By Cathy Dew
Are you thinking of moving your company documents away from a network file share and into a SharePoint Document Center? If so, it’s important to understand what to expect from the transition. Setting up an effective document management strategy within SharePoint takes a considerable amount of time and work. You probably don’t want to take the plunge unless you are 100% sure that the shift will benefit your organization.
Luckily, in almost all cases, moving from a network file share to a SharePoint Document Center is the right choice. A simple file server setup may be fine for a small business with just a few hundred files, but it doesn’t offer the features or capabilities necessary for more extensive document management. SharePoint does provide those features and capabilities, making it an all-around superior choice for efficiency, usability, and scalability.
Seven (7) Perks of a SharePoint Document Center
So what benefits can you get from a SharePoint Document Center that you aren’t going to get from a traditional network file share? Below, we’ve listed some of the most significant perks, as well as the numerous advantages they can provide for your business.
1. Major versioning is enabled by default
You can set up a SharePoint Document Center as either an authoring environment or a content archive. The former is useful for situations where users are consistently creating, editing, or collaborating on files. In this environment, versioning is enabled by default. Versioning means that SharePoint will preserve multiple drafts or incarnations of a file as that file is updated and revised. Each version is inherently linked to the other versions of the file, making it easy to find and review all versions of a specific file. This system is useful for reverting to a previous draft of a file (if changes were made without approval) or for referencing details from later versions.
In a traditional network file share, it’s certainly possible to have multiple versions of a file. However, this process is neither automatic nor particularly intuitive. Users would need to upload new versions of the file to the server manually. The files wouldn’t be linked together, which would likely create some confusion about which version was which. It would also be a lot easier for users to overwrite existing versions of documents by accident. In SharePoint, versioning is so seamless that you won’t even need to think about these risks or possibilities
2. There is better group collaboration with Office 365 tools
Because SharePoint is a part of Office 365, it integrates seamlessly with all the other Microsoft tools in the Office 365 ecosystem. Office 365 offers a slew of tools that promote stronger group collaboration. From Office suite programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (the bread and butter of so many projects) to apps like MS Team and Yammer (both useful for streamlining communication and sharing of content and ideas), Office 365 is an asset for any business. SharePoint’s existence within this ecosystem is one of the biggest reasons to make the jump from a more standard file sharing setup.
3. Search and Delve
Having all your files in SharePoint via a Document Center allows you to leverage the integrated tenant wide search that Office365 brings to your organization. Additionally, teaching your employees the benefit of Delve, will show them how to utilize Delve’s Machine Learning to assist them in finding and working on the documents most important to them.
4. Availability inside and outside the corporate network
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of any traditional network file share is that it is only accessible within a corporate network. This kind of setup is fine in an environment where everyone is working within the same office, and on the same internal network. However, it becomes a logistical hurdle for businesses with multiple offices. It also greatly limits work-from-home and telecommuting opportunities—job situations that are growing more in-demand in the 21st century.
Making the jump to a SharePoint Document Center—at least in a SharePoint Online or hybrid SharePoint configuration—will eliminate these shortcomings. With one of these SharePoint setups, all your company files are in the cloud and available from anywhere. Accessibility won’t begin and end with the corporate network. Instead, users will be able to access files, collaborate on projects, and more—no matter where they are or what device they are using. And the Office365 security can be integrated with your Corporate Active Directory Services and eliminate the need for employees to memorize (via sticky notes on their monitors) additional accounts and passwords.
5. Check-in/Check-out for change management
Most network filing sharing setups in business offices are simplistic and no-frills, which means they don’t have capabilities like file check-in or check-out. In a SharePoint Document Center, default settings require users to check files out when they wish to work on them.
This system accomplishes two things. First, when a file is checked out, no one else can edit it. As a result, there is never a scenario where two or more people are editing a file at the same time. In a more bare-bones network file share, there is no protection against this kind of simultaneous editing, which can lead to some edits being lost. In SharePoint, there is no chance of one author’s changes overwriting another’s, since only one person can check out a file at a time.
Second, when a user checks a file back in after recording edits, he or she is asked to specify the changes made. These change reports, coupled with versioning, make it much easier to monitor and manage the evolution of a file from the first draft to the finished product.
6. Workflows for document finalization and publication
A network file share can be an excellent place to store files and make them accessible for your whole team. However, regarding managing the lifecycle of a document—from creation to collaboration to review and publication—SharePoint will win every time. Within a SharePoint Document Library, it is easy to set up workflows for in-progress files. These workflows—for key processes like review and approval—are essential steps for quality control. A workflow sets up an automated process where, when a file is nearing completion; it goes to certain managers, executives, or other higher-ups for review. Workflows probably aren’t needed for every single file but can be configured based on content types to ensure that more critical files get a stamp of approval.
7. Document Sets
Any given project can produce dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of documents. Proposals; price quotes; plans; invoices; expense reports; case studies; photos; audio files; video files; written content. All these types of files could be part of your project pipeline. In a network file share, your team might just toss all these items in a single folder, keeping them all in one place. SharePoint’s Document Sets feature is a smarter, more evolved way of doing essentially the same thing.
A Document Set is a way to manage many project files as a single deliverable. Document Sets act like folders, but they also work like content types. On the one hand, you can use Document Sets to group multiple types of content into a single “set.” For large projects with a lot of documents spanning all different content types and file types, this kind of setup is smart for making sure everything is easy to find and manage. You can even create a custom Welcome Page for your Document Set, displaying the items in that set as well as pertinent information to the project at hand.
On the other hand, you can also use Document Sets to establish specific retention rules, workflows, and other management preferences. For instance, you might want all the work product in a specific project to go through the same approval process, regardless of content type. Because Document Sets act like content types themselves, it is possible to set things up so that every file in the Document Set inherits the same workflow settings. These workflow settings can supersede any others that apply to your files based on content type.
Network File Share vs. SharePoint Document Center: The Verdict
At the end of the day, you will have to decide whether your network file share configuration is delivering favorable results for your business. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a standard network file server, there are inherent limitations. Your server can store files and make them accessible to people on your network, but that’s about it.
SharePoint’s Document Center, meanwhile, provides a more advanced system to store your company files. Not only is a Document Center a repository for documents, but it is also more accessible than your network file share (thanks to the cloud), provides smoother collaboration capabilities, and offers a lot more functionality regarding document and project management. Virtually any business with multiple departments and more than a few hundred files can benefit from making the jump to SharePoint.
Start Configuring Your Document Center Today
Once you’ve finished setting everything up, your SharePoint Document Center should be intuitive and easy to use. However, handling the actual setup process can be a challenge. There are multiple steps and considerations involved, and if you’ve never used SharePoint before, you might be a little unsure of where to start.
At 2Plus2, we would be happy to help. Whether you need help configuring your SharePoint site, setting up your Document Center, or figuring how to access and use all the features discussed above, we can offer our assistance.