Could you get by with Office Web Apps?
One restriction that must be factored into your deliberations is from where your users open their documents. If they’re kept in OneDrive, SharePoint, SharePoint Online or email attachments, then Office Web Apps will be able to open them for viewing or light editing. If the files are kept in the local file systems of your PCs or network server, Office Web Apps won’t be able to see them – you’ll need to first copy or move the file to OneDrive or SharePoint, or install the free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint viewer applications to be able to open them.
These viewer applications can only view and print files, not edit them.
This is a good example of a place where you may want to change your business processes to fit with the restrictions of Web Apps. If you use in-house or third-party applications that expect to be able to access documents from standard network file shares, SharePoint document libraries can be made to appear as such by using the WebDAV interface.
Moving everyone from the full Office suite to having some of them use only Office Web Apps won’t be easy, but it can achieve a significant saving
However, if such an application has been written so that it only tells the operating system to open the file, and passes it the file path and name, then you’re going to need either the full Office application installed locally or the document-viewer application for view and print capabilities only. Rewriting in-house applications that previously expected all users to have the full Office suite installed can be quite challenging.
The alternative to moving all of your document storage from network file shares into SharePoint isn’t something you’d want to do lightly, either. SharePoint and SharePoint Online (part of Office 365) give you plenty of extra file-storage features – such as check-in/check-out, document co-authoring, extensive search and security, file lists and custom properties – but there are restrictions that you need to be aware of.
First, no document stored can be larger than 2GB; SharePoint is built upon SQL Server, which has a hard limit of 2GB for storing any single piece of data. There are also limits on the characters you can use in filenames – no ampersands, hashes, or braces, for instance. Some file types can’t be stored at all, since they’re considered a security risk, including executable files, Access projects, Visual Basic scripts, and DLLs. Moving files en masse into SharePoint can lead to multiple failures, all of which have to be dealt with separately. Third-party tools can help, but these cost anywhere from $300 to $2,000 depending on the amount of data you have to move. If you have a very large collection of documents, SharePoint’s performance can degrade, particularly if you put thousands of documents into the same folder. You may have to restructure your document collection, splitting them between different document libraries, to keep the numbers manageable in any one library.
If you’re considering using SharePoint Online – part of Office 365 – you’ll need a fat pipe to and from the internet: saving and opening all your documents to and from cloud storage will be slower than from folders on your local network. An internet connection at 2-20Mbits/sec can’t compare to an office LAN running at 100-1,000Mbits/sec. If you’re on an ADSL connection, that “A” for Asynchronous means that you’ll receive only a fraction of the download speed when uploading. SDSL, fibre and wireless broadband connections do reduce this performance gap, but their costs are usually higher.
This problem is mitigated by Office Web Apps to some extent; when people are viewing and editing their documents, only the pages each user actually views or edits are transported – they don’t have to download the whole document to view only its first page.
It’s safe to say that – in any well-established business with lots of files and entrenched business practices – moving everyone from using the full Office suite to having some of them use only Office Web Apps won’t be easy, but it can achieve a significant saving.