Many companies are migrating to Office 365. SharePoint Online is included with most subscriptions for free. Often, IT professionals are asked to evaluate moving their company file servers to SharePoint Online. While SharePoint is great for collaborating on documents with teams inside or outside of the company, can it completely replace an on-premise file server for larger firms?
Here’s the list of the top 10 reasons we compiled on why SharePoint might not be a good fit to replace your file servers:
- Speed – Nothing can beat the speed of local network file server access. While Internet speeds are measured in Megabits, local network speeds are measured in Megabytes. A local network connection is at least 10 times faster than any Internet connection. For example, a fast 100 Mbp/s home Internet connection only equates to 12.2 MB/S. In the office, networks are typically 1GB – a whopping 125 MB/s!! For large files access, nothing beats a local area network connection.
- Simplicity – Users are trained to easily grab their files from a mapped drive. With SharePoint, files are stored in libraries that are accessed using a web-based interface. The interface looks nothing like Windows File Explorer. Alternatively user can access file using the OneDrive for Business client which requires user training and intervention to sync and to locate the shares they need.
- Storage Capacities – Even the smallest companies have easily terabytes of data. SharePoint Online has a 1TB limit on each library, a 5000 item display limit, a 15GB file size limit and a maximum 100,000 file sync limit. Even if you did store this much data, or files this large, accessing them over the Internet may be unworkable (see Reason #1).
- Migration – Migrating to SharePoint from legacy file shares takes careful planning. All permissions must be manually recreated on the SharePoint sites along with equivalent folder structures. File names on local shares allow special characters that are not allowed in SharePoint (#%&) that must all be renamed before migrating them.
- Backups and Disaster Recovery – With traditional file shares, they can easily be replicated to multiple sites, backed up and archived for compliance going back many years. With SharePoint, restoring old data involves multiple databases and entire SharePoint farms that may be no longer supported. SharePoint Online only keeps the lastest 90 days of deleted files – backups requires additional 3rd party subscription services that charge for ongoing backups and retrieval.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – Sharing files using traditional file shares can be deployed to users in minutes or made available using VPN or SSL VPN products like MyWorkDrive.com with a simple File Explorer-type web page. With SharePoint Online deployments are complex, data is scattered across libraries and scripting tools and services come with high price tags. Users must also be trained on how to share and access data. This all leads to additional IT support and training costs.
- Ownership of Data – Many firms have compliance regulations preventing them from moving files to the Cloud or legal concerns as to who has access to their company data. Moving data to Sharepoint Online requires careful compliance and legal review.
- Fragility – SharePoint systems are complicated and fragile. Any Windows update can take down the entire SharePoint farm. File Servers and Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are dead simple to manage, patch and restore in an emergency. Even with Sharepoint Online, syncing issues on a single PC can corrupt or remove data across multiple users.
- File Locking – Databases, Engineering CAD files and Accounting applications are designed to run locally at Gigabit speeds and have the ability to lock files in a multi-user network environment. These types of files cannot be stored or accessed using SharePoint.
- Archiving – Traditional file shares can be easily encrypted and stored offsite indefinitely, then easily restored at any time in the future regardless of any technology changes. With SharePoint, entire systems must be restored, or with SharePoint Online additional archiving services must be purchased and paid for perpetually which store SharePoint into long-term archives leading to additional support and subscription costs.
Bottom line – SharePoint is not a file server, it’s a collaboration portal. Microsoft has a great support article here on this topic and they recently released File Share Syncing to Azure at the 2017 Ignite Conference (see our earlier blog article here) which makes it clear Microsoft will be supporting File Servers for many years into the future.