SharePoint vs File Server

Microsoft SharePoint and a file server are comparable solutions for file storage. SharePoint stores your information in the cloud, while a file server stores your files in a network. To help you determine which solution is better for your organization, we will explain the differences between the two solutions and the advantages of each. 

What is a File Server? 

A file server is a server responsible for the central storage and management of data files so that all computers on the same network can access these files. The file server is often stored onsite at your business; however, it can be stored offsite at a data center for additional security and potentially at a lower cost.  

Advantages of a File Server 

Simplicity 

File servers are quite easy to set up and use. Users can easily find their files within a network drive and other remote alternatives. Additionally, file servers require little maintenance from IT after initial setup.  

Storage Capacity 

File servers tend to have a large amount of storage, but it is not elastic, so as your business grows you will need to continue to upgrade your file servers.  

Speed 

File access through a local network is faster than cloud access and eliminates the dependency of a strong internet connection. This is especially beneficial when working with large files. 

Data Ownership 

With a file server, your organization is the only one with access to your data. If your organization has strict regulations, you may be required to complete thorough compliance and legal review. 

What is Microsoft SharePoint? 

Microsoft SharePoint is a cloud-based document management and collaboration platform, hosted by Microsoft. This platform is included in Microsoft 365 and Office 365 plans. Compared to a file server, the primary difference with SharePoint is storing your files in the cloud. 

Advantages of SharePoint 

Cost savings 

If you have a Microsoft Office 365 plan, you already have access to SharePoint. Without the need for any infrastructure, the only cost your organization may have is migration fees. 

Accessibility 

Because SharePoint stores your files in the cloud, you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. Additionally, you can synchronize your SharePoint files with your computer’s File Explorer, making document access easier than ever with little to no learning curve for your end users.  

Syncing the SharePoint site with you file folders works like OneDrive, allowing you to get rid of network drives and the finicky connection issues. Additionally, you would no longer have the need for a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  

External Access 

Provide external users with access to individual files or even entire folders with a custom link, only they can access.  

Search 

Locate files in a fraction of the time needed compared to a file server. Search for keywords or specific file names directly from your file folder on your desktop to locate documents in your SharePoint. All you need is a reliable network connection.  

Version History 

SharePoint saves the version history of your documents. For example, as you make edits to a file, there is no need to save multiple versions. SharePoint saves each version of your document for you to access if needed. This makes collaboration simpler, by enabling everyone to work on the same file, eliminating the confusion of having multiple copies of a document revolving around.  

A check-in and check-out system makes it easy to know who has the most current version of a document. You will never have to worry about two employees working on the same thing at the same time, resulting in version issues. 

Data Loss Prevention and Backups 

Through SharePoint, your files will not be lost forever if accidentally deleted, unlike traditional file storage. SharePoint saves backup versions as a fail-safe precaution. You can easily retrieve these backups with a simple click. 

Individual Permissions 

SharePoint allows for multiple file libraries. This means you can create groups and easily add and remove users. With this capability, you can ensure that the correct users have access to the files they need and do not have access to files they should not. 

Disadvantages 

After reading the advantages of both solutions, SharePoint and a file server, your research cannot be complete without knowing the disadvantages of each. 

File Server Disadvantages 
  • Lack of easy, quick file search tools 
  • No file notifications, meaning there is no way to know if a document has been edited or deleted unless you navigate to it 
  • Difficult to share files with external users 
SharePoint Disadvantages 
  • Often requires employee training to create document libraries 
  • Proper setup can require additional costs 
  • Reliant on an internet connection 

Which Solution is Right for Your Business? 

Ultimately, determining the best solution will vary depending on the requirements of your business. For example, if your organization uses many large capacity files such as video or design files, you may require a file server for fast processing. On the other hand, if your organization collaborates on documents regularly with internal and external users, SharePoint is the better solution for your business. Additionally, some organizations have determined a combination of the two solutions is best for their needs.  

To ensure your business makes the best choice, we recommend talking to a specialist. Our team of IT experts can work with you to determine if SharePoint is a viable solution for your business. If it is, our team will make the SharePoint implementation and migration a smooth process.