Contemplating a Transition to the Cloud? – Think SharePoint

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transition to the cloudSince the release of Office 365, we have been getting deluged with questions about its features and benefits.  There are a lot of people seem to have the idea that it’s only all about Outlook, Exchange and the ability to have the latest version of Microsoft Office.  And while those are important features (each with their own unique benefits), one of the least understood components of the offering is SharePoint Online and how to use it to aid in a transition to the cloud.

And while it would be easy to get sidetracked and talk about all the cloud services you get with Office 365 like the free unlimited email archiving, Office Web Apps, streaming features that only get installed when you access them for the first time, Lync and unified communications, today I want to talk about SharePoint Online which is the Office 365 version of SharePoint.

SharePoint provides a fabulous set of productivity tools for sharing information – both internally and externally to customers and partners – Excel services, document management, company portals and wikis plus a whole raft of other powerful collaboration solutions.  But the biggest question I get is: “Can we use it to replace our file server?  Can we really use it to help us transition to the cloud?”

The answer is an unequivocal yes.  It not only replaces your file server, it blows it clean out of the water.  SharePoint has a ton of useful features: full indexing for fast document searches, file versioning and the ability to revert to earlier changes, document check out and in, tagging, easy file sharing and a ton of other tasks designed to make storage of files more productive and efficient.  Given the correct configuration, you can even have multiple, online simultaneous editing of files; talk about collaboration!

And with SharePoint Online you now have SharePoint Workspace with SkyDrive Pro (but you must also have Office 2013 which you may or may not have opted for in your Office 365 subscription).  SkyDrive Pro gives you “Dropbox-like” access to your files including synchronization of all shared files as well as personal ones.  You simply setup file sync for the folders you wish to take mobile and you now have copies of all the files you need readily accessible; it’s as simple as clicking on Favorites in Windows Explorer.  Your copies automatically update the very next time you plug in to the web, they know when they have been checked out and modified by others, and most importantly, they require the correct credentials to be accessed so they are at least as secure as your domain password (you are using strong passwords, right?).  After all, one of the biggest concerns you should have when contemplating a transition to the cloud is security.

transition to the cloudNow, moving from a traditional file server to SharePoint isn’t simple (it’s not super complicated either, though).  Where most folks get caught up is in the overwhelming number of options available which can lead to paralysis by analysis.  Really, you just need to start out simple and work outwards from there.  Starting with a document library or two (that’s the name of what you would recognize as directories in Windows Explorer) keeps things easy to start.  Once setup, the syncing process is a matter of half a dozen mouse clicks and voila! – a new document management system complete with secure mobile capabilities unmatched by a traditional file server.  How cool is that?

Interested in seeing how you can transition to the cloud with Office 365 or with an on premise SharePoint server?  Contact us today to find out how you can take advantage of a great piece of technology!