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April 16, 2014

Considerations for Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud

By TMCnet Special Guest
Dr. Steve Marsh, Director of Product Marketing, Metalogix

Many organizations are now looking to take full advantage of the cloud to help reduce IT costs, expand capabilities and improve their networks. In fact, while speaking with customers and partners at SharePoint Conference 2014, an overwhelming majority of these organizations revealed plans to deploy cloud-based solutions in the next 12 months.

Like any migration, moving from an on-premises SharePoint solution to the cloud requires careful preparation. Migrating to the cloud for the wrong reasons or too quickly can precipitate even more work and result in higher costs down the road.

Here some of the major considerations organizations should to take into account to ensure a smooth and cost-effective migration to the cloud.

Gut check – why do we need to migrate?

Moving to the cloud is not a silver bullet that will fix existing architectural issues or improve poorly laid out business processes. In many cases, migrations will only exacerbate existing problems because each time a business conducts a migration there is more data to move and more complex relationships are formed between the data and applications. With this in mind, carefully examine how your organization has set up SharePoint to see if there are areas you should make improvements to before planning your migration. If you determine that a migration is necessary, you’ll have started on the right path.

Identify the solution that meets your needs

There are several options for running SharePoint both on-premises or in the cloud. As you add up cloud options, consider which environment best serves your user’s needs. For example, do you want to move everything to the cloud, or would a hybrid cloud scenario, where only certain workloads or applications (such as email or archive storage) are migrated serve your users better? Depending on the functionality you require and what your organization’s information architecture looks like, evaluating all the options will help shape the scope of the migration and ensure the best solution for your organization.

Establish a realistic timeline

Be patient – your move to the cloud will take longer than you think. I’m not saying that you should estimate how long you think it will take then double it, but the reality is that successful migrations take time. SharePoint is complex and Murphy’s Law always applies. Gartner (News - Alert) recently reported that 80 percent of organizations expect their SharePoint migrations to be quick, easy, and trouble-free. In my experience, 20 percent of these organizations will have a stalled project and may even be unable to bring their new SharePoint environment live. Now, this worst case scenario is entirely preventable, as the following points illustrate, however, it’s important to be patient and build in extra time upfront.

Determine what stays and what migrates

Don’t waste your time and money migrating content that is no longer useful to your business. Work with content owners and business users to identify relevant content and understand how it is being used and will be used in the future. Pay particular attention to identifying content that is out of date or irrelevant and strike it off your migration list. Migrating and storing content in the cloud that you don’t actually need will only put an unnecessary strain on your budget.

Now that you know what you’re going to migrate and what stays behind, you’ll have a better sense of the type of SharePoint deployment that will meet your business needs. From here you can start to build a plan for an updated information architecture and your move to the cloud. This is also the stage where you can identify any customizations that you made to your existing SharePoint environment and formulate a plan for how to deal with them in the cloud since it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to migrate them in their current state.

If you are moving to Office 365, then it’s likely that you’ll be using a third-party migration tool. Be aware that each tool will have different capabilities for migrating metadata, workflows and permissions. These are important SharePoint features that can easily be impacted by the migration process, so it’s imperative that you understand any limitations related to this data.

Test and test again

It seems obvious to test your SharePoint migration, but this is a critical step that is often overlooked or not given the proper amount of time or attention. Try to use content and a SharePoint structure that is as close as possible to your final planned environment. Once you’ve carried out one test, try another, and another. It’s important that you test your migration extensively, as there are limitations as to what can be moved to the cloud.

Another benefit of multiple testing is that it will provide an approximation of the speed of your project and help you plan a migration schedule. I say “approximation” because it’s often a good idea to add some extra time and give yourself a little wiggle room.

Check in with stakeholders

Once you are satisfied with your testing, share the results with key business users and stakeholders. These are the people that ultimately need to be happy with the move. Make sure that the content has been migrated in line with their expectations and that any new information architecture scoped out on the whiteboard during the planning phase now makes sense in the real world.

Preparation is key to any successful migration and moving to the cloud is no exception. By taking into consideration these five steps, your organization will be on the right path to a successful SharePoint deployment in the cloud.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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