So I thought I was a good IT person, recently getting Office 365 I am wrong...

So here is the plan. To start going paperless and move our file cabinet files to SharePoint. We are a firm of 22 people and they are all Middle aged or older and they do not like change. I did what I thought was a lot of research (first mistake) then we bought Microsoft Office 365 E3 plan. We had many discussions on folder setup to be more organized and this is what we came up with.


Financial Statements
Permanent File
   Loan Agreements
   Square Footage
Work papers
   Year End

(there are more files but for time sake here is the jist)

So my first plan was to have it all on One Drive... WRONG not everyone can see One Drive even though it says it's a company One Drive. So SharePoint it is.

My first plan was to set up Libraries for all the clients. I was going to use the One Drive sync so they can still see it on File Explorer to make them happy. Then I realized two things. To sync I would have to go to every computer and Sync each library. So force them to go online, but there is no way to search for a library. We have 50+ clients. The other thing I realized is I am going to have to manually type all these folders. But someone told me this was more secure so I thought I should go this route.

Another option I have is one library with all the clients as folders. This avoids my sync issue, but is it as secure. I have researched the meta data and I just don't think that's going to work. Yes I could force them but they are all Women (no offence I am also a woman) stuck in their ways.

Is it more secure to go with a Library instead of all folders in a library? Is this the best route for us? Is there and easier way to setup all these folders? I have researched for days with no luck. Should I be setting all this up through SharePoint online or through the SharePoint Designer I installed yesterday?

Sorry for the long post I am so overwhelmed I don't even know what to do. And google searches are so contradicting! And they was ALL of this implemented before 12/31/19...


First: Forget SharePoint Designer. It's a legacy product that was useful with on-premises installations, but will not do anything for you in SharePoint online if you are just starting out.

Second: This is a chicken and egg, never ending discussion. There is no one "best" way to organise files that suits every company or every individual. There will always be trade-offs and compromises.

For example: do you need folders for years and sub-folders for months? You could have metadata columns instead and simply sort and/or group the view by the metadata. This will mean that people need to enter the metadata for their documents, of course. I've seen companies that thrive well with the metadata concept and others that have actively converted metadata columns back to nested folders, because the users couldn't handle the metadata.

Permissions and access is another thing. If certain people are not allowed to see certain files, then you want to separate these files. Fine grained permissions are a nightmare to maintain in a site and it's easy to lose visibility of who has access to what.

On the other hand, if you have hundreds or even just dozens of clients, creating separate sites for each will be a lot of initial work.

In modern SharePoint online, you can have files in different site collections where each site collection can be accessed by specific people only. Modern web parts can show a user documents across different site collections, and these will contain only those files that the user has permissions to access.

And then there is change. I can see that you want to make this as seamless as possible for your users. Syncing libraries to local computers, so that things look like not much changed, etc.

But when you enter the world of Office 365 and online storage, your organisation needs to understand that change cannot be avoided. You may be able to delay it for a bit, but people will need to come to terms with the concept that change is now a part of their daily work experience. No more laminated cheat sheets that show steps and screenshots, because they will be out of date as soon as they are printed. Office apps can now change on a weekly basis instead of every three years. That's a fact of life.

If your colleagues learn how to use SharePoint Online instead of Windows Explorer, they will be empowered and able to benefit from so many useful features and time savers.

In the end, you will need to test the waters with your company and decide which approach works best for you. Maybe you can run a pilot with just a small group that works on the same file set and has a mix of personalities. Introduce them to the new features and let their feedback inform decisions that will impact the whole company. User education is the most important part, because if they don't know how to work the new system, they will not be happy with it.

Good luck.

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  • Thank you so much for all that information! All of this information will be able to be accessed by our employees. Like I said it's only 22 people and most of us have to look at it for some reason or the other. I will just pull them all in and see what they want to do vs layout of 1 library vs multiple ones. One more question, if we want to have a folder to share with our clients. So when we need year end work should I created a "Client" Folder and just share that folder with them or should I make a separate site for that? – Alesha711 Nov 20 '19 at 21:16
  • No. External access and internal access should be strictly separate. Create a new site (from the SharePoint Admin centre) and allow external sharing for that site only. For each different group of external users (i.e. staff from one client), create a separate site, so your clients can access all the docs on that site, but cannot see other sites for other clients. Any sites for internal stuff should never be made shareable externally. – teylyn Nov 20 '19 at 21:25
  • Ok thanks so much! – Alesha711 Nov 21 '19 at 15:08

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