The Best Way to Access SharePoint

Sharepoint is a useful tool for cloud file sharing. Its flexibility and customizability can be great assets to a company's workflow and productivity. However, this flexibility allows for some personal interpretation of how best to use this tool. We review the three main access paths and the merits and faults of each.

    One of the biggest selling points for SharePoint is the ability to access your files from any location. How you go about this has been a point of contention among many of our users and even some of the Valiant staff. While ultimately each person’s workflow can be independent based on their own preference, there are three most common paths to accessing SharePoint which we will explore in this article.

    Browser

    Perhaps the most obvious and certainly the one that is ready for immediate use is accessing Sharepoint via the browser. Whether it’s Firefox, Chrome, (not you Microsoft edge), or Safari, browser access truly embodies the idea of retrieving your files from any internet connected device. Simply go to office.com, log in using your Office365 credentials, and click the Sharepoint icon. You’re there and can edit, share, download, whatever you need.

    A sample Sharepoint site with folder structure

    Pros

    • Easy and intuitive. The options are clear and present.
    • Easily open documents, spreadsheets and more in Microsoft online which is so convenient.
    • The visibility of all share options is excellent so users think about the access they are granting when sharing.

    Cons

    • If you truly only care about files, there is a lot of froufrerra on the main page. I myself constantly click conversations, opening the inbox, instead of documents to open my files.

    Additional Comments

    • I will admit, Microsoft Edge is fine.
    • If users have experience with Google Drive in the past, even personally, this will seem familiar to them. 
    • Oh no, I mentioned Google in a Microsoft post.

    Teams

    If your company is taking a more holistic approach to Office 365, they may encourage you to navigate through the Teams app. Each Team will have its own file repository, with each Channel creating its own folder.

    This image depicts where to access the files that are organzied by Teams and Channels.

    Pros

    • Your data is all in one, integrated with Teams.
    • Microsoft is pushing this interface as your hub/your dashboard, for all their Office 365 features and integrations. It is going to grow more powerful with time and with more work done by Microsoft’s engineers.
    • Your files are just a click away from the relevant conversations, and any files put into that channel gets automatically saved to the file repository, ensuring no conversational data is lost. 

    Cons

    • Not intuitive. Remember those technophobes I mentioned earlier? They will get confused by this method.
    • The files icon to the right doesn’t organize as well. It’s really more useful for finding recent files.
    • If you have a lot of Channels per team, it can be confusing where certain files belong. You would likely need a solutions architect to develop a productive workflow, rather than have users get a feel for what works best themselves.

    Additional comments

    • You’re trading navigational clicks in the browser for navigational clicks in teams, but essentially you end up with a similar file structure and look.

    File Explorer

    If you sync your Sharepoint to your desktop, you can navigate and access your files through the normal file explorer. It ends up looking similar to an additional drive.

    An example of the Sharepoint site through a Windows file explorer.

    Pros

    • Most of your staff will already know how to navigate files using this method.
    • This provides the easiest way to move files to and from different folders. It’s a simple drag and drop.
    • Makes it easier to move incoming Outlook email attachments straight into your SharePoint.

    Cons

    • You do have to sync to your desktop first, which many people will find intuitive, but others may need an IT person to do for them.
    • Syncing issues can be confusing, and you’re more likely to have to resolve discrepancies from working offline.
    • Additionally, some cached files can take up space on your hard drive. If you already have disk space issues, this could exacerbate that. That being said, the sync function defaults to not permanently storing items, so the average user will never notice the difference.

    Additional Comments

    • The sync icons can easily help users identify what is and isn’t in the cloud, so that isn’t an issue to consider.

    Final Thoughts

    The different ways to access SharePoint feel more comfortable and offer a better user experience based on each individual’s preference. Some of our clients have asked if their company should enforce one way of accessing SharePoint, and my answer is always a firm no. SharePoint should be easy and intuitive, which means something different to everyone. As long as your users get their work done and are able to find their documents their way, let them find their own path.

    So what is the best way to access Sharepoint? Well, I wouldn’t want to influence your experience with my answer. You will just have to find the best way for YOU.

    Valiant Technology is the award-winning managed service provider to innovative industries in New York.

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