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New File Access Environment

They’re a relic from the days when we all had our own servers for our office documents. We’re talking about those little yellow folder icons on the server tray at the bottom of everyone’s screens. When a user clicks on it to access a file, it starts a long and involved search process for your computer that sometimes turns up empty.

Today, nearly all businesses or organizations use OneDrive or SharePoint in place of onsite servers because it’s more efficient to keep files in the cloud. You can get all the space you need as your number of files grows, you can store files on multiple servers, and your team can access the files through the online portal. In the office, however, or if people use a remote log-in to get to their office desktop, they click on that little yellow icon. It’s time to say: “If it’s yellow, let it go mellow.”

It’s time for a new mindset, especially in offices, where everyone needs to access files that may be stored in subfolders that are multiple layers deep. Some individuals may have extensive subfolder systems, too.

What’s the best way to get to those files faster – and maybe just get to them? Instead of clicking on that yellow icon for Windows File Explorer, start using your web-based Office 365 portal to access documents via OneDrive or SharePoint. It’s not only faster, it’s a sure way to avoid a “can’t find the file” message. That can be especially frustrating when you know the file is in there somewhere in your warren of directories, folders, and subfolders.

We’ve seen these access issues with some of our clients. Essentially, they’ve outgrown File Explorer’s antiquated system of accessing files. The problem is that each file has a string of characters to identify its location, and the deeper you go in the filing system, the more characters the string needs to locate it. It gets messy because Microsoft limits the number of characters that a string can contain. They say that systems can find files with a string of up to 250 characters, but that’s not accurate – to put it politely. The limits are lower, and it becomes a problem because once you save a file on a computer, OneDrive or SharePoint adds characters to pinpoint its location within that system.

So, with OneDrive, something may get filed this way:

C:\Users\NormanRosenthal\OneDrive – Sterling Rose LLC\Documents\Shared Files


With SharePoint, it gets filed this way: Rose LLC/Administration/[Monthly Billings.xlsx

With OneDrive, we need 29 characters before we get to the Documents directory. If you replace “OneDrive – Sterling Rose LLC” with “OneDrive – United States of America”, the character count increases, and that adds to the size of the string that File Explorer needs to search. We find the search breaks down when your character count exceeds 150 to 190 characters. In the second example, the file is two layers deep before you get to “Monthly Billings…”, and it takes up 130 characters to that point.

It’s too much for File Explorer to sync. The problem gets worse when you have a lot of people sharing files and renaming them to identify the collaborator and the version.

You can avoid the problem by opening your browser instead of File Explorer and logging in to your Office 365 portal. The portal is designed to search faster for those long file names. Once you have the file, you can work on it just as you would with a file opened from File Explorer. If you need to, you can drag the file from the portal onto your desktop and do whatever you need with it.

Using the portal instead of File Explorer really requires nothing more than changing users’ mindsets. Once you get into the workflow of using the portal, everyone will be able to work more efficiently by taking advantage of a system better designed to handle today’s needs.

Just keep in mind, though, that web-based file storage and access is NOT the same as file backup. You still need a third-party backup program that will keep your file structure intact if you lose your data and need to restore everything.

We can help you set up systems to get to files faster through OneDrive or SharePoint and coordinate with a backup system that best meets your needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to analyze what you have and need to accomplish. We can set up your system and provide documentation to help you and your staff access the file they need seamlessly.