Saturday, December 1, 2012

SharePoint vs File Server - the best way to understand their difference

There are many advantages to use SharePoint instead of File Server (click here for details). However, it's not easy to understand it from high level for business users.

I have been a .Net developer for more than fifteen years, and have spent five years on SharePoint platform. Although I learned a lot of knowledge of SharePoint platform, it's still hard to explain it to end users who don't have much SharePoint experience. Yes, SharePoint supports many many features which File Server is lack of, but, is it really a wise investment to spend so much to build such a huge platform? It's not just about the huge license fee, quite possible, the company also need to hire SharePoint expert(s) to manage it!

Recently I got a interesting idea which can definitely help to persuade users to move to SharePoint (or other similar platform). I am happy to share it here.

Do you know why container ships replaced most of break-bulk cargo ships? Below is extracted from wikipedia:
Before the advent of containerization in the 1950s, break-bulk items were loaded, lashed, unlashed and unloaded from the ship one piece at a time. However, by grouping cargo into containers, 1,000 to 3,000 cubic feet (28 to 85 m3) of cargo, or up to about 64,000 pounds (29,000 kg), is moved at once and each container is secured to the ship once in a standardized way.[5] Containerization has increased the efficiency of moving traditional break-bulk cargoes significantly, reducing shipping time by 84% and costs by 35%.
This is why we should put files and data into independent "containers" (site collections). Even for a medium-size company, it's quite often that thousands of files are generated everyday. Although it's possible to give all employees adequate training to let them organize the files precisely in proper location with proper permission control on file server, but, this is not a ideal world, we just can't transport 300,000 tons of packages through a break-bulk cargo ship.

There are three major user roles in SharePoint platform.
  • Farm administrators (the captains of the container ship)
Although there could be hundreds of different containers, it's still acceptable to manage them by one or two farm administrators. Because, administrators don't need to look after millions of files and thousands of users, but hundreds of containers(site collections) and their site owners. Yes, farm administrators need deep SharePoint expertise.
  • Site owners (the managers of a container)
Although different sites can be quite different, it's normally quite simple for their site owners to manage them. For site owners don't have much SharePoint experience, they need help from farm administrators to set up the site properly; or else, they can do it by themselves. We don't need to worry about that: even if they screwed up a site, it's still relatively easy to tidy it up with the help of a SharePoint expert.

Compare to farm administrators, site owners understand more about their site (in business perspective). They know who's using it, and what kind of permissions those end users have.
  • End users (the users of containers)
They don't need to be aware of the millions of files stored in SharePoint, and thousands of users access the SharePoint farm. They only need to access a few containers (site collections). If they need help, they can contact the site owner, who understand their requirements.

So, in the end, should we buy a "container ship" to replace the current "break-bulk cargo ship"?

PS: any comments are welcome.

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