SharePoint Best Practices Posts, Day 3 of 10. The file server is dead! Long live the SharePoint!

Guest post by Dave Coleman- Twynham School Network Manager

Is the file server dead? The man in this video clearly thought so!

One of the sessions I attended last Monday was Joel Olsen’s input titled, ‘Help me kill my File Servers….’ This is really well timed with the work we are doing at Twynham School as we are currently moving away from network Home Drives to the use of My Sites with students and staff. When I became a Network Manager at Twynham School in 1999 I adopted a network with the NT4 server and NT4 workstations. Accessing your Home Drive from home was an abuse of the term home, being complicated and a genuinely challenging technical achievement.

Windows 2000 made Home Drives a realistic possibility for the end when user off-site through the use of Webdav and at Twynham School our students and staff have had access to their resources from home since this time. With the huge adoption of SharePoint at Twynham we have been gradually moving over to SharePoint sites and as Joel confirmed yesterday, the age of the file sever is indeed dead!

How do you make the transition from a File Share with 2,000 users dependant on access to data, both personal and in a shared resource, in this case Public Drive? Joel gave an example of the removal of a Public Drive within Microsoft which was identical to the method we used when removing our Public Drive at Twynham. In September 2008 we set upon a road map to remove our Public Drives in a way that would avoid panic and turmoil upon our end users. This should be carefully phased out and our model was as follows: 

  • 1. Student Public was made ‘read-only’ for staff and hidden from students. This was essential as the only way staff could get resources to students was through SharePoint.
  • 2. At the same time Staff Public was made read-only. Staff could still access their resources from here but could not add further clutter to a resource that was already vastly out of control and unmanageable.
  • 3. We did allow staff to copy files into SharePoint and delete them from both Public Drives and our early adopters led the way.
  • 4. In September 2009 at the start of the new academic year we will stop mapping the Staff Public Drive along and archive both Drives to external media.

This process has run very smoothly and many schools are now looking to move away from Public Drives. Occasionally I meet colleagues who ask ‘what is wrong with Public Drives’. In short the navigation of Public Drives has always proved a nightmare in my experience and one persons idea of where a file should live is often different from another colleague who needs to share the file! Although SharePoint sites can suffer from the same clutter without a robust taxonomy they have a saving grace. The power of search in SharePoint should render network drives redundant in place of access which is ‘anytime and anywhere’.

Comments

4 Responses to “SharePoint Best Practices Posts, Day 3 of 10. The file server is dead! Long live the SharePoint!”
  1. Carl says:

    “This is really well timed with the work we are doing at Twynham School as we are currently moving away from network Home Drives to the use of My Sites with students and staff.”

    I’m curious how backup/restore works with this kind of system. How easy is it for you to restore an individual document to a MySite if a student loses it/overwrites it/cyberdog eats it?

  2. Dave says:

    I was wondering if you are/have moved from home drives / local redirections to sharepoint my sites, how are you opening files such as MS access databases from sharepoint my site and other programs that do not like opening a file via a url ?

  3. Brion says:

    Mike, this is great information. I have a question similar to that posted by Dave. Have you had to deal with files that are SharePoint prohibited file types (i.e. MS Access, large files, streaming media, etc)? If so, how are you planning to solve that problem when the file servers are retired? Thank you.

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