Online Shared Drives Are Not Enough
The rise of the shared drive
The shared drive emerged as a natural consequence of the personal computing revolution. When computers were scarce, centralized resources, there was no need for shared drives. Computing power and file storage were concentrated in one place, and accessed via dumb terminals. The rise of personal computers fragmented file storage. Each individual employee had their own file system on their computer, resulting in redundancy and confusion.
The shared drive represented what seemed like the best of both worlds--personal computing stayed in the hands of end users, but central IT departments controlled the shared drives which stored official files. Yet as shared drives spread, it became apparent that they were missing some key features that would help users be much more productive.
The 5 key features shared drives are missing
There are five key features that shared drives are missing:
Shared drives provide almost no insight into the history of a file. While the file system can tell you when a file was last modified, it gives you no indication of earlier modifications or any access to prior versions. When users attempt to work around these shortcomings, they end up using the manual approach of simply renaming files with every revision, leading to a messy folder full of files with names like "filename_v1_john'srevision".
The organizing principle of the shared drive is the folder tree. While this simple hierarchy has the benefit of clarity, it has a hard time supporting multiple use cases. Is a folder a project? A category? A department within the organization? The only context to answer these questions is the name of the folder itself, which is far from adequate for this purpose.
As a shared drive fills up with files, it becomes a larger and larger haystack, within which it becomes increasingly difficult to find the right needles. Most shared drives offer some basic search functionality, but it tends to be slow and limited to filenames.
Sharing files using a shared drive can be indirect and frustrating. Instead of being able to send a clickable link, you end up having to write out step-by-step instructions: "First, mount the F Drive...." In addition, you can't safely share files with people from outside the corporate firewall.
Finally, storing files and making them accessible isn't enough. How do you ask someone to provide their feedback? How do you have multiple team members provide each of their input? File access is necessary but not sufficient.
Using PBworks to share files with your team
PBworks addresses the five key missing features of shared drives, allowing your team to share files and collaborate more effectively.
PBworks maintains a complete version history for every file, and allows users to view earlier versions, and even revert back to an earlier version in cases where later revisions seem counterproductive. Each change also goes into the overall activity stream of the particular branch of the organization involved, whether project, team, or department.
While PBworks also supports folder trees, it allows you to set up different "workspaces" for different purposes. You can set up a workspace for a project, a team, a department, or any other purpose. Each workspace contains its own independent folder tree. In addition, the workspace provides as much context as you need, from a simple text description, to a complete set of descriptive documents.
Any file that is uploaded into PBworks becomes searchable, and text-based files such as Microsoft Office documents and PDFs have their contents indexed. And because PBworks search runs in the cloud, rather than on your desktop, it can search through terabytes of files--including their contents--in just seconds. The search is even faceted, so you can filter based on additional criteria such as who last changed a file.
PBworks is designed for sharing. You can easily share any file with any other authorized user with a single link. If you have Moderator privileges, you can even create new external user accounts for people outside your company, and grant them access just to those files they need to get the job done. PBworks even supports mixed access models where internal users log in via Active Directory, and external users via email and password.
PBworks makes files collaborative. You can view a preview of a file before you download it. You can comment on a file (and automatically notify anyone who previously commented on or edited that file). You can even tie a specific task to a specific file. PBworks makes files part of the workflow, rather than a static resource.
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