SharePoint Document Libraries vs. Network Sharing
Before we begin to discuss the process of using standard SharePoint drag and drop functionality, let’s first discuss the some of the basics of SharePoint Document Libraries and some of the advantages it has for storing documents over a network share.
The biggest advantage of using SharePoint Document Libraries for storing your business documents, as opposed to storing them on a network drive, can be summed up in one word – metadata. What is metadata, you ask? Technically speaking, it means data about data. In the case of SharePoint Document Libraries, the document itself is the second “data” in this definition. So then metadata, in this context, refers specifically to additional information about the document.
If you are fortunate enough to have a fairly organized network share then you are probably already applying metadata to your document. You do this by choosing the specific folder and the folder hierarchy that you place the file/document in. This metadata may be the year created, the department that it is used in, or even a specific project that it is used in.
Folders vs. Metadata
The challenge with even the most organized approach to files in folders on a network share is that YOU have to remember what metadata you attached, i.e., what folder that file is stored in. Now with a Windows Explorer window you can type in a partial name to help, but you also have to remember at least a portion of the filename. Also, you have to commit to a specific folder and therefore a specific set of metadata – a file should go into one folder only. Otherwise, you take the risk of having different versions of the file in various folders (we will briefly describe the SharePoint versioning feature a little later).
With a SharePoint Document Library you can add columns that help categorize your documents (metadata).
You can then use these columns to sort the list of files based on metadata or filter the list to narrow it down. If you want to look at narrowed down lists of documents based on the metadata that you created, you can create a View. Views allow you to save a filtering criteria(s) so that you can easily access the current filtered list on a regular basis. With Views, you can also choose which columns display, control the sort order, and even group files together, all based on metadata.
In addition to the features previously discussed, here is a list some additional features/advantages of storing your documents in SharePoint Document Libraries:
- Versioning: Minor (0.1, 1.1) as well as major (1.0, 2.0) version controls. Version numbers are visible (as in ‘Last Modified By’). Previous versions are all accessible and can be ‘promoted’
- Check In/Out: Check out allows a user to lock down a document while it is being edited; the user who has checked out the document is clearly visible. When checked back in, the user can choose to create a new version or override the existing version.
- Alerts: Alerts will send out an e-mail to let you know when new documents have been added or changed. Daily and weekly digests are also available.
- Workflow: Includes simple ‘approval’ workflow out of the box, as well as a few other simple workflows allowing, for example, the user to request someone else to review a document with that approval recorded in the workflow.