The exponential growth of SharePoint content—increasing by 75% every year according to recent surveys—demands that organizations improve how they control and manage content. For companies with remote SharePoint users, these demands become business-critical.
Like a monster lurking in the shadows, the dangers of unsynchronized content can have serious and far-ranging implications. If content appears current to users but is actually out of date, compliance regulations could be violated and employees could be endangered.
While that sounds like hyperbole, the issues associated with unsynchronized SharePoint content are far too real.
Think about an expense report filed in Tokyo, approved by a manager in Paris and then paid by accounting in New York City. Without each user working from the same document with the same changes, how can this take place properly?
Without synchronizing SharePoint content, your users are further away, both literally and figuratively, from the content they need. In turn, they are forced to depend on a strong network connection to be successful and productive.
Within SharePoint, the only way to synchronize content is at the database level, which enables organizations to keep the same content available to end users. However, it fails to synchronize information such as versioning and metadata, and is more suited for a backup or recovery scenario. The lack of native functionality for content synchronization leads it to become a hidden danger.
Norwegian Cruise Line is a prime example of the danger associated with unsynchronized SharePoint content. The company must continuously keep its SharePoint content at headquarters in sync with remote SharePoint deployments in its entire fleet. There are many issues the company must deal with, such as ensuring reliable connectivity over poor networks, while sharing changes to documents in real time.
When Norwegian Cruise Line deployed SharePoint, there were serious concerns about whether crews would have reliable access to SharePoint, thus the entire SharePoint environment may not have met their specific needs. Without synchronizing content, the company would be unable to properly replicate document changes to all of its users throughout its fleet of ships at sea. However, by successfully doing so, the company ensures crewmembers have access to the latest policy document when they need it, no matter what the current network conditions are.
Norwegian Cruise Line highlights one of the greatest concerns with SharePoint deployments that are located hundreds of miles away from headquarters: Remote users will almost always have limited network access. Whether due to being out at sea or on another continent, poor connections can lead to trouble.
The dangers are growing, in part, because SharePoint adoption is likewise growing across organizations. The release of SharePoint 2013 should only stimulate this growth further, both in the number of users and the amount of content. For organizations on older versions, such as SharePoint 2003 or SharePoint 2007, the move to SharePoint 2013 will likely bring more users to the platform in more locations.
The release of SharePoint 2013 threw another wrench in the mix because companies must continue to keep content in sync across different versions. There are many organizations that are now managing SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 farms simultaneously. In the very near future, it is likely these same organizations must manage three versions—2007, 2010 and 2013—while ensuring the content is similar across all of them.
With these challenges in mind, it is crucial to plan out your SharePoint farm topology to enable maximum synchronization, adoption and collaboration. The amount of content in SharePoint and the number of users are only going to increase through this year and beyond. Unsynchronized content is an often-overlooked yet very real problem for enterprises today.
But if you plan accordingly and prepare your SharePoint environment for synchronization, you can avoid these crippling dangers entirely and have all of your users (no matter where they are) collaborating on the same version of the same document at all times.
Sanjay Singh is a product manager at Metalogix.