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Breathing Life into File Shares throughout California

​I recently traveled throughout my home state of California for three consecutive days to take part in AvePoint and Microsoft’s “Death of the File Share…As you know it” events. We held the first event in Sacramento on January 24, made our way to Mountain View on January 25, and finished in San Francisco on January 26.

For me, it was a homecoming as I was born in Sacramento and spent the first 12 years of my life there. A lot has changed since I moved away. Empty fields where I used to ride my bike have long since been developed into housing. No longer a cow town, Sacramento has grown in a sizeable metropolis and is the capital city of the world’s eighth largest economy. Funnily enough, though, one thing hasn’t changed—when I moved 30 years ago, Jerry Brown was the state governor. He remains governor today, having taken office again last year. I also lived in the Bay Area for several years before I moved to Hawaii in 1994.

While the event title may seem ominous at first glance, as my friend Simeon Cathey, Chief Solutions Architect & Founder at VerticalPoint Solutions, said in his recent blog post, these events are about teaching how organizations can “breathe new life into file shares.” We had Simeon kick off each event with a number of stories about his colorful history at Microsoft, having been involved in the development of Tahoe – one of the two products that ultimately evolved into SharePoint.

As the event continued, we introduced an important question: As use of Microsoft® SharePoint® grows within our organization, what do we do with our file servers? The assumption that many make is to migrate file shares into SharePoint. The argument here is that SharePoint is the centralized repository where people collaborate and manage content, so why shouldn’t file shares be migrated to SharePoint? While this might be the right solution in some cases, we discussed a number of good reasons why this may not make sense. These include:

· Having been a consultant for nearly 20 years, I can say that migration projects are the hardest type of project and almost always run over budget and take longer than expected. Many do not have the time or money that a migration often requires.

· For most companies, a high percentage of the content in file shares is stale. Why spend the effort moving out-of-date content?

· Storage costs for SharePoint content stored within a content database is much higher than for a file server. File shares are often stored on basic Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. SharePoint’s content databases should be stored on fast, high quality Storage Area Networks (SAN) devices. If we estimate that NAS-based storage costs about $80 per GB per year and a high-quality SAN costs $140 per GB per year, your storage costs increase by $60 per GB for each year. For just one TB of content, that’s a $60,000 increase.

· By migrating content into SharePoint content databases, you could lose compression and other storage platform benefits such as single instancing (de-duplication). This could easily triple the amount of actual disk space used.

Discussing these reasons brings up the next big question: What do we do with our file servers if we don’t migrate the content? At this point, we introduced AvePoint’s DocAve Connector, which allows you to “connect” file shares to SharePoint. By connecting, you expose file shares through SharePoint without migrating the content. This gives you all the value that SharePoint brings – such as check-in, check-out, versioning, recycle bin, and auditing – but while keeping the files on the file server. Using DocAve Connector, you breathe new life into your file server, reduce storage costs, and eliminate the effort in migrating the content. End-users access all content through SharePoint and remain oblivious to where it actually resides.

Of course, we demonstrated how DocAve Connector works, and this is the part I loved since I’m the one that got to show it off to everyone. The first time I saw the product demonstrated in Singapore a couple years ago, I almost fell out of my chair. I was amazed. Today, as an AvePoint employee, I am still amazed at what an ingenious solution it is.

We finished off the events by discussing the importance of search, with an emphasis on Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. We then gave away prizes, including a signed copy of my latest book. Each event took place over a fast-paced but very informative half day, and feedback from attendees was very positive. For me, I got to relive memories by visiting cities I have called home. I also made some new friends and discuss some important SharePoint challenges with different communities. How lucky am I?

Did you attend any of the events and have thoughts to share? Join the DocAve Online Community and post a comment, or reach out to me on Twitter (@tweetraw).

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