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SharePoint Online: A replacement for file shares. Part 1 – Small Business IT Solutions Series

SharePoint Online: A replacement for file shares.

Part 1 – Small Business IT Solutions Series

This is the first part in an ongoing series of articles titled ‘Small Business IT Solutions’. This series is aimed at IT Support Business, MSPs and IT Consultants to talk to them about new or different solutions they can be offering to their small and medium sized business clients.

SharePoint Online is a massive product, there are limitless possibilities with it, but we aren’t going to be talking about Workflows, automated processing, SharePoint Calendars, mailboxes, lists or any of those advanced SharePoint technologies. Instead we are going to talk about how we can use SharePoint Online to replace classic network file shares. This isn’t going to be a full technical guide (you can find that here), instead, we will talk about the concept and how to sell it to clients. SharePoint Online will be become part of a cloud offering that likely also includes Exchange Online as a minimum.

The Concept

SharePoint online can function as a complete file share replacement. It supports access via mapped drive or the OneDrive for Business sync client.It supports all the same permission options as standard NTFS shares, previous versions and the following extras:

  • Works anywhere in the world by default. No VPNs or RDP needed for remote access
  • File alerting. Clients love to be alerted when someone (or certain groups of people) are deleting files.
  • Audit logs. Yes you can have these on Windows File Shares, but the performance requirement is massive.
  • 1TB of Space and then incredibly easy to add more.
  • 100 versions of each file kept.
  • Easy sharing with external users.
  • No need for a server

So these are all the benefits but what are the negatives?

  • Ongoing monthly cost, forever (albeit minimal).
  • Perceived lack of security due to it being ‘cloud based’
  • Slower speeds for what used to be ‘local’ users.
  • Slightly more complex to map drives.

I promise you these negatives are outweighed by the positives here. I’ll explain more below.

Monthly Cost

The monthly cost for SharePoint is fairly minimal, especially when compared to the cost of needing a new server and managing that. If the client is already using Office 365 for say emails they may not need to purchase any additional licensing to use SharePoint online, It’s included on all of the Business licenses as well as E1, E3 & E5. IF they don’t have existing suitable licenses they can purchase SharePoint Online Licenses for $5 (USD) per month.


I’m going to be blunt with this, anyone that thinks a small business having their own server is more secure using an online service such as SharePoint online is wrong. This isn’t opinion, this is fact. Microsoft have teams of people dedicated to securing Office 365, they have network analysts, security analysts and penetration testers working all the time to find and fix issues. they have armed guards 24 / 7 at their data centers and even have an incentive encouraging 3rd party consultants to come to them when they find security flaws. Does your client have any of these things? Most companies are in a situation where one virus can encrypt all of their data, one fire can destroy the business and one break in can lead to the loss of all business data. For more reading on this read the Microsoft Office 365 security teams blog – https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/office365security/

Selling the Migration

While a migration to SharePoint online can be complex, if planned correctly it should be fairly straight forward. Here is a rough project plan that I follow when performing the migration (for an  in-depth guide on how to do this look here – File share to SharePoint Online Migration)

  1. SharePoint Site Setup
    We need to set the SharePoint site up, configure document libraries, and permissions.
    Time: 2 – 4 Hours. (Additional time require if customer wants specific design options)
  2. Data Review
    Data needs to be reviewed to ensure is matches the requirements for SharePoint Online
    Time: 2 – 6 hours. (This depends a little on the amount of data a customer has, for this I’ve assumed no more than 300GB)
  3. Data Upload
    This varies depending on what method you are using, and that varies depending on the clients upload speeds.
    Time: 1 – 2 Days (Billable time, the actual data migration could take weeks).
  4. Data Verification
    We need to verify that the data has been copied to SharePoint OK.
    Time: 2 – 4 Hours.
  5. Client Setup
    Mapping drives for each user
    Time: 15 minutes per work station.

This is a good rough plan to stick to with rough time frames.


Hopefully you can now see that SharePoint online is a good alternative to File Shares and and on-premises server. If you have any questions drop me an email at [email protected]