Many small to medium companies are moving away from the traditional paradigm of the office network with an on premises File Server to a more agile, cloud based setup.

There are many ways to do it – S3 buckets, Google Drive, etc – but for me, the best cloud based solution I have found so far to replace the classic Windows File Share is Office 365 Sharepoint Team Sites. This very much retains the traditional RBAC (Role Based Access Control) structure that will be familiar to Windows Administrators used to provisioning file shares and mapped network drives.

Creating your new Sharepoint Site

Login to Office 365 with your email address and password – in order to start creating a new Sharepoint Site you will need to be an assigned admin.

This can be found here – Figure 1.

Sharepoint Selection

When the page is brought Select on ‘+ Create Site, then select Team Site – Figure 2:

Sharepoint New team Site

Then Office 365 setup gets you to setup an Office 365 Group with a name, email, a URL and then you can select that it is either publicly accessible or you can select ‘Private – only members can access this site’ which is recommended to lock down permissions. In this guide we will select the Private option. See Figure 3.

Sharepoint New Group

You would then add the users you want for owners and members. Note Owners have full permission to the whole site, members have edit access to documents and the creator of the site is automatically added as an owner. You can start typing and it will autocomplete for you. See Figure 4.

Add Permissions Sharepoint

The setup is now finished and you can see the navigation list on the left pane of the webpage. We want to go to Documents to start adding files for our File Share. See Figure 5.

Sharepoint Site Navigation

Uploading and Syncing Files with your new Site

Once you have navigated to the Documents Link you can upload documents directly and add Folders or use the Sync button to open it up in Windows Explorer and add a Favourite.

You will need the latest version of OneDrive before you can Sync in Windows Explorer but that is installed by default in Windows 10. You will also need to sign in to your business email account – right click on the OneDrive cloud icon in the System tray and select Settings. Then go to Account and ‘Add an Account’. If you are signed in with your personal OneDrive it adds a second OneDrive favourite in Windows Explorer. This needs to be done BEFORE you press the sync button.

In MacOS you will need to install the latest version of OneDrive and sign in with your business account (as you do with Windows) – whatever directory you choose in your OneDrive setup is where your synced folder will be stored. See Figure 6.

Sharepoint Test Documents Directory

Once clicking the Sync button, you will then be informed that it will open in OneDrive and you can then select which folders you want to sync. See Figure 7.

Sharepoint Sync Folders

In this case as a new Site it will be empty but normally there will be a large number of folders to sync. The newly synced site will then appear in your Windows Explorer left navigation pane – in this case, the Test Site is created below the company name. See Figure 8.

Sharepoint Windows Explorer

You can now copy files and folders directly to this location and it will sync to the cloud, likewise, any folders that were previously there will be synced to your local computer.

Opening Documents 

You can now open your files using your Windows Explorer or Finder, or from the Office 365 Sharepoint Team Site website (Documents section), but you can also open Office Documents in the corresponding Office applications – for instance you can open Word Documents directly in Word on your computer. Select File > Open like you would with any document and then you can open any of the Sharepoint Team Sites directly through this panel. See Figure 9.

Sharepoint Open in Word

Bandwidth Limiting if you Have Issues

You can limit the amount of bandwidth by specifying the upload and download sync speed limit. In the system tray on Windows right click and then select Settings and then select Network to make the changes. In OS X, on the top panel, right click on the OneDrive Cloud icon, and select Preferences and then Network. See Figure 10.

OneDrive Sync speed

Change and Set Permissions for your Site

You can view and change permissions for your groups at a very granular level as you would a File share. Open your Site and in the top right hand corner click on the Settings icon and then select ‘Site Permissions’ – see Figure 11.

Sharepoint Site Permissions

You can now do most usual permission changes with the popup box including Sharing the site with specific users and changing permissions for the default groups. See Figure 12.

Site Permissions Popup

If you select ‘Advanced permission Settings’ from this popup it brings up a much more granular way to update your site. You can check on the permissions for the site and exceptions, then grant permissions and then drill down to subfolders and either remove or add permissions. See Figure 13.

Site level Advanced Settings

When you drill down you get a slightly different ribbon pane. You can delete unique permissions to a specific folder restoring it to default permissions for that site or you can grant permissions to a specific folder or that folder and all folders below it. See Figure 14.

Advance Site Permissions

To change the Group membership you would go to the Groups tab on the 9 dots top left of the Office 365 page.

You can then change the membership of the specific groups for each site. Select your Group that corresponds to the Site you created in the left navigation pane and then it displays the members for All Groups in that site. In Figure 15 I have omitted the members for obvious reasons but they are displayed in this case to the right of the Add Members icon.

Group Details Change Membership

Sharepoint Office 365 Limits

Please see the below article on the limits for sites and files.

This article should provide a basic intro into setting up Sharepoint Team Sites, syncing and permissions.

Further Reading