File management and document management might not be the most glamorous topic in the digital workspace, but it’s one of the most important. Many organisational processes remain resolutely file- and document-centric, and employees need to access and work on files every day. Various aspects of file management need to be considered, including:
- Storage and access: how files can be accessed every day by employees, ensuring the continuity of access
- Findability and search: making sure employees can access files easily
- Archiving and regulatory compliance: making sure old files can be accessed, and legal commitments met
- Version control: ensuring people access the right version of a file
- Security of files
- Cost of file storage: some organisations have millions of files.
With file and document management so integral to the working day, it’s no wonder cloud storage is having a profound impact on file storage, bringing with it multiple advantages. Many organisations are moving their file servers over to cloud storage, but this can come with some challenges. In this post, we’re going to explore in more detail how the rise of cloud storage is affecting file management, along with some of the approaches that digital workspace teams should consider adopting.
What are the advantages of moving your files over to cloud storage?
Cloud storage has several benefits for digital workspace teams, IT functions and users.
Disaster recovery and security
We live in a very volatile world, and using cloud storage for file management helps to protect business continuity. Major cloud storage providers ensure there is back-up for all files, and will usually have industry-leading security in place. This approach gives users confidence that their files are safe, as well as supporting organisational disaster recovery plans and minimising risk surrounding threats such as ransomware attacks.
Digital employee experience
Cloud documents can provide an improved digital employee experience for users. There is usually consistent access to the same files across different devices at any location supporting the remote and hybrid working patterns which are likely to dominate in the future. Many employees will also be using cloud storage for their documents and files both at home and outside the world of work, with this likely to be their expectation for the files they access during the working day too.
Creating an effective document management system
Many organisations want to apply an effective document management system (DMS) that establishes version control over documents, and ensures peoples are accessing the correct, latest and trusted versions. Sometimes, a DMS is only relevant to particular key document collections such as corporate policies and procedures. Cloud solutions such as SharePoint can be a strong basis for a DMS; for example, many users find a SharePoint DMS has better usability than some other dedicated solutions.
Cloud documents are easier to share between teams and colleagues, and can also be worked on simultaneously if more than one person needs to collaborate on the document.
Rationalisation and cost reduction
Many organisations – particularly those that have been built up by acquisition – can have highly complex legacy file environments. Moving over to cloud storage can be a catalyst for simplifying and rationalising complexity, bringing everything together in one place. It can also result in significant cost savings, particularly if on-premises servers can be decommissioned.
Flexibility and scalability
Cloud storage provides greater flexibility and scalability that can be important in file management, such as in companies which often acquire new companies and need to onboard and integrate new file collections quickly.
Mature cloud platforms
Moving to the cloud usually means leveraging the opportunities presented by modern cloud storage platforms such as Azure that offer robust analytics, metadata management, search, identity management, advanced monitoring tools, security and governance features and more, all of which help to improve user experience and underpin successful management practices.
Given the collective benefits, it’s no wonder many organisations are actively moving their files over to the cloud.
How cloud storage impacts file management
Cloud storage is a new way of managing files, and profoundly impacts both IT functions and users.
For users, the changes in user experience are not necessarily as all-encompassing as some other large technology rollouts or change initiatives; particularly for employees who are used to working with Microsoft Office files that have previously been on-premises, some of the interfaces they use will be familiar.
However, some of the practices and rules around using SharePoint document libraries, sharing documents with colleagues and searching for documents will be different; guidance, communications and some support will be required. Sometimes, this is because moving to the cloud provides an opportunity to take a more structured and standardised approach to document management and involves new ways of working, particularly if there has been no document management system in place before.
For IT functions, there will be some new processes in managing your cloud environment, and these can bring challenges around ensuring everyone has connectivity. There may also be new procedures around archiving, deleting and restoring documents, but these won’t necessarily be more difficult than what has gone before.
Challenges to file management in transitioning to the cloud
The most significant challenges to file management for both IT functions and end users tend to occur when transitioning to the cloud. The sheer number of files that need to be migrated, the complexity of some file environments and the change management effort required can be daunting. This can even cause some teams to put off a cloud migration project.
Common challenges for IT teams include:
- Scoping: Deciding what to include in any migration to the cloud. There can be a remarkable number of legacy file collections, and it can be difficult to decide what to migrate and what not to.
- Prioritisation: Teams may not be able to migrate all files to the cloud in one go, and may have to take a phased approach, prioritising what to migrate to the cloud first.
- Minimising outages in the migration: One of the key challenges in migrating files to the cloud is minimising outages, because employees will generally need uninterrupted – or near uninterrupted – access to the files they use every day. This requires careful planning.
- Security and access: Moving documents to the cloud can make them more accessible to employees and more easily discoverable, such as through search. Better findability is one of the advantages of cloud documents, but it can also mean that some sensitive documents that have previously not needed any restricted access because they were hard to find on the file network can now be easily surfaced. Teams may need to check the right security and access are applied to files before they are migrated.
- Cost and resourcing: Legacy file servers can be huge and complex, and moving them to the cloud can be a major project with significant costs and resources. Realistically, a project may need to be carried out in phases.
- Resourcing for change management: Moving to the cloud requires communication and some change management efforts to support users, as well as possible hyper-care in the aftermath of a migration. While most teams take a phased approach to migration, some central teams can find it challenging to resource both the migration and the change management required, particularly if they are supporting users on the last phase and already moving on to the next roll-out.
How Workspace 365 can help
Workspace 365 is an excellent platform to help bridge the gap between your legacy systems and transition to the cloud, providing a front-end experience for employees that can provide continuity during cloud migration projects. In particular, file management is supported because it can store online and offline documents in one place for users to access.
Workspace 365 provides one single interface where employees can access files on their existing file network, including documents that have been transitioned to the cloud, and allows an easy-to-use and stable interface where files can be transitioned in phases without impacting the user experience or access to files. This can ease a lot of the pressure during a transition by:
- Providing a smoother transition for employees with one consistent and intuitive interface during the duration of the project, meaning documents can be moved over to the cloud at your own pace
- Minimising disruption of everyday access to essential files
- Reducing the amount of on-the-ground support and change management needed, easing the pressure on busy IT and digital workspace teams
- Minimising the impact if phases of your transition are delayed – the user experience remains the same
- Reducing stress, frustration and effort for both employees and the roll-out team.
Supporting file management in the cloud
If you’re planning a transition to the cloud or are experiencing some of the challenges mentioned above, why not try a free demo of Workspace 365 to see the difference it could make?
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