After a merger of two companies on opposite coasts, our IT department was challenged with making all information accessible at all times for 19 locations. The East Coast was using Google Apps for Business while the West Coast was using Local Servers and VPN access.
Our department put together a presentation with 3 options:
1. Active Directory, MS Exchange, Sharepoint with Virtualization and VPN
2. MS365 and Sharepoint Online
3. Google Apps for Business
While a case could be made for each of these options, Google Apps would have been the best option for us at the time. One half of the company was already using Google Apps and Google Docs had already proven to be a successful document management process. Furthermore, to transition the other half of the company would have required little resources seeing as the system was already in place and Google makes it extremely easy to scale licenses.
After deliberation with the Executive Team, the final decision was to move forward with MS 365 and Sharepoint Online instead of Google Apps for Business.
Our goal was simple: To unify the East and West coasts, make our data and documents easily accessible and easy to share, all while keeping them secure. Since we were all pretty savvy techies, we decided to handle the migration ourselves and hire a consulting firm to help us put a plan together (mostly to cover any gotchas we may have missed). Everything was smooth...until we started to design our Sharepoint Site.
I personally went in and designed a skeleton of the Sharepoint Site (online). What I wanted, in theory, seemed simple. I wanted a site collection for each location in the company that could hold a number of ‘Client Projects’ for that site. These numbers could be rather large and that’s where the problems started. Without going into too much detail, we hit a number of limitations from ‘Site Collection’ size to ‘Upload File’ size. I was hoping to be able to automate the creation of the ‘Collections’ and ‘Folder Structure’ and have some unique identifiers assigned, however this was another impossibility. Having this information come from our CRM application was also not an option with Sharepoint Online.
Enough was enough.
Exhausting all options, we regrouped and determined that a move back to Google was necessary for file storage purposes. Afterall, I had already implemented Google Drive (Docs at the time) to make up for what we were failing to do with Sharepoint. The transition was much cleaner.
The setup and design was already in place and just needed to be tweaked to account for the new, larger user base. A training was needed on the West Coast and a retraining for the East Coast. We were able to utilize the Google Marketplace for the automation aspect and tie this directly into our CRM with two-way communication. I estimated that now over 500 new projects have been created, and well over a TB of documents have been uploaded.
As we moved forward, processes were set up to replace word and excel with Google documents and spreadsheets, creating a more collaborative environment. Most groups found this real time collaboration to be a much more efficient way of working.
It took us five months to realize that Microsoft Office 365 wouldn’t be a successful fit for our company. Google Apps for Business gave us more flexibility and allowed us to be more productive, for a fraction of the cost.
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Originally published on September 10, 2013