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Why my client really loves WebDAV and network locations

%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-694194%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3EWhy%20my%20client%20really%20loves%20WebDAV%20and%20network%20locations%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-694194%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3EThis%20thread%20was%20triggered%20by%20reading%20a%20training%20slide%20deck%20produced%20by%20my%20main%20client%20who%20uses%20Microsoft%20365%2C%20Office%20365%20Groups%20and%20therefore%20SharePoint%20document%20libraries%20extensively.%20Like%20they've%20already%20got%20over%20600%20Office%20365%20groups%20for%20each%20project%20-%20and%20groups%20have%20only%20been%20around%20a%20couple%20of%20years%3F%20I%20came%20across%20this%20comment%20in%20another%20thread%3A%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26gt%3BMy%20suggestion%20is%20to%20treat%20SharePoint%20more%20like%20online%20network%20drives%20and%20teach%20your%20users%20to%20use%20the%20sites%20and%20the%20cloud%20and%20not%20resort%20to%20old%20methods%20and%20syncing%20all%20those%20files%20across%20all%20devices%20so%20they%20look%20like%20drives.%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EA%20worthy%20suggestion%20and%20the%20official%20Microsoft%20line%20whenever%20you%20mention%20a%20problem%20with%20WebDAV.%20But%20my%20client%20is%20never%20going%20to%20accept%20this%20without%20a%20BIG%20fight%20and%20I%20suspect%20they%20are%20not%20alone.%20I%20reluctantly%20had%20to%20write%20them%20a%20reasonably%20complex%20PowerShell%20script%20that%20allows%20them%20to%20type%20in%20a%20simple%20project%20code%20(AM3231)%20and%20the%20script%20then%20maps%20a%20network%20drive.%20They%20then%20work%2099%25%20of%20the%20time%20in%20this%20network%20drive%20even%20though%20they%20have%20to%20open%20Internet%20Explorer%20every%20day%20(sometimes%20more%20often)%20in%20order%20to%20%22Open%20in%20File%20Explorer%22%20in%20order%20to%20re-establish%20authentication%20(aside%20this%20has%20never%20been%20in%20Edge%20'cos%20of%20it's%20architecture%20-%20is%20it%20coming%20to%20Chromium%20Edge%3F).%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EIn%20fact%2C%20if%20WebDAV%20network%20locations%20ever%20went%20away%2C%20this%20client%20would%20dump%20SharePoint%20without%20batting%20an%20eyelid%20and%20switch%20to%20Dropbox%20or%20something%20similar.%20More%20on%20why%20not%20OneDrive%20later.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EThese%20are%20the%20main%20blockers%2Fwhy%20they%20love%20WebDAV%20network%20locations%3A%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3COL%3E%3CLI%3EYou%20cannot%20open%203rd%20party%20applications%20directly%20from%20the%20web%20browser%3C%2FLI%3E%3CLI%3EIt's%26nbsp%3B%3CSTRONG%3Every%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20hard%20to%20save%20new%20documents%20to%20SharePoint%20even%20with%20Office!%3C%2FLI%3E%3CLI%3EIt's%20perceived%20at%20been%20slower%3C%2FLI%3E%3CLI%3EIt's%20not%20File%20Explorer%3C%2FLI%3E%3C%2FOL%3E%3CP%3ELet's%20tackle%20the%20last%20two%20first.%20Slower%3F%20Maybe%20but%20strides%20have%20been%20made%20in%20improving%20the%20speed%20of%20the%20document%20library%20browser%20and%20maybe%20Chromium%20Edge%20will%20be%20even%20better.%20Side%20note%3A%20same%20client%20has%20instructed%20me%20to%20shift%20everyone%20across%20to%20Chrome%20because%20it's%20visibly%20better.%20I%20fought%20this%20decision%20as%20long%20as%20I%20could%2C%20defending%20Edge%20alone%20but%20eventually%20had%20to%20concede%20they%20were%20right.%20That%20stubborn%20%22Edge%20really%20is%20better%22%20has%20caused%20more%20harm%20IMO%20in%20the%20long%20run%20than%20help.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EBut%20slower%20blockers%20can%20be%20overcome%20so%20let's%20park%20that%20one.%20It's%20not%20File%20Explorer%20-%20well%20of%20course.%20resistance%20to%20change%20is%20a%20common%20problem%20and%20can%20be%20overcome%20but%20it%20would%20be%20nice%20if%20the%20web%20browser%20experience%20offered%20something%20that%20network%20locations%20and%20File%20Explorer%20didn't.%20Access%20to%20version%20history%20isn't%20enough%20of%20a%20draw%20-%20most%20of%20the%20users%20haven't%20a%20clue%20it's%20even%20there.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EAgain%2C%20it's%20not%20File%20Explorer%20is%20a%20minor%20gripe%20in%20the%20scheme%20of%20things%20and%20can%20be%20overcome.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3ENo%2C%20it's%20the%20first%20two%20that%20are%20just%20HUGE%20walls%20to%20adoption.%20I've%20just%20created%20a%20new%20document%20from%20within%20Word%20(and%20come%20on%2C%20let's%20just%20accept%20that%20desktop%20Office%20is%20going%20to%20be%20the%20preferred%20way%20to%20work%20forever)%20and%20I%20hit%20%22Save%22%20-%20here%20are%20my%20options%3A%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%26nbsp%3B%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%3CSPAN%20class%3D%22lia-inline-image-display-wrapper%20lia-image-align-inline%22%20style%3D%22width%3A%20813px%3B%22%3E%3CIMG%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fgxcuf89792.i.lithium.com%2Ft5%2Fimage%2Fserverpage%2Fimage-id%2F118196i2356A684D7C8278F%2Fimage-size%2Flarge%3Fv%3D1.0%26amp%3Bpx%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This thread was triggered by reading a training slide deck produced by my main client who uses Microsoft 365, Office 365 Groups and therefore SharePoint document libraries extensively. Like they've already got over 600 Office 365 groups for each project - and groups have only been around a couple of years? I came across this comment in another thread:

