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In this post we finish a review of 3rd-party tools available to help with a customer requirement to make documents stored in remote file shares available through SharePoint without routing them through the farm web front ends.

Last time we took a look at the tools provided by AvePoint. This time we look at tools from Bamboo and Metalogix.

3) Bamboo File Share Library

Bamboo File Share LibraryBamboo’s File Share Library is a SharePoint Library with extra functionality

Bamboo is a well-known provider of web parts and other extensions to SharePoint. Their File Share Library product is similar to DocAve’s offerings in that it allows users to access file share documents directly from SharePoint. It is unique in that rather than providing a simple window to a file share, it actually provisions a fully-functional SharePoint library which can include documents from a file share as well as documents from the content database. It can even sync between the two.

The advantage of this approach is that it supports normal document library functionality like permissions and metadata. It also provides basically the same user experience as every other document library in the farm.

A key limitation, however, is its reliance on the SharePoint web front end to send content to users. In the customer’s use case, a user attempting to open a document from SharePoint would be faced with the prospect of having to wait for the document to travel upstream from the remote file share to the SharePoint farm, and then back downstream to his local client. This effectively doubles the amount of bandwidth required to access the file, making their limited bandwidth issues even worse.

For this reason above all, Bamboo File Share Library was not an appropriate solution for the customer’s requirement. In addition, however, the Bamboo product does not integrate well with the permissions set on the file share, and there can be conflicts between the two. In a situation where a file share exists solely to support SharePoint, this can be acceptable, but not when the file share needs to be maintained in its own right. In that case, careful consideration would need to be given to permissions management on both the SharePoint and file share side to avoid conflicts.

Still, given Bamboo’s general price-point competitiveness with AvePoint and the tight integration Bamboo’s this-is-a-real-SharePoint-document-library approach offers for documents in file shares, this is a tool worth considering.

4) Metalogix StoragePoint

Metalogix StoragePointThe Metalogix solution is Remote Blob Storage–which isn’t a file share at all

Metalogix StoragePoint offers a means for bypassing the SQL database by providing a tool for managing BLOBs outside the database.

SQL Remote Blob Storage (RBS) is a SQL-supported method for offloading Binary Large Objects (BLOBs) from the database to an external data store; SQL provides an API, and an RBS provider is provisioned to leverage this API so that SQL can communicate with the BLOBs. RBS can have significant positive effects on a SharePoint farm in terms of SQL load and I/O, however it does not offer a means for the remotely-stored data to bypass the web browser on its way to the client.

The Microsoft RBS provider is the FILESTREAM provider, and while the StoragePoint provider offers a much richer feature set than FILESTREAM, it is still leveraging a SQL API, and SQL Server is still feeding the data to the SharePoint WFEs (although from the BLOB store and not from the database). Furthermore, the BLOB store is not a File Share, and any documents in the BLOB store have to be put into the BLOB store via SharePoint and SQL. Even when using a third-party provider like StoragePoint, Microsoft expressly forbids directly accessing BLOBs. They must be accessed via the SharePoint WFE.

For these reasons, Metalogix StoragePoint was not an acceptable solution for the customer’s requirement. What the customer wanted to do was keep their documents in file shares, and bypass both the SharePoint SQL layer and the web front ends. StoragePoint takes the documents out of the file share and puts them in SQL BLOB storage, routes them through an RBS provider through the SQL server, to SharePoint’s WFEs, and to the client. Basically it does nothing of what the customer wanted.

That being said, however, StoragePoint does offer a much more robust RBS provider than the out-of-the-box provider that comes with SharePoint. If RBS is part of your farm architecture and you want to upgrade on the features you get with FILESTREAM, you should take a look at StoragePoint.

Next time we’ll finish up our survey of SharePoint approaches to the problem of documents in file shares by considering SharePoint 2013’s excellent search capabilities..

 

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