Google Apps or Dropbox
Dropbox, Google Apps, Amazon Cloud and Microsoft Ondrive Live are good products and competitive in the market place they serve, but they are just cloud storage. They all store files off-site in an NTFS type file store. SharePoint on-line stores files in a SQL database delivering huge advantages in security, file grouping, file analysis and file location.
What does this mean in practice? – If you consider a standard NTFS file storage system such as you would find on any computer.
When you create and save a file you are prompted to give the file a name so that you can find it again when it is needed. Most modern software will also be configured to save the file to a default location such as ‘documents’ or ‘my documents’. You can elect to modify the location by creating new sub-folders within the ‘documents’ folder. This way you can group similar files together, say by subject or function. So, a user’s documents area may have sub-folders like ‘invoices’, ‘orders’, Fred Blogs Ltd, etc. In addition, the NTFS file store will record ‘date created’, ‘date modified’ and ‘file size’ for each file. Standalone computers usually have the default ‘documents’ folder on a local hard disk drive or a cloud resource, but networked computers are often configured to default to a department, or team ‘documents’ area that is a network share on a server and all users store their documents here either in a personalised folder or in team folders where other users can access them as required. This practise makes it simpler for the IT team to copy the files to a backup device to protect against file loss or corruption.
This system works and has served well for decades, but it has weaknesses.
1. File naming is open to each individual user preference. The human mind is individual and what may be obvious as to one individual as a distinctive file name is often confusing for other users. This can be overcome by enforcing a corporate ‘standard’ for file naming, but that requires training for users in what they must, and must not, include in a file name.
2. As users can create sub-folders within the storage area and files can end up being buried many layers deep in a file system.
3. By default, the file search facility in a NTFS system searches file names, created date and modified date. This can be changed to enable indexing by metadata and even content search, but this slows the whole storage system down to a considerable degree. Additionally, file searches in NTFS systems usually take quite a long time, especially if the file resides in a storage area used by many people.