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Why You Should Migrate Your Shared File Server to Office 365

Considering the amount of data teams generate and share each day, a shared file server is pretty much the foundation of a modern company. Employees can access the shared pool of data from connected desktops and be at their productive best. But today’s organizations require more than just a locally shared center — they require flexible access to files, smarter document management, and resource optimization. These requirements are driving their migration to the cloud to enjoy better security and features, but their on-site file servers are holding them back. 

If you want to move your business to a cloud infrastructure but are not ready to sacrifice the familiarity of Windows File Explorer, Office 365 gives you quite a few options. By migrating shared file servers to Office 365, you not only enjoy the robust Microsoft environment but also future proof your business. But before we discuss the Office 365 migration, we must understand how on-site file servers are slowly becoming redundant in an age of remote work.

The limitations of on-site file servers 

Before the cloud became mainstream and long before the pandemic struck, companies enjoyed the convenience of on-site file servers. Fast forward to 2022 and we’re starting to see how limiting they are to everyday workflows. For instance, most companies have either adopted a hybrid work model or gone completely remote as a result of the pandemic. For remote teams, file servers can be accessed via VPNs, which are costly, cumbersome, and offer little flexibility. 

File servers not only possess accessibility challenges, but they’re also less secure than Office 365’s cloud storage. Offline file storage tends to create multiple copies of files, making employees’ jobs harder. They need to regularly upload files from their personal drive to the shared drive, follow the document update flow and prevent out-of-date documents from being compromised.

On top of that, on-site file servers require domain controllers and strong disaster recovery systems. Combine them with the hardware refresh that is required every few years and you’re looking at a significant waste of resources. 

A business component as essential as sharing files should enable productivity rather than pull the team down with confusing file versions and lack of accessibility. In response, Office 365 has made it easier for traditional organizations to transform into high-performing cloud-based companies, affording them to migrate away from the costly and inefficient on-premises file server infrastructure.  

File server migration: what are the options? 

If your business ecosystem is built on Microsoft, you might already be paying for file storage in SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, and OneDrive. To start leveraging the storage space, you have a few options. First, you can build your shared files folders in Teams and customize the settings accordingly. Teams is Microsoft’s premium communication and productivity app. It has the most powerful search functionality which should help in accessibility.

If you’re looking for granular features, you can use SharePoint Online. Microsoft has SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) that helps in moving files over SharePoint but you might consider hiring IT professionals to smoothly migrate to the cloud and train your employees. 

The biggest challenge for companies while migrating to Office 365 is convincing the workforce. People have been using Windows File Explorer for office cases for years and it’s definitely one of Microsoft’s most valued features. File explorer is simple, familiar, and powerful. But as a legacy software asset, it also comes with the security flaws we discussed above. Fortunately, you can enjoy the look and feel of File Explorer while using the powerful security features of the cloud.

A capable IT services provider will be able to use features within your O365 subscription to map the shared folders right into File Explorer. The mapped drives will appear in File Explorer, with the classic drag and drop feature people have grown accustomed to. So, you’re neither sacrificing old familiarity nor modern functionality. The best part is that employees can access the files remotely from any location they’re comfortable with — be it Teams, SharePoint, or File Explorer.

Features of Microsoft 365 document management system 

By moving into Microsoft 365’s document management system, your business can enjoy a lot of benefits. For instance, site admins can restore documents with File Restore, have greater control over deleted items with a second stage recycle bin, quickly find documents with Content Search and eDiscovery file searching, and maintain file access records. On top of that, file versioning and checkout features offer greater flexibility to team members working on the same documents in real-time. In terms of security and compliance, users are protected with insider threat monitoring, retention policies, malware scanning, and 99.9% uptime SLA from Microsoft. This also comes with Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune with access protections and mobile device management. 

The best part of all of these features is that they are available with the monthly subscription of O365, making it a cost-effective decision. 

Office 365 implementation: Things to remember

The migration is a big step up for organizations still using legacy software. You need to prepare your staff and help them get used to new functionalities. Before moving to the cloud, delete any files and documents you will not need ever again. Maintaining a lean drive is important for productivity. You should also create an archive folder for documents you don’t require immediately. Develop plans for possible downtime, timelines, and impacts on employee workflow. Communicate the plans in advance to mitigate any surprises. 

Moving documents from file servers to Office 365 is a critical process and a professional managed IT services firm will be well-equipped to successfully oversee and implement the transition.

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