10 reasons putting team/department documents in SharePoint is better than shared drives: Part 1

Asset 1mazeYou know that one file, right? The one named “Agenda.docx” in the folder called “November” in the “2008” folder in another folder called “DO NOT Delete” in the “Archive” folder of the “Retired Committees” folder?

Me either. And chances are you don’t need it anymore. But managing team/department documents on traditional shared drives has challenges like this all the time, with management, retention, content ownership, etc. SharePoint, however, can greatly assist in keeping your content current, relevant and organized.

Of course making the switch from shared, common network drives to SharePoint can be intimidating. But the benefits of doing so are well worth the effort to make your team work more efficiently. This post will highlight 10 features in SharePoint you can’t necessarily get from shared network drives:

Part One:

  1. Version history
  2. Approvals/Administration
  3. Check-in/Check-out
  4. Co-editing
  5. Archiving & retention

Part Two:

  1. Sharing and security
  2. Remote access
  3. Metadata and views
  4. Workflows & alerts
  5. Sync & export

Version history

Asset 2versioningOne of my favorite features in SharePoint is version history. Whether lists or libraries, you’re able to activate this feature that allows for major (1.0, 2.0, etc.) and minor (1.1, 1.2) versioning of documents, and just major versions for list items.

Once versioning is enabled (from library/list settings –> versioning settings), you can:

  • Limit the number of versions to keep
  • Choose whether to do just major (new version upon each save) or major/minor versioning (requires “publishing” manually for major versions. Minor versions aren’t visible to read-only visitors.)
  • View and/or delete previous versions of documents
  • Restore a previous version of a document as the primary version (keeps later versions in history as well)

version history


Asset 4approvalAlso from the “versioning settings” page, you’re able to activate “Content approval” which:

  • Allows anyone to submit new content
  • Sets new content to a “draft” state visible only to people who can approve (and the author) until approved for inclusion in the library

You can also self-manage permissions for who has “contribute” and “edit” access, eliminating the need to contact IT for a simple permissions adjustment. Look in “library settings –> permissions for this document library”.

approval of content


Asset 9check in check outOne more feature in “Versioning settings” is requiring check-out. This would ensure that if someone edits one of your documents, other users trying to access it will see the last-published/checked-in version and not the document currently under revision with unfinished edits. It also makes sure only one person is editing a document at any one time.

A word of advice: If you activate this feature, you’ll just want to make sure users are educated on the process and that they remember to check-in documents when finished editing so others can check them out.



Asset 1collaborateChecking documents in and out is great for single editors, but surely some of your documents would be better served by multiple people revising together. Google Docs, Dropbox (via Google), and OneDrive all have the same capability making it an increasingly familiar practice.

What’s co-editing? Basically it’s the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time from different devices. Your entire team can open a SharePoint document in their browsers, click “Edit document –> edit in browser” (or thanks to a recent O365 update, it may open automatically in edit mode) and then revise the document simultaneously or watch others make revisions or take notes in real time.

Introduce co-editing to your colleagues in your SharePoint document libraries and/or OneNote notebooks for a quick win.


Archiving & retention

Asset 10archivingArchiving and retention are essential for efficient content strategy or knowledge management. Archiving looks different for many people, so it’s important to understand your clients’ interpretation before rolling out an archive or automation.

Archiving is typically the practice of moving files meeting a certain criteria to a designated location (different document library, recycle bin stage one, etc.) on an ongoing basis. These locations would tend to have less traffic, and might not be searchable via the main SharePoint search to keep results relevant.

Archiving can be fully or semi-automated using SharePoint Designer and/or Microsoft Flow workflows. For example, you could construct a workflow that waits one year after the “last modified” date then emails the last editor letting them know that if the document isn’t updated within 14 days, it will be moved to an archive location, staged for deletion in yet another year.

Retention is closely tied to archiving, but dips into your organizational policies surrounding mandatory periods of retention for certain document types. For example, in healthcare or education industries you might be required to keep certain documents for up to 18 years or indefinitely. Check any retention policies before building archiving or auto-delete workflows. And be sure to check with your clients to see if they want a final approval or notification before an archiving or retention policy is taken.


Continue reading to part two to learn about:

  1. Sharing and security
  2. Remote access
  3. Metadata and views
  4. Workflows & alerts
  5. Sync & export

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