The file server debate rears it head again

Graham points to a pretty good article on the SharePoint team blog about when to use SharePoint and when to use a file server.  Whilst I think the article is largely technically correct, it doesn’t address many of the points I raised in this post.  The key ones being:

  • pretty much every application supports storing it’s file based data that way
  • everyone knows how to save files
  • everyone knows how to navigate a file system
  • its easy to tell people where things are,  or send them a UNC path
  • its easy to move stuff around, copy it, rename it
  • its easy to send files stored in a file system via email (drag and drop)
  • search tools work well
  • performance is great
  • solutions are available for off-line working
  • fairly easy to replicate
  • well integrated with backup
  • integrated with all sorts of applications
  • very cheap

With Vista things seem to be going even better for the local file system and promise to get better for the file server with Longhorn server.  In my old post I listed a lot of problems with the file server, and update them now for vista:

  • no general purpose way to add meta data – no longer true with Vista’s support for tags
  • forces you onto one view of structure, ie only directory hierarchy – tags fix this as well, although you can also sort, group, search and filter on meta-data as well
  • not easy to share outside the enterprise, in a controlled way,  although tools like foldershare and groove do it peer to peer through firewalls – this is still true, of course the fact that Several office versions include Groove make it easier and its also possible to get at file system data via OWA in Exchange 2007
  • no workflow, or other automation I think this is still true
  • no easy way to add comments I think this is still true
  • no standard way to version I think this is still true
  • only one way to group stuff – directories – tags fix this as well, although you can also sort, group, search and filter on meta-data as well

Vista adds some additional goodies like thumbnails, previews, and property handlers as well as much improved replication, offline working, search and really great support for grouping, filters, sorting etc.

In addition everything works in the file system,  once you move to something else you have to keep asking yourself the question “where should I put this”.

Overall I think the file system is doing pretty well, its certainly my preferred place to work, with the web being my preferred place to publish, although I also like Notes databases (if only doclinks worked more reliably).

Soon though I expect that my favorite place to publish will be a future version of Lotus Quickplace, I saw it’s file system integration today and I was very impressed!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just curious about your comment that doclinks don’t work reliably in Notes. I’ve used Notes for about 12 years and haven’t seen many issues with them at all.

  2. Anonymous says:

    just a current annoyance with doclinks, that if you create doclinks to a document in an offline replica database, then the server hint is blank. In my company at least that means that no one else can resolve the link. Lots of people make that mistake and so the impression is that the mechanism isn’t reliable so people tend not to use it. I use them a lot but it bugs me that I need to always open up the server replica whenever I want to create a link which is a real pain for me.

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