10 reasons putting team/department documents in SharePoint is better than shared drives: Part 2

Asset 1mazeThis post is a continuation of 10 reasons putting team/department documents in SharePoint is better than shared drives.

See part one for information about:

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

And below for information about:

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

Sharing and security

Asset 3shareSharePoint allows sharing documents in a couple ways:

  • Link to original/live document
    • Share/create a URL for a specific document or entire document library
      • with people who already have access (no change to regular URL)
      • with people outside your permission group/team site (with option to allow read-only or editing)
    • Share via “Share+” button
      • Optional email notification, with space for custom message
      • Allows multiple recipients
  • Download a copy
    • Open in client application (instead of browser) and use the “email” button in the ribbon to send as attachment (not at all linked to your SharePoint site at that point)
    • Use “ellipses” to “Download” (as original file type) or “Download as PDF”

Some nice things about sending links as opposed to attachments:

  • Only people who have been granted access will be able to open the link. Others receive an access denied message. So gone are the days of accidentally sending attachments to the wrong person and worrying about data spill.
  • Links also don’t take up inbox space, and won’t create a thousand copies of a 4 MB file across your organization via an “everyone” email.
  • If you send out the link and find a typo afterward, you can edit the document in SharePoint and don’t need to send another email to people. They’ll always see the most recent version saved when they click the link.


Remote access

Asset 8remote accessRemote access is outstanding for Office 365 subscribers. There is a SharePoint mobile app for a streamlined experience on the go, or you can sign in from any device as you normally would at work.

If you’re on-premise/server chances are you need VPN access to get to your SharePoint environment.

Either way, your documents are always nearby and your individual devices don’t need Microsoft Office applications installed since you can use the built-in browser versions.


Metadata and views

Asset 6metadataWhat’s so great about metadata?

  • Metadata is essentially just library columns with additional information about documents
  • Views can replace folders by building rules using that metadata. For example, my “by Department” view will group all documents by a “Department” column.
  • Workflows can be triggered by metadata. For example, if I change a document’s “DocType” column to “Agenda”, email George requesting his revisions.
  • Views and groupings are easily changed later. So in thirty seconds you can go from a 1,000 document library sorted by “Year” then “Group” to sort instead by “DocType” then “Month-Year”. No more cutting, pasting, dragging and dropping.
  • Metadata can be automated using workflow. For example, if I add a document called “Committee Agenda 2018-08-14”, set “DocType” to Agenda and “DocDate” to “08-14-2018”. You’re able to extract any part of a file name to use as metadata automatically.
  • You can create “calculated columns” to do additional things like determine a fiscal year automatically, years of service, time between dates, etc. and use those values in workflows.


Workflows & alerts

Asset 5workflowAs seen in the previous section, workflows can save you some time by automatically setting metadata based on your standard naming conventions.

But workflows can do nearly anything you wish.

  • Seek multi-step approval (conditionally or consistently)
  • Email link to all site members
  • Move to another library
  • Delete after Expiration Date
  • Triggered manually, or automatically based on document creation or metadata/column changes
  • Connect to external services (Twitter, Google Docs, Microsoft Forms, other SharePoint site collections, etc.) using Microsoft Flow

And while those workflows might require a more advanced SharePoint mind, any end user is capable of “Following” a document to track changes over time or they can “set an alert” on any library and customize their own immediate, daily or weekly digest to be emailed regularly sharing document library activity.

Sync & export

Asset 7syncUsers may miss their common drive. Luckily, they can “sync” a document library using the sync button or they can “Open with Explorer”. Either way, you get Windows Explorer style document browsing, cut/paste, drag/drop functionality your users are used to.

Sync means you’ll add a folder to your explorer with links to all documents in your library. You don’t need to open a browser to make changes to any of the documents, and upon saving, your changes are saved back to SharePoint.

Opening with Explorer allows you to view the current document library in Explorer. You could map this or pin it to Quick Start once opened for similar, easy access in the future. Instead of syncing or having local copies, however, you’d only be able to access documents when you’re connected to the internet and have access to SharePoint.

Exporting will export a list of all of your documents, hyperlinked to the actual documents and including any metadata in the view you export. This is handy for inventory or sending someone a list of links to all documents quickly.


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