05 October 2009

SharePoint vs. File Servers

Whenever you talk to someone about the document management features of SharePoint, the question comes up; how does one differentiate and create guidance around when to use a file share versus when to use a SharePoint Document Library.  There are many levels of appreciation of SharePoint's feature set - and kind of like an onion, there are many things that are underneath the surface.  Here are some examples of features that are difficult to implement on a file share:
  • commented version history
  • file metadata / content classification
  • audit tracking
  • data retention policy implementation / enforcement
  • self-service recoverability
  • business processes / workflow
Moreover, below are some examples of when to use a file share over SharePoint:
  • audio streaming or video streaming
  • product distribution
  • server & desktop backups
  • Access database storage
  • custom tools distribution, utility executable distribution, script distribution
  • archive file storage

Table: Simplified Comparison of File Server file features and SharePoint Server file features

Windows 2003 R2 File Share 

SharePoint Server Document Center

ACL based File Security and Effective permissions (AD only)

Authorization based Item Security with user picker, supporting AD, LDAP, and .NET Pluggable providers
Opt in email based Request Access

Windows Auditing

Security and Policy based Auditing, expiration and pivot reports

Shadow Copy User Restore

(not configured by default)

User Restore with Recycle bin

2nd Stage Site Collection Recycle bin (default)

Distributed File System Replication

(not recommended with two way editing)
WAN Throttling
RDC (Remote Differential Compression) 

One Way Content Publishing paths and jobs including quick deploy
# Threads throttling and scheduling
Multi Farm Shared Services (not over WAN)

Email enabled (requires configuration)

Check in Check out w/ Forced Checkout

Snapshotted versions (not change based versions)

Version History/ Major/Minor Versions

File level Rights Management

File and Doc Library Rights Management Integration Policies

Sorting, (Grouping in Vista), Workflow Engine (requires customization)

Filtering, Grouping, Workflow (out of box), Content Types

File Service Resource Manager for Quotas or 3rd party

Site Collection Quotas, Built in Usage Reporting, Storage Manager

NTFS Compression, EFS and My Documents Redirection (client dependencies)
Database Encryption with Third Party, Backup Compression with Third Party

Non Transactional.  No Rollback without Shadow Copies

SQL Server Transaction Logs

Source (Joel Olson) reference: http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint/archive/2007/01/02/is-the-file-server-dead.aspx

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