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The Channel Angle: How To Capitalize On Microsoft SharePoint’s Hot Growth

‘Since the pandemic and the shift to more remote work, having all your files locked up in the office on a server can be very limiting and really hurt employee productivity,’ writes Neal Juern of San Antonio, Texas-based Juern Technology.

 [Editor’s note: The Channel Angle is a monthly CRN guest column written by a rotating group of solution provider executives that focuses on the triumphs and challenges that solution providers face. If you are a solution provider executive interested in contributing, please contact managing editor David Harris.]

By Neal Juern

According to statistics from Gartner, the SharePoint market has grown exponentially over the last few years. SharePoint is a Microsoft application that allows you to create intranets to better manage and share information among employees. This includes file-sharing functions much like a traditional file server, but in the cloud.

As an MSP, we often recommend SharePoint to companies who want to access their files from anywhere and want to work collaboratively - like two employees working on the same Excel spreadsheet at the same time.

Since the pandemic and the shift to more remote work, having all your files locked up in the office on a server can be very limiting and really hurt employee productivity.

Enter SharePoint

For our customers, we have been averaging at least one SharePoint migration per month. The main thing we do is move their file servers to the cloud and set up all the correct sharing and permissions.

For MSPs, Sharepoint represents a great opportunity to capitalize on the rise in usage of cloud services and a better way for your customers to work.

Some special considerations are to be sure you have backups, just like you did with the old file server. Microsoft’s terms and conditions say that they recommend that you regularly backup the content and data that you store on their services. For this reason, we recommend you use a cloud-to-cloud backup solution so you have restorable copies of your customers data that are outside of the Microsoft cloud.

Some of the best feedback we have been receiving from our customers has been that their productivity has been greatly enhanced and they have less employees frustrated with VPN issues and trying to get to files on their office file servers.

Proceed With Caution

One case where this strategy needs to be modified is if you have clients that work on very large files. For example, we have engineering clients who work on some very large CAD files. This would also apply to companies working with larger video files. Because SharePoint downloads files on demand, you are limited by the Internet bandwidth of the customer and the user experience will be diminished compared to opening those files from a local file server.

Our solution has been to deploy a NAS (network attached storage) device that is scalable to handle the customers file growth and to store only the large files on the NAS. We put everything else in SharePoint. We then set the NAS to backup to a cloud provider or to another NAS at another one of the client’s locations. That provides them with offsite backups and geographic diversity.

Having the local NAS that is only used for large working files keeps the user experience high because the performance is still great, but allows the customer to put the rest of their file library in SharePoint for anywhere access. Since most large files require specialized computers, like drafting computers or video editing computers, those tasks aren’t frequently performed remotely, so it all just works.

There will be a day when Internet bandwidth is high enough to overcome this hurdle and all files can be cloud based, but that day is not today so a hybrid approach is best.

Demonstrate Your Value

For the management of SharePoint, we charge a management fee similar to the cost of managing a file server. We are still managing the security, permissions, and backups of SharePoint, so it makes sense that we would not lose the revenue just because the files have moved from a physical server to a cloud-based service. This helps us to provide our customers with top-notch service for SharePoint and protects our margins at the same time.

Using SharePoint as a cloud file server just cracks the surface of what SharePoint is capable of. Your clients will be well positioned to start using other features like creating an internal blog or maintaining a shared calendar. SharePoint can be a full intranet for your clients, so putting them on that path is a great way you can add value to their business and not just fix their IT problems.

In summary, Microsoft SharePoint adoption is skyrocketing and there is a real opportunity for companies like us (MSPs) to provide the know-how and the management to help companies make the transition. Your clients will be more productive with a work anywhere solution. They will have better tools for collaborating on files, and they can start to build a great information resource that can take them to the next level and provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your value as their virtual CIO.
Neal Juern is the president and CEO of Juern Technology, an IT firm based in San Antonio, Texas providing completely managed (and co-managed) IT services and cybersecurity to small and mid-size businesses for over 10 years now.

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