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In my last post, I discussed a customer requirement for integrating content from remote file shares into SharePoint. Of particular note was the difficulty caused by trying to bypass SharePoint’s core technology stack (both the DB server and the web server in the case of this particular customer) and yet still enjoy the benefits of SharePoint’s document management capabilities.

In this followup post, we begin an overview some of the 3rd-party solutions that are available to facilitate this sort of requirement. This time we focus on some options available from a premier provider of SharePoint addons: AvePoint.
1)     DocAve File Share Navigator

DocAve FileShare Navigator

DocAve File Share Navigator: Note document preview and direct download from file share.

AvePoint’s DocAve products are best-of-breed management tools for the SharePoint platform, and their File Share Navigator is an obvious option to consider for remote file shares like the ones described in the previous post (local to the user, remote from the farm).  File Share Navigator is a SharePoint extension that connects to remote storage locations, whether internal file shares or cloud repositories like Dropbox, and surfaces them to the user through the browser.

Compared to other 3rd-party options, DocAve File Share Navigator was the closest fit to the customer’s requirements. It allows the documents to bypass the SQL database by remaining on the remote file share, and it allows direct download from the remote repository, thus bypassing the browser (although this ability applies only to users in the same location as the source repository). In addition, it offers some additional useful features:

  • Document previews and thumbnails
  • Adopts permissions from the remote store, streamlining permissions management and preventing conflicts between SharePoint and the remote store

However, as must be expected when bypassing so much of SharePoint’s core, File Share Navigator brings with it some serious limitations in document-management functionality. It is a read-only tool and does not provide the metadata and versioning controls that SharePoint provides. It’s only strength is that it allows documents to be surfaced directly to the user from a file share, through a SharePoint interface in the browser, without routing the documents themselves through the SharePoint web front ends.

2) DocAve Connector

DocAve Connector













The DocAve Connector relies on the web front ends to serve data to the client.

In addition to the File Share Navigator, DocAve also offers a product called the DocAve Connector. This product is a more fully featured product than the File Share Navigator. In addition to viewing, browsing, and downloading, it offers integration with SharePoint’s workflow, versioning, and full-text search. It is a powerful tool, one of the best available.

Its feature-set comes with a price, however. AvePoint is leveraging SharePoint’s native APIs for handling the content on the remote shares (whether they be internal file servers or in the cloud), and all of the content is routed through the web front ends to the user. So while it bypasses the SQL server, it does not bypass the WFE. While in most cases, this routing would be considered a value-add feature and not a liability, it basically requires the file shares to be collocated with the SharePoint farm, and so fails to meet a fundamental requirement of the customer, who need to keep the file shares at their remote locations.

But in most SharePoint + File Share use cases, AvePoint’s Connector is the better of their two tools, as it offers the best blend of native SharePoint document management features with the ability to keep documents in existing file shares.

Next time we’ll look at the offerings available from Metalogix and Bamboo.



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