Recreate file share structure or just rely on search functionality?

Amber Davison
New Contributor

My organisation has recently rolled out O365 and is now trying to break away from desktop/client reliance and drive adoption towards completely web based. So everything will be run out of teams. Instead of launching Outlook and File Explorer every morning, people will launch Teams (from the web) and use it to access their files and communicate.

So we're looking to get our files set up in Teams. But that raises the question as to how best set them up? We had a little demonstration from our vendor on the searching capabilities of SharePoint (admittedly that was using meta tags and not on teams, but on a SharePoint team site) and I'm wondering what everyone's thoughts are on best practice here?

From reading the posts on here, I can see people are recreating their file share structures inside the SharePoint file areas for each team, or mapping their sharepoint areas as file locations in explorer. But we're trying to break away from the old. Why not just copy all team related files across to the team areas and rely on search to find things? Someone said to me the other day, you don't search for things in folders on Google. Why recreate the old on the new? For thoe of you who are ahead of us, I'd love to know your thoughts?

5 Replies

In my experience when storing files within the files area of a Team you might indeed end up creating a folder structure similar (maybe the same) as you were used to on the file share. I think this is fine and in many cases the most convenient for end users within the team to work with. For some reasons it might even be required to create a deeper folder structure; if storing all files at the same flat level within the Teams' Channel results in duplicate file name issues. We also see our users synching the Team's document library locally. We don't really bother, as long as it helps them in the way they work.  


I do think it's important to make users aware of search and how content more and more finds users nowadays with all MS Graph-powered functionality instead of the other way around. This doesn't mean not storing your files in some folder structure. Files will be served and can be searched for too if they're located in some folder structure. 


In many cases ultimately, files created within / collaborated on the Team will be moved to some more formal structure, let's say a real SharePoint-based DMS. I think here it becomes more important to consider your structure carefully and consider the way documents are to be found / used after they reach a formal status.


Hi Amber,


Migrating file-server data into Office365 is always tricky, lots of questions arise (which I am guessing you've probably already read :) ) But what companies and organization need to remember and take highly into account is that switching data from one platform into another can be relatively easy, but changing how people have worked for years is a whole different level. So I'm very glad to read that adoption is being considered.  


Over the years I have migrated large file-server environments into Office365 and each migration was different.


That all being said, let me dive into your statement of "Why not just copy all team related files across to the team areas and rely on search to find things?



Your approach could be a possibility depending on the complexity of your data, organization, if you have taken the time to: Identify your data, thought of permissions levels, Archive or collaboration data? and also have notified your organization of your plans. These are just a few steps you need to have considered.


Search within Microsoft Teams can definitely be used, but users (just like you and me) also want the ability to click through folder/ data structures they recognize, just until they learn the power of search (adoption period). I've used the Google search quote also from time to time, depending on the context of the subject, but it doesn't always work. Because we click through Google to. :) 


Have you ever searched for something that you couldn't describe in Google the first time but you knew that you had seen it before somewhere? So what do you do? You use a query that you've remembered that gives you a result that points you in the right direction (yes, using search) and then start clicking through until you see the result that you couldn't describe in the beginning.


So, creating new structures within Microsoft Teams (using channels) together with search is definitely a way to go, depending on complexity (mentioned earlier) and also as long as you don't forget all the necessary steps before migrating your data.


Hope this helps! 


Just a few general thoughts about this, not specifically about Teams. Finding a structure that works is, I think, is still relevant, relying on search or the cleverness of Microsoft Graph to surface documents alone, I wouldn't be a fan of personally.  Recreating a structure that worked in the past is one thing, finding something that makes use of the new ways of working is important as well as traditional concerns like document lifecycle, governance etc, that still matter.  Projects like this are a great opportunity to look what has worked well in the past and what better processes would enable greater productivity.  Dumping everything in Teams is certainly one way of doing it but it's well worth exploring the options.


I agree with a lot of what @Cian Allner has said here.


From the experience I've had moving clients into these new technologies, is potentially one of the hardest things to do. One of the things, which even I do when demonstrating, is show the methods which I believe are best to find your content as quickly and easily as possible. However, just because I find Search is easier for me than navigating through folders, that doesn't mean that the person next to me has the same habit. So consideration needs to be given to how can I make content as easy to navigate to, and as searchable as possible, which most of the time isn't the easiest thing to do.


What I have in my organisation is a clearly defined folder structure within Teams. Whilst I've never been a fan of folders, adopting Teams has really forced us back into that way of thinking for the time being at least. Given that we mostly use Teams for projects this works well for us because we have a good idea of where everything is, but for those who are Search oriented we can still find what we need.


I find it particularly interesting that you've gone for a completely browser based approach, almost like the Desktop Diet which Mark Kashman was talking about on the Intrazone a while ago, and would be keen to find out how you get on.

Thanks for all your responses, very helpful and good food for thought. We're still very much in the planning stages for our "desktop diet", so whether we actually end up going there completely or not, is yet to be seen.

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