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Defining Your Office 365 Data Storage Strategy

One of the most important decisions you have to address in developing your Office 365 deployment strategy is how to organize the storage of your data files. There are three critical issues you need to account for in developing your storage strategy. 

  1. Your universe of data files 

    1. Application data files - files associated with specific applications such as QuickBooks 

    2. Shared application files - primarily Microsoft Office and PDF files 

  2. Who needs access to which files 

    1. Shared internally 

    2. Shared externally 

    3. Not typically shared 

  3. Storage location options 

    1. On-premise file server(s) 

    2. Cloud application server(s) 

    3. O365 - SharePoint 

    4. O365 - OneDrive 

    5. Personal Computers 

    6. Portable drive(s) 

Office 365 Data Storage Strategy


Regarding your universe of data files, deciding where to store your application files is the easy decision. Typically, your storage options for those get dictated by the specific application. If you have any SaaS (Software as a Service) applications, the data files get stored on the SaaS vendors' cloud-based infrastructure. If you have desktop applications such as QuickBooks, you will usually be limited to the options of either saving the data files on an on-premise server or on a local PC. 

The primary decision you need to make about data storage is where to store your shared PDF files and MS Office files (such as from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). The simplest way to develop your strategy for these files is to put those that are not typically shared with others, either internally or externally, in OneDrive. Any files that get stored in OneDrive can only be shared with others if the owner explicitly provides them with access. We will explain more about these in a future post. 

The way file sharing works in SharePoint is that you grant access at the subsite level to specific groups or individuals. Their access can be limited to read-only, editing, uploading, downloading, etc. Whenever you store a file in the SharePoint subsite, the people you have previously granted access to will immediately have that level of access to the file. You can imagine that this model significantly reduces the amount of administrative time spent providing access to individual files. You can also extend access to files stored in SharePoint to anyone outside of the group on an individual basis, similar to the OneDrive model.  

Data Storage Goals 

As you plan your data storage strategy relative to your rollout of Office 365, these are some strategic goals that you should consider pursuing. 

  1. Minimize or eliminate local PC and mobile device storage 
    One of the essential benefits of leveraging the cloud computing model is the ability to keep your data stored in a world-class data center facility that will provide you with maximum protection from cyber-attacks and disasters. Once you save files on your local PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone or USB drive, you leave your organization more vulnerable to a cyber-attack. While these devices can be secured, the level of control cannot match the data center environment. So the bottom line is, keep your local file storage to the absolute minimum. 

  2. Utilize SharePoint and OneDrive client sync application 
    To the extent that you must store some files on your local PC, you should take advantage of the client sync application available with O365. This application allows you to designate selected folders in both OneDrive and SharePoint that you want to replicate on your local storage for offline access. Any changes made to these files either locally or in the cloud get instantly synchronized upon connection to the internet. This method provides an extra measure of data security in that the files will be protected in the cloud, while at the same time being accessible offline when the situation calls for it. Caution: You must ensure that the policies and procedures for using the client sync application are rigid and communicated clearly. Otherwise, people will try to synchronize all of their Office 365 files locally for convenience. 

  3. Leverage Office 365 version history 
    One of the hidden treasures of storing your files in OneDrive and SharePoint is versioning. This feature will automatically save a version of the file every time it gets edited. That means you can go back and retrieve any iteration of an Excel file since its inception. This ability is a compelling feature and can streamline the process of storing multiple copies of a file as it evolves. No more storing multiple copies of a file with variations in the file name to designate the current version. 

Spending a little time in planning your file storage strategy can save you from lots of frustration in your Office 365 deployment. 


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