You migrated to Office 365, your users have Email, SharePoint and OneDrive available to them in the cloud. Your Exchange admins are busy decommissioning nearly all of their servers and the SharePoint team is finalizing their migration plan. Now the storage administrators are beating a path to your door to hear what you propose to do about all the terabytes of data in people’s home and group shares because they’ve got a hardware refresh coming up and they’d rather not trouble themselves moving 20,000 versions of everyone’s CV’s, Football v Soccer memes (see below), and other troves. The storage guys would rather you put all that data somewhere else. But where? What are your options?
Thousands of years ago, people had a Z (Zed or Zee, either is fine) drive or even an H (for ‘home’) drive where individual users were permitted to store work that was broadly related to their jobs but wasn’t accessed by colleagues and didn’t really have a home in the general group shares (more often than not, the G drive—other letters were available (but not A, B, or C of course).
Now that users have moved to Office 365, and budgetary attention is focused towards on-premises costs, you need to make better use of that cloud subscription and move more data to the cloud. But for this file services data, what can you do?
The answer to storing (what for the purposes of this exercise we’re calling) personal information in the Z drive is remarkably straightforward. The first task is to deploy the OneDrive client for the user population and either programmatically copy—or have the users copy—all the information from the networked drive to the OneDrive. To the end user this appears as if all the data just moved to the local C drive. But you know better—insomuch as you know everything will be synchronized up into Office 365 and be available there. The actual process (and of course, the timing) is something you’ll want to work out with the business, but rolling out the OneDrive client, copying the data, and then programmatically unmapping the network drive connection just about covers it at the highest level.
Moving to OneDrive is all well and good for the personal data but what about for mainstream company data that needs to be visible and used by colleagues? In this case, data can be moved into SharePoint where it can be accessed by anyone with a valid need, and from a wider range of devices than previously would have been the case through the corporate VPN.
Once you’ve implemented the right SharePoint structure and are ready to dispense with file servers—or at least reduce reliance on them—follow the guide here to ensure your Office 365 tenant is setup to allow synchronization. Then craft a communication to users—following the guidance and images here—to let users synchronize the data they might need and deselect folders they might not need.
Of course, it’s nowhere near as simple as this and nowhere near as self-contained as moving individual user data to OneDrive. Moving data to SharePoint is going to be a well-planned and carefully executed exercise both in terms of when the data can be moved and ensuring that end users know any cross-file cross-references will need to be changed to reflect the data’s new location. Once in SharePoint, users can navigate to the location and either access the file(s) or alternatively synchronize so they have a local copy to edit as required.
While the change will be impactful on users, in terms of where their files used to be and where they are now, they can at least be sold on the concept that once they have synchronized SharePoint data to the local PC or Mac, their data will be available to them without the need to connect to the company VPN—and also available if they’re not even connected to the Internet. The majority of users are going to experience the inconvenience of a different file structure at the beginning of the path. Once they’re shown where the familiar folder structure starts, their brains will filter out the extraneous stuff at the front and they’ll focus on the familiar.
Using Teams as the ‘front door’ to your new file repository is only a little more complicated than uploading data directly through SharePoint, but it does add a lot more functionality to the user experience.
Members of a Team are best positioned to know where they want their data and how it ought to be presented. If appropriate, let Team owners move data from a file share into the file structure in Teams. This immediately presents the folder structure in Teams versus uploading into SharePoint directly and then going into Teams to add that SharePoint folder to the Teams view. The data is still inside SharePoint, of course, it’s just in an extended structure below the normal Documents folder.
Once implemented, data will be where users can reach it without the need for a VPN, will be synchronized (if required) to the local PC, and as an added benefit individual files may be edited by several people at the same time. There’s no need to wait for an unidentified person to finish editing a file on a Windows file share, or NAS, before another user can open it and do their work.
This is just one solution to reduce dependency on conventional file services. We’ll be addressing others—such as Azure File Services—in an upcoming post. In the meantime, if you’d like more information on how OneDrive and SharePoint online can contribute to your journey to the cloud, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be glad to help.
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