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Is SharePoint Online The Right Solution For Your Business?

Are you already using Microsoft Office 365? Have you started using the SharePoint Online file sharing platform included in the plan?

If you’re looking for a way to manage your documents, collaborate on files and access them from any device, SharePoint Online might be the right solution for your business.

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Its vast feature set and capabilities may seem daunting at first, this is why Compete 366 can help make your SharePoint online migration easier for your workforce. This post is geared towards helping you realise the full potential of SharePoint online features.

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Office 365 File Sharing Technologies

Office 365 features both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business as its file storage and sharing tools. At first glance, you can easily assume that they are a duplication of services.

However, the key difference between the two platforms is OneDrive for Business is largely a personal cloud storage service while SharePoint perfect for sharing documents with team members.

What Exactly is SharePoint?

SharePoint’s revolutionary power lies in its ability to unite different functions within an organisation. Companies can integrate conventionally separate applications such as intranet, workflow management, content management, business intelligence, and enterprise social networking.

SharePoint exists as an ‘On Premise’ server product and as a ‘Cloud’ variant known as SharePoint Online. The On-Prem variant provides direct control over your data and compliance standards. On the other hand, SharePoint Online automatically relies on Microsoft’s industry-specific security standards.

According to research conducted by ShareGate in 2017, SharePoint Online deployments rose by 167%. This shows that enterprises are leaving versions such as the on-prem SharePoint behind in favour of the cloud functionality provided by SharePoint Online.

Reasons Why Organisations Migrate from On-Premise SharePoint to SharePoint Online

Easier to manage

The SharePoint on-prem version works using the web front end, database server and the application server to deliver services configured on them. This is why managing SharePoint on-prem can be quite complex. You will need to hire an IT team for server maintenance, patches and updates.

On the other hand, with SharePoint Online, there’s nothing to manage. This means you can get rid of the need to buy more hardware such as servers. This way, the IT team you already have can keep working at the top of their game.

Automatic upgrades

You must factor the expected costs that come with an upgrade when you have SharePoint on-prem. However, SharePoint Online offers automatic upgrades to its latest versions and its additions. Once you but the license, that’s it. You no longer have to worry about patches or upgrade maintenance. This way, you get to focus on the business side of things.

Content migration

You only get to move your content once with SharePoint Online. The on-prem version sets a time limit that ranges between three to five years for the needed upgrades.

In contrast, SharePoint Online does not set time limit for the period of time you get to stay till you move on to the next version. Therefore, when you move your content, you do it only once.

How Does SharePoint Online Work?

SharePoint Online consists of libraries, lists, web parts and other features that make it easy to store documents, offer context and organise business projects in a way that makes sense.

SharePoint Online libraries are used to store files including documents, pictures, videos and basically any other file type you can think of. They display information such as the last person to modify the file and the date of modification. It also comes with customisable library apps to control how documents are viewed.

SharePoint Online lists work like an Excel worksheet where you can store, edit and view data. They are usually used for task and issue tracking or to submit work requests to other departments in an organisation.

Web parts act like widgets so you can use them to display information on site pages within and outside of SharePoint. You can also use its search engine to find documents faster.

Moreover, its search function has advanced features like language search, metadata and search result ranking. The day to day user experience is similar to using a file server except it’s secure across many devices. Plus its IT admin is simple.

Uses of SharePoint Online

This flexible platform is usually used for the following purposes:

Document management systems

Think of a Document Management System as a “file server in the cloud”. You can use it in exactly the same way that you do a traditional file server with a folder structure and security groups to determine who can access what. A few key differences though are:

  • You now have secure, anywhere, any device access to your files
  • You can share externally (with controls)
  • There is nothing to manage

SharePoint Online allows users at the top level to create a site which can contain a number of libraries or even subsites. Large enterprises can allow each department to have its own subsite to improve communication.

Different departments can have their own project sites to create a birds-eye view of how the company is working to ensure set goals are achieved. SharePoint takes into consideration that each organisation has unique storage classification and provides the flexibility to tailor site structure according to the complex needs of the business.

Collaboration

SharePoint Online acts as a collaboration tool for different people working on a similar project and share similar documents. Everyone gets the same version of documents, which makes it easy for everyone to stay updated with the project.

SharePoint Online acts as a portal to connect organisations in different geographical locations. Instead of waiting to interact and share your ideas during a company meeting, people can reach out to each other at any time. This fosters innovation and improves productivity.

Intranets

You can set up an intranet using SharePoint Online to share company information. Basically, it acts as a meeting room for every person within the organisation to visit throughout their working session.

They will find announcements, latest company news or scheduled tasks. Organisations could even opt to customise the dashboards by a department. Furthermore, SharePoint offers tools to help you set up social networking platforms for your employees to boost interactions.

Extranets

You can also use SharePoint Online to set a site where you can interact with your business partners and other stakeholders. This can help you exclusively share news of common interest with partner companies. You will also be able to provide or get access to affiliate services.

Business intelligence

As we mentioned before, SharePoint Online gives you a birds-eye view over business operations. This provides numerous ways to make well-informed decisions. You can easily search through files and find larger patterns to show you progress or setbacks you have experienced.

You can also use SharePoint Online to discover trends and relationships between different variables such as how the marketing team interacts with the sales teams to drive leads and sales. Then, you can use the data to get these departments onboard with each other.

Security

SharePoint Online has comprehensive security features, allowing you to configure security at the document level, folder level, site level or library level. This way, information is hidden from the user’s view if they don’t have the required level of access.

You also have the option of controlling document life cycles using compliance policies. For instance, you can use policies such as content routing policies, archival or expiration policies.

Migrating Your Content to SharePoint Online

For end users, working with SharePoint Online is very straightforward and intuitive.

Once SharePoint is set up and your file content is migrated, there is also very little IT admin to do, and the tasks are simple.

However, much deeper SharePoint skills and expertise are required to set up SharePoint correctly and migrate your content in – this is a one-off exercise of course. Depending on your level of in-house technical capability, SharePoint Online isn’t overly complex to learn but will require a considerable investment of time to get to the point of being able to design and implement the SharePoint structure and migrate your content in.

To give you a basic understanding of the processes involved, here’s just the simplified version, you have to:

  • conduct an analysis of your content
  • define your security groups
  • design the SharePoint structure
  • build the SharePoint structure
  • apply the security groups and any basic look and feel
  • copy over your content (while users keep working un-interrupted on the source system)
  • Test the SharePoint system – is the content there and accessible, is access being controlled by the security groups etc.
  • Do a delta migration for any content that has changed on the source system
  • Put SharePoint live as the replacement for the source system

Having a certified SharePoint partner makes a huge difference in ensuring a seamless and successful migration. This is where Complete 366 comes in, we are an Office 365 Gold Partner specialising in helping small and medium enterprises become more competitive.

We have migrated file content into SharePoint Online for many of our customers, whether this be from on-premise SharePoint, on-premise file servers or other cloud file sharing platforms such as Google Drive or DropBox.

Contact us today for a free discussion with one of our SharePoint consultants.

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