 

>My suggestion is to treat SharePoint more like online network drives and teach your users to use the sites and the cloud and not resort to old methods and syncing all those files across all devices so they look like drives. 

 

A worthy suggestion and the official Microsoft line whenever you mention a problem with WebDAV. But my client is never going to accept this without a BIG fight and I suspect they are not alone. I reluctantly had to write them a reasonably complex PowerShell script that allows them to type in a simple project code (AM3231) and the script then maps a network drive. They then work 99% of the time in this network drive even though they have to open Internet Explorer every day (sometimes more often) in order to "Open in File Explorer" in order to re-establish authentication (aside this has never been in Edge 'cos of it's architecture - is it coming to Chromium Edge?).

 

In fact, if WebDAV network locations ever went away, this client would dump SharePoint without batting an eyelid and switch to Dropbox or something similar. More on why not OneDrive later.

 

These are the main blockers/why they love WebDAV network locations:

 

  1. You cannot open 3rd party applications directly from the web browser
  2. It's very hard to save new documents to SharePoint even with Office!
  3. It's perceived at been slower
  4. It's not File Explorer

Let's tackle the last two first. Slower? Maybe but strides have been made in improving the speed of the document library browser and maybe Chromium Edge will be even better. Side note: same client has instructed me to shift everyone across to Chrome because it's visibly better. I fought this decision as long as I could, defending Edge alone but eventually had to concede they were right. That stubborn "Edge really is better" has caused more harm IMO in the long run than help.

 

But slower blockers can be overcome so let's park that one. It's not File Explorer - well of course. resistance to change is a common problem and can be overcome but it would be nice if the web browser experience offered something that network locations and File Explorer didn't. Access to version history isn't enough of a draw - most of the users haven't a clue it's even there.

 

Again, it's not File Explorer is a minor gripe in the scheme of things and can be overcome.

 

No, it's the first two that are just HUGE walls to adoption. I've just created a new document from within Word (and come on, let's just accept that desktop Office is going to be the preferred way to work forever) and I hit "Save" - here are my options: 

 

x2osDy5[1].png

 

Sure, if it's a project I've worked on a lot or recently, it's there but I mentioned this client has over 600 Office 365 groups. That user interface is not fit for purpose so you surprised they prefer to hit Browse and use network locations:

 

b9fZqAs[1].png

 

Considering Microsoft are in control of both Office, Edge and SharePoint, the lack of easy navigation and integration here is beyond belief. You can't even access favourites from Edge etc.

 

And final blocker - the assumption that Office is the only desktop application that people use and therefore the lack of the ability to open 3rd party documents directly from the browser:

 

dBeeZm2[1].png

 

Pray tell where are the "Open in Nitro Pro" for PDF documents or "Open in Photoshop" options?

 

Tech aside: I don't know whether the lack of these options is a limitation in SPO or lack of adoption by 3rd party developers. However, considering that if Nitro or Foxit did implement direct open from SharePoint, they would get my clients business in 30 seconds, I suspect it's the former.

 

Until you can open 3rd party documents in the associated application directly from the web browser, users are going to stick with network locations. Downloading and uploading it is not an option BTW. Ever heard of version control?

 

Now above I mentioned that if WebDAV network locations ever went away, they'd switch to Dropbox et all, I said why not OneDrive? And why don't they synchronise those folders locally with OneDrive?

 

Two reasons:

 

1) They (and me) don't trust OneDrive. Its fundamental design around tracking changes across multiple devices just seems flawed compared to Dropbox and Google Drive. I've had many cases of users logging onto their home computer with OneDrive synchronised and had it restore long deleted folders and documents.  I get this all the time with my own IT account where I often logon to a laptop many months later to have it assume it's the master. But the biggest problem for OneDrive sync of document libraries is that we've had two instances of users accidentally deleting the local copy before unsynchronising. BANG - entire document library gone. Sure, you can get it back from the recycle bin but the user has to own up immediately.

 

Side note: because of the limitations of the recycle bin, I convinced my client that a 3rd party backup of SharePoint, Exchange and OneDrive is essential. They're using Veaam provided by ILand. It's not a perfect solution but at least I know we can restore accidentally deleted document libraries.

 

2) Synchronisation is not a replacement for file-locking. I'll just leave that one there...

 

I hope that Microsoft appreciates me taking an hour out of a Saturday to write this diatribe. All triggered by one line on a slide saying "Don't use links to SharePoint, use links to File Explorer"...

1 Reply

Hi @Helios Comms. If users are finding authenticating with IE everyday a hassle they can try using Zee Drive to map network drives to SharePoint Online and OneDrive instead. Zee Drive will keep users authenticated automatically and their drives persistent. More information here on Zee Drive.

 

Myles

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