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  • Writer's pictureRick Woolsey

Still using shared network drives?

If your company has been around more than 5 years, chances are you have one or more shared network drives in your network. This would have been put together using a server to provide your team with a way to share documents and files, manage data access (at least on a limited scope) and back up data.

While shared drives provided a method for basic documentation management, greater document control, sharing and versioning needs have led to alternative solutions that handle the management and security issues that shared drives just cannot address.

Let’s dig into the issues:


Shared network drive security is limited to traditional network tools, meaning that users would be provided with folder or file access, potentially but not always with read, edit or delete rights. For smaller companies with limited IT set up, this can lead to sensitive data not being protected in terms of employees being able to access, edit or delete data that they should not, as well as being able to edit or delete data.

Duplicated Files

Using shared network drives does not allow for collaboration on a file at the same time or allow versioning control. If two people were to work on a file, they would need to do so separately and coordinate when they were working on the file. What actually happened in most cases was that users duplicated the files and/or multiple files were then created, saved and finally a merged document would be created with no reference to what version the newly created document represented. Most of the time… those duplicate files were not deleted, thereby creating additional redundant data, adding to both server storage space and data backup size.

Management & Maintenance

For many teams that implemented shared network drives, the system was put into place to address the need of shared files but guidelines and rules on how to use the shared drives were not established. Companies ended up having multiple folder structures, lack of standardization, and ballooning data storage requirements. Plus, most organizations did not put rules into place for storage retention, or make someone responsible for the set up and management, meaning that the issue continues to get worse over time.

Limited Search Capabilities

Between the lack of metadata for indexing (tagging on a file to make it easier to search), and duplicated files, shared drives provide very limited search capabilities. It can be hard for a user to cross reference documents, and tough to search for specific documents in your network. Time also becomes an issue as without indexing, the search can take significantly longer when you have hundreds of files.

Limited Access

For users to access shared drives remotely, shared drives can only be accessed securely via Virtual Private Network (VPN). If on a laptop, this type of access is not hard to train your users on but does introduce an additional step. However, if the user is on a mobile device (phone, tablet), it can make access to view difficult, and downloading impossible when working remotely.

Each of these issues has been addressed in newer budget friendly and accessible document management systems designed specifically to make your users' lives easier, and your data more secure.

Thinking about moving away from shared drives? Let’s chat about your options.

Ascent3 IT is an Edmonton based IT Support and Consulting company focused on helping small and medium businesses get the most out of their IT budget.

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