File Shares are Dead.

At the risk of stating the obvious, file shares to share data within an organization are dead. It was a great run. They’ve been utilized for as long as I can remember and well loved. Everyone has fond memories of the “Letter Drive”. You know the one! The one drive letter that everyone’s pc was mapped to as a shared repository of organizational data. Cries of “The T drive is not accessible!” could send shivers down the spine of many corporate citizens. This absolutely warranted a call to the local helpdesk asking about the health of “the server”. As if there was only one server that mattered in the whole enterprise. At that moment, it most likely was that one server that mattered. 

Let’s also fondly recall the one user who would accidentally delete, move, or corrupt files shared with the whole department. This would again require a call to the helpdesk for a restoration of the lost data or a folder finding mission. One well-seasoned network admin I had the pleasure of knowing would ask for one file name and start searching the entire share for that file. Most times he would locate the data that had been “lost” and find out it was accidentally moved and nested under a completely different team or department’s share by a click held a moment too long along with an inadvertent mouse flick. The too-long-click would grab the folder while the mouse flick would move the data. When the user realized they had clicked the wrong folder they would remove their finger and release the data dropping it into an unknown location. Ah, those were the days. Remember that squeal modems made when connecting? I digress. 

Cloud computing is making the file share a thing of the past. The massive file server with its terabytes of disk space is going the way of the woolly mammoth. Organizations can take that file server, and assuming it’s not outdated, convert it to some other purpose. Products like OneDrive, SharePoint, Dropbox, and Google Drive are making it easier and easier to share data with anyone with an internet connection. 

OneDrive as a product has a maturity level that makes it hard to argue with as a very useful data sharing tool. The first question, security, is addressed readily by mentioning in transit encryption in SSL, encryption at rest for OneDrive for Business, and the ability to use multifactor authentication at login. OneDrive also offers Windows workstation integration. This means you can share a file by right-clicking in Windows file explorer as well as the ability to map OneDrive just like the beloved network drive in file explorer. I find that slow adoption users are usually won over by this one innovation as once they have OneDrive presented like a typical mapped drive they could care less where their data is hosted. There is added security in this as the user only see’s their personal data. The other users’ home shares are hidden from view and inaccessible. 

There are infrastructure payoffs as well that any network admin will appreciate. The first payoff being retiring the loved and hated network server. This device is usually the oldest equipment in the computer room as the hardware demands are low so older equipment does the job. This server is also the most visible so causes the maximum stomach upset when it comes time for changes that may cause planned or the dreaded unplanned downtime. The file-sharing services listed allow this server to go away. This simplifies the enterprise by at least one less server and maybe more if you have multiple file servers on your network. It also simplifies disaster recovery. This is because the onus of hosting this data is now on the vendor. It’s on their head if the user can’t access their data post-disaster. That one factor can be paramount. While your DR team is busily restoring services your organization has access to their files once an internet connection is provided or found. If email is online and those files are available you’re more than halfway to getting your company back on its feet after the unexpected. We could now talk about hosting your email services in the cloud by using a product like Office 365. This could save your team from having to restore and get back online email services after a disaster event. Again, get an internet connection and login. There’s your email. 

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here. Most tech workers know how innovative cloud technology has become. I’m just not sure how many people outside of tech know how easy it is to use and how reliable it is as a service. To consider that if your company went down that you could still access your proprietary files and access your company email from anywhere that has internet connectivity is amazing. Which is the reason for this blog post. I talk to companies each day who are still slogging it out backing up their file server, patching their file server, scanning their file server for viruses, making sure that their file server has redundant power supplies, etc., etc. All of these tasks can end the day you migrate your users to OneDrive and SharePoint or their equivalents. 

By: Jason Ledford

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