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I'm 3,000 Miles Away But We Need The Same Document

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The world is getting bigger. The world is getting smaller.

Nowhere is this truer than in business, as employees for the same company can be thousands of miles away yet attempting to work in real-time together. With Microsoft SharePoint established as the standard for enterprise content management, many of these organizations rely on the platform to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing for users. 

These global organizations face a quandary. As their content and reliance on SharePoint grows, can they be sure that all users have access to the content they need to be effective?

The importance of SharePoint was crystallized in the recent SharePoint Puzzle survey conducted by AIIM. The survey reported that enterprise content management (ECM) solutions are widely used across multiple sites within the same organization— either with synchronized content distributed across all sites or with islands of isolated content. It found that 70% of organizations have "at least half their staff using it once a week or more" and 60% have distributed SharePoint environments, either interconnected or not.

SharePoint is becoming more mission-critical as workforces grow to be geographically separated. And the number of globally distributed workforces is increasing for a multitude of reasons, whether it's more branch locations, acquisitions or offshoring, particularly in the shipping and cruise line industries.

Without synchronizing SharePoint content, your users are further away from the content they need. In turn, they are forced to depend on a strong network connection to be successful and productive. But if you're 3,000 miles away and need to collaborate on the same document, how is that possible?

With globalization comes serious challenges and hurdles to real-time collaboration. Users who are frustrated by slow network connections or unreliable access to content will fall back to old habits, such as storing crucial business content in email or on their desktops, away from their colleagues. Content becomes out-of-synch and employees cannot rely on the managed content in SharePoint.

Another issue is the isolated islands of content that become outdated and affect the success of distributed teams. Remote users demand access to mission-critical content at local speeds, or they will stop using SharePoint.      

Within SharePoint, the only way to synchronize content is at the database level, which is better suited for backup and recovery scenarios. Database replication solutions require very close locations, with high speed and low latency networks, or leave you with read only copies which don't allow for distant collaboration. The lack of native functionality for content synchronization can become an overwhelming concern as organizations may not be aware of a better way.

An example of the challenges for synchronization comes from Aditya Birla Minacs, a business solutions company that partners with global corporations. The company has over 20,000 experts across three continents with locations in Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, the United Kingdom and United States, among others. The company implemented SharePoint, but needed better communications between their global offices, which SharePoint was not able to provide out-of-the-box.

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