacTaggart, Wanstor’s Senior SharePoint Developer, has been instrumental in delivering SharePoint projects to many of our customers.

From pre-sales, scoping and design through to implementation and support, Iain has first-hand knowledge and experience of the benefits SharePoint can bring to businesses as a collaborative solution.

Iain MacTaggart, Sharepoint Developer at Wanstor

"We see customers needing assistance in transitioning from local file storage or mapped drives to a cloud experience, where navigation is led by an internet browser and not a file explorer."

In Conclusion

SharePoint is a cost effective, modern solution to file storage, sharing and collaboration. Additional benefits include a modern, interactive user interface, the ability to integrate with Microsoft Office products such as Word and Excel, extensive process automation using procedural workflows, powerful reporting capabilities, and even the ability to build practical mobile applications.

The platform forms an integral part of any complete modern workplace solution, for both customers and employees alike.

Wanstor’s dedicated team of engineers and developers are able to help incorporate SharePoint into your IT estate, from design, build and deployment of bespoke SharePoint portals to migration of existing fileservers and process automation, saving you time and money while consolidating and securing your data.

Contact us today on 0203 967 5187 or info@wanstor.com to see how we can help you start your SharePoint journey.

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