Wednesday, June 14, 2017

4 Reasons Why you Should Utilize Mapped Network Drives

Mapped network drives have been a useful tool for businesses and groups for years. A mapped network drive is a pointer using a letter drive in Windows Explorer that points to a physical location other than the local computer. These drives can be found in Windows Explorer under the heading "Network Location" located below hard disk drives and devices with removable storage.

Mapped drives can be created locally, by clicking the "Map network drive" button, or automatically by a server administrator using a login script. Creating and maintaining a login script is far easier on a larger network as it allows changes to be made once for groups of users. This can all be done from a single machine rather than touching multiple machines.

Either way mapped network drives are created, there are multiple advantages to utilizing them.

4 Reasons Why you Should Utilize Mapped Network Drives

1. File Sharing
One of the strongest arguments for utilizing mapped network drives is to easily share files between multiple users. It is nearly impossible to work in an office without more than one person needing access to some of the same files. Each user could keep their own copy, but this is not an efficient method of storage nor for implementing modifications.

The file creator could attach the document in an email to others needing access, but this is a waste of  time and resources. Every time someone sends an email with an attachment, a copy is saved in their Sent folder. A copy also exists in each recipient's folder until it is deleted. Unfortunately, until the trash is emptied, the attachment is still taking up space in the user's email file.

Takeaway: When more than one person needs access to the same file, sharing them in a centralized location makes far more sense than each user having their own copy.

2. Managing File Versions

If you have ever worked in an office with more than one person contributing to a document, you understand why file version management is a necessity! From brochures to fliers to business cards, having the latest version of a file before updating it is critical. Nothing wastes time more than applying changes a second time because the wrong version was updated first.

Anticipate that each individual will choose a different naming convention to track versions. Some types of examples are:
  • Adding the date to the end of the file, which is often done in varying formats
  • Using descriptors like "last" or "final" to denote the file to use, which is confusing unless old versions are renamed when a new version is created
  • Adding their initials to denote their changes or suggestions were added, which often means updates by other users are lost
  • Changing the name of the file altogether so it stands out from the other versions, which often means other users do not have the current version
Takeaway: If even just four people choose a different way to track versions of a file, time is wasted when the file is used or modified. Consolidating files helps track versions.

3. Localize Storage Needs
Storing files in a singular location creates more efficient storage usage. By removing redundant files, local device storage is freed up for programs, local mail files, program and application data. Devices with traditional hard drives might not be an issue, but this is useful for devices with solid state drives (SSD's). The cost of SSD's is much higher for the same amount of storage when compared to a hard drive. 

Takeaway: Newer devices using faster solid state drives will benefit more from consolidating file storage. This frees them up for more important items like software applications. 

4. Localize Backups
When you have any files you cannot afford to lose, you should have a backup solution in place. In another post we discussed "6 Things to Consider when Choosing a File Sharing Service Versus an Online Backup Service" which helps explain the difference between storing a file in the cloud and cloud backups. Whatever your backup solution, having documents centralized reduces the overhead required for backups. 

Localizing files allows for a more efficient backup process and can reduce:

  • Storage requirements
  • External devices 
  • Backup clients
  • Backup software installs
  • Network usage

Takeaway: Backups should be a critical part of every business or user who has files they are not willing to lose. Ensuring your data is protected at all times is much easier to manage when documents are located on a limited number of devices.

Mapped network drives can be configured in more than one way and are worth the time it takes to implement them. There are many ways mapped network drives better utilize existing resources. Mapped network drives allow for easier file sharing, help manage file versions, as well as localizing file storage needs and reducing the overhead associated with backing up files to protect them.

As always, using some of the built in Windows features can make the most substantial differences in our daily usage!

